The estimable Kathryn May has the biggest story of the day: Kevin Page, the parliamentary budget officer who brought down the landmark costing of the Afghanistan war during the election, is being muzzled by Noel Kinsella and Peter Milliken:
OTTAWA – The speakers of the House of Commons and Senate want to rein in parliamentarians’ own budget officer who they argue has overstepped his mandate and should not be operating so independently and openly.
A letter obtained by the Citizen shows Senate Speaker Noel Kinsella and Commons Speaker Peter Milliken are at loggerheads with budget officer Kevin Page over the way he is interpreting his mandate. In an October 28 letter, written to Parliamentarian Librarian William Young, they argue Mr. Page is ‘exceeding’ his mandate and instructs Mr. Young to rein him in with an “appropriate accountability and operating framework.”
One senior official said the Speakers’ interpretation of the job will effectively shut down the office and will boomerang against the Harper government which came to power on the promise of doing politics differently with more accountability and transparency.
There is no question that someone, or some agency, is trying to rein Page in before he is able to establish — by convention if not by law — the independence of his office. The question is who? Is it jealous factions within the bureaucracy? Or is it Harper himself, who is not the first prime minister to discover upon taking office that the transparency he championed in opposition turns out to be a bit of a poisoned chalice.