'I was your parliamentary budget officer' - Macleans.ca

‘I was your parliamentary budget officer’

Kevin Page explains himself

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Kevin Page explains himself.

Our institutions of accountability are in trouble. Parliament does not get the information and analysis it needs to hold the executive (the prime minister and cabinet) to account. This is true on departmental spending plans. One year after the 2012 federal budget, which launched a significant fiscal austerity exercise, parliamentarians still do not have departmental plans to show how restraint will be implemented and service levels managed. Notwithstanding, they are asked to vote on departmental authorities to spend your money. Parliamentarians almost never see financial-decision support analysis prepared by public servants. This was true on the tough-on-crime legislation, new military procurement as well as changes to the Canada Health Transfer and to Old Age Security.

We need to care. In a well-known book, Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, the historical case is made that nations fail when political leaders consolidate power at the expense of citizens. Nations succeed, the authors argue, when political power is dispersed; when governments are held to account by legislatures; and when economic opportunities are widely available. Canada’s Parliament is losing its capacity to hold the government to account. There are negative implications for prosperity and democracy. I am sorry if I sound brash, but we need to wake up. There is a lot at stake.

See previously: Exit interview with Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page