Is the PBO going to get the accountability he seeks?

Kathryn May considers the ramifications of yesterday’s discussions between several federal departments and the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

It’s too early to say whether the latest move will avert a legal showdown because Page has yet to hear from the 52 other departments about whether they will comply with his request. Some bureaucrats say those departments will have little choice but to follow suit, especially now that three major departments have set a precedent …

It’s unclear what’s behind this week’s change of heart. Deputy ministers were clearly caught in the middle of Page’s political battle with their boss, the clerk, and the government. The big question is whether deputy ministers are now reasserting their authority, whether Wouters has given them the latitude to decide whether they want to comply, or if the government no longer thinks Page is overstepping his mandate. Deputy ministers are the ones who would be on the hook if the dispute ever went to court. Under the Parliament of Canada Act, deputy ministers are obligated to give the PBO “free and timely access” to data they collect to help him do his job.