Mr. Thomas Mulcair (Outremont, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, during the election campaign, the Prime Minister stated loud and clear that the parliamentary budget officer is an independent position. However, there are some people here, in the highest circles, who want to silence him. If the Prime Minister is sincere, is he ready to defend this institution by proposing legislative amendments to guarantee his independence, without interference?
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, we created an independent position. But this position was approved by Parliament, which is responsible for managing it.
Oh, Prime Minister. Really, this question was a gimme – all you had to do was say yes.
Which may well have been what you thought you were doing – it was part of your election platform, after all. But for whatever reason — blame it on ministerial inexperience, political overzealousness, an arbitrary and artificially tight deadline for passing the Federal Accountability Act — that’s just not what happened.
Luckily, there is a very simple solution: If you actually do want a fully independent Parliamentary Budget Officer – and there’s no reason to think that you don’t – you can amend the law to either recreate the position as an Officer of Parliament, or give the current PBO the (admittedly unprecedented, as far as I know) power to report to Parliament directly, and not through the Library.
With all-party support – which any such amendment would almost certainly receive – you could get it through the House in a day.
Instead, however, your response suggests that either you still haven’t accepted the fact that you got it wrong the first time around, and that your beloved FAA is not, in fact, flawless — or, alternately, that for whatever reason, you’re in no particular hurry to fix the problem.
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