So, remember that unanimous committee report on the Parliamentary Budget Office? Turns out that the in camera negotiations played out pretty much exactly as ITQ suspected, right down to the part where it was, indeed, the Liberals — or, at least, the Liberals on that particular committee — that ultimately came down on the same side as the government on the question of whether the PBO should be liberated from the Library of Parliament.
The NDP and Bloc Québécois agreed to set aside the independence issue of Canada’s first-ever Parliamentary Budget Office for another two years when the office is reviewed again in exchange for the PBO’s $1-million budget increase, says Bloc Québécois MP Louis Plamondon.
Mr. Plamondon (Bas Richelieu-Nicolet-Bécancour, Que), a member of the Joint Library of Parliament Committee that reined in Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page last month in a report on the office, said he spoke with Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger (Ottawa-Vanier, Ont.) and told him he was ready to put the issue of the independence of the PBO aside to get the much-needed boost.
Mr. Bélanger discussed it with his Liberal and Conservative colleagues and Mr. Plamondon discussed it with NDP MP David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre, Ont.).
Mr. Plamondon said he was pleased the parties agreed to seek consensus because a unanimous report is more likely to be implemented. Mr. Plamondon said the extra $1-million is necessary for Mr. Page to do his job properly, and a dissident report could have compromised its strength.
“I have a deal and I believe it’s the best deal, the unanimous [report] will have more power for having the money and I’m sure with the money in two years we’ll be able to do another fit if it’s necessary,” said Mr. Plamondon.
The committee was divided on the PBO’s independence issue. It fell into two groups. The Liberal and Conservative Members of Parliament wanted the PBO to remain under the Library of Parliament’s jurisdiction while the Bloc and NDP wanted the office to be removed from the Library of Parliament and made independent.
The controversial report released by the Joint Library of Parliament Committee had observers wondering why members of the four parties, in the House and the Senate, had decided to “shackle” the outspoken budget officer.
Academics, media and Parliamentarians criticized the report because it tied the increase in PBO’s budget to all its recommendations.
The committee said it’s up to the Parliamentarian or committee to decide if reports produced by the Parliamentary Budget Office will be publicly released and said the PBO can’t release reports during election campaigns.
Mr. Page told The Hill Times he was “very disappointed” by the report and admitted his message to strengthen the office’s transparency and accountability didn’t get across to Parliamentarians. Mr. Page also said his office would not be able to produce confidential costing reports. […]
With the opposition parties divided, the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois really didn’t have much choice; getting the rest of the committee to sign on to a recommendation to restore the PBO’s budget was likely the best deal they could get, under the circumstances.