The Parliamentary Budget Officer and our right to know what our government is doing

The PBO and ATIP

And so the office of the Parliament Budget Officer will soon start filing access to information requests in an attempt to obtain the information about the government’s budget cuts that it seeks and has so far been repeatedly denied.

Here is how the office of the PBO explained the relevance of the Access to Information Act in a backgrounder released earlier this month with the latest statement of the interim PBO.

By comparison, all Canadians and permanent residents have access to information held by the government under the Access to Information Act (ATIA). In the ATIA, there is no limitation that the information must be of a specific type, and the information that is protected from disclosure mirrors, in many ways, the exclusions that are seen in s. 79.3(2) of the PCA. It is possible, therefore, that the PBO would be able to request information denied by way of an access to information request under ATIA.

Section 79.3 of the Parliament of Canada Act lays out the PBO’s access to economic and financial data.

Thus does this dispute between the Harper government and the PBO become not just a test of parameters of the office of the PBO, but also of the access to information system. One thing this could conceivably do is get around the assertion by various government departments that they need not provide certain information to the PBO because, in the view of the departments, the information falls outside the PBO’s mandate. The access to information system also provides for recourse through the information commissioner.

In other news, it has now been 126 days since Kevin Page’s term ended and his replacement has yet to be named.