Stephen Tapp, a former economist with the office of the parliamentary budget officer, considers the concerns of Kevin Page and Philip Cross. Writing for Policy Options earlier this year, Tapp penned an open letter to the next PBO that included a to-do list.
The latter piece is particularly interesting and a valuable contribution to the discussion and it should be read in its entirety, but I’ll except here the two changes he recommends near the end.
Two further changes would help solidify the PBO’s viability going forward.
First, penalties should be established in legislation for noncompliance with reasonable requests for information from the PBO to government departments. This could include monetary fines and/or requiring a public explanation, from the minister and deputy minister, for the refusal to comply with a request.
Second, the appointment process demonstrates the need for more openness and transparency when appointing the leaders of our important economic institutions, especially those who are expected to operate independently of the government (including the governor of the Bank of Canada). There should be much broader parliamentary and outside expert involvement and far less secrecy in such appointments. In the case of the parliamentary budget officer, there is an undeniable conflict of interest when the prime minister effectively appoints the person who is responsible for commenting on and critiquing budgets, estimates and costings.
Independent MP Bruce Hyer has tabled a bill that would address that the first point.