Friday, December 19, 2008

Man of Steel vs. the Incredible Shrinking Mandate

One of the crowning glories of Steve's original Five Priorities Four Pillars Three Little Pigs Accountability Act was his paean to Canada's Gnu Government transparency - the creation of a Parliamentary Budget Office to provide independent analysis of the national economy and the government's fiscal position.

First budget officer Kevin Page, or "Man of Steel" as Jennifer calls him, has produced two reports since March, both critical of the government.
The first, released during the election, calculated that the cost of the Afghanistan mission not including military equipment will be about $18.1 billion by 2011.
The second, published shortly before Diamond Jim Flaherty vowed there would be absolutely no chance of a deficit next year, projected a deficit for next year.

"In his economic statement, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty projected a budget surplus of $100 million for 2009-10 based on the sale of about $2 billion in assets that he didn't identify."
Mr. Flatulence has since reluctantly come around to Kevin Page's assessment, predicting a $15-billion deficit, only to be promptly contradicted himself by Steve who is now calling for a $20 to $30-billion deficit.

So it won't come as much of a surprise to hear that in the matter of the Department of Finance vs the Parliamentary Budget Office, old Kev has had his budget frozen -( h/t Far and Wide ) - presumably because accurate financial forecasts are a dime a dozen lately in Steve's Fiscal Funhouse.

Actually it's a testament to Mr. Page's perseverence that he has got this far. Both Senate Speaker Noel Kinsella and House Speaker Peter Milliken want him reined in, arguing that the "budget office is simply an extension of the services the Library [of Parliament] already offers."
"The parliamentary library operates on a solicitor-client basis. This means any research the library collects for MPs and senators is "privileged" and can be withheld at their request. As an adjunct of the library, Mr. Page's reports would be done for MPs and committees who then can could use the information as they want."

Privileged. Witheld at their request. As they want.

In 2006 a document at the Library of Parliament outlined the various forms the Parliamentary Budget Office could take and decided it should not be granted the same independence enjoyed by the Auditor General. Evidently no one bothered to inform the Man of Steel.

Cross-posted at Creekside

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