The federal Conservatives probably wish they had never said they’d be more open and accountable than their counterparts. They must also wish they had never appointed Kevin Page as budgetary officer.
Cuts to various departments and agencies were necessary, but the information should be public. Page has accused them of not supplying their financial information and is set to go to court if need be to get the figures.
So far, Page says, only 18 of 82 federal organizations have complied with his request for more details about the fiscal impact of cuts outlined in the last budget.
The point he makes is the public has the right to know what effect the cuts will have, but part of the exercise is to help ensure parliamentarians know they are on the right track in controlling expenses.
This shrouding of what should be available to the public is a continuing pattern for this government. We went through a lot of smoke and mirrors recently over the F35 fighter jets, and also the costs and benefits of the stimulus program.
But as Liberal interim leader Bob Rae points out, the government is drifting into territory that touched off the last election call: the Conservatives balked at providing financial figures in regard to a number of initiatives, including the tough-on-crime agenda.
At that time, the Conservatives were in a minority position and still goaded the opposition. Now, with a majority, they face no fears of their opponents voting non-confidence on any issue.
The Conservatives have made it no secret that they feel vexed by much of what Page has reported, since he has often cast into doubt their figures and forecasts.
Is that the reason for the current impasse?
The government created this office in 2006 as part of its Accountability Act. We have to wonder if it was just window dressing. If the Conservatives are having second thoughts about it, it will be interesting to see if they find other ways to hobble the office or get rid of it altogether.