The federal Conservatives have long had second thoughts about the Parliamentary Budget Office. At any rate, one would expect they’d have thought to include a job description with the opening.
Another spat has opened between budget officer Kevin Page and the federal government over spending – and this time it looks like any resolution will cost Canadians more money. The showdown could be headed to court.
Number crunching from Page in the past has put the Conservatives on the spot about spending estimates, the cost of programs in particular, and often about deficit forecasts.
This time it’s a little different in that Page’s office is seeking estimates on savings as various departments undergo cuts leading up to the next federal budget. Treasury Board President Tony Clement said such an information request falls outside the mandate of Page’s office. Clement argues the budget officer gets to have a look at money spent, not money that’s not spent.
Obviously Page doesn’t agree, and said he’ll force the issue in court if necessary.
It’s not hard to see that the information is relevant to the public. Page has maintained that cuts to departments – and we understand they are necessary – will mean the loss of X number of jobs and thus will have an effect on the country’s employment numbers and economy.
Clement, we’ll remember, doesn’t have the most stellar reputation when it comes to discretion involving spending. It was his Muskoka riding that came under the spotlight for money lavished upon it to spruce things up for the 2010 G8 Summit. Thus, many Canadians would invite extra scrutiny for a government that has yet to earn a reputation as frugal.
It’s plain the Conservatives in setting up this office and putting Page in charge didn’t foresee the harsh light it might put them in at times. Their intent was noble – to help make government more accountable and spending more transparent. But bucking the system every step of the way defeats that purpose.