Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page has been ruffling government feathers by releasing his reports to the public at the same time as he hands the reports over to committees and MPs.
This man is no puppet. Instead of presenting information to MPs and waiting for a 'green light' of approval to go ahead and release the same information to the public, Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, shoots straight from the hip and tells everybody the same thing - at the same time. His last report earned him warnings from a committee of MPs and Senators, who claimed Page should report to them first and the public later. Is Page listening to them?
Paying no heed to the warnings issued to him by the federal government, Page gave details on a five-year economic report to the press that will be presented to government on Monday. The report says that Finance Minister Flaherty got things wrong with his January 2009 budget. Page says that Canada could lose another 1.2 million jobs between now and the end of next year, and he said that deficit calculations made by the Harper government are also wrong. Bowing somewhat to the government, the report will be released on Monday to the Finance Committee which had requested the report, and the public will be able to fully access the report on Wednesday.
The Harper government has predicted that Canada will only lose 160,000 jobs this year, and the government's position has been that Canada is financially strong, and will not suffer much from the recession. At a June G8 meeting of Finance Ministers, Flaherty was talking up an "exit strategy" for stimulus spending. Flaherty was bolstered by reports from the International Monetary Fund forecasting growth for the global economy in the next year. However, it was reported that other finance ministers at that meeting were wary of the idea of pulling out of stimulus spending.
Page is an independent officer recently appointed by Harper to the position. He has a specific mandate to ensure “truth” in government budgeting and expenditure proposals," said the Globe and Mail. Openness and transparency should be the two cornerstones of accountability, and yet, when Page releases reports in his appointed role he is taking a risk. However, Page told The Hill Times that he would not produce confidential reports because his is an "open access" office, and secret reports would not be in keeping with the role of his office.
In March 2009 he released a report that showed the Conservative estimates of the effects of the recession were wrong, predicting Gross Domestic Product would shrink, and that deficit spending by the government would be higher than what had been budgeted. At the end of June 2009, Page was told by a joint parliamentary committee that he would retain his position as long as "...he no longer report on “the state of the nation's finances and trends in the national economy” directly to the House of Commons and the public."John McCallum, Liberal Finance Critic, issued a statement in response to the released details of Page's newest report, saying "The Harper government’s economic policies are an abject failure. As recently as three weeks ago, the Minister still clung to his five-year targets from January. Now we learn that the Conservatives have driven Canada into a $17 billion structural deficit and there is no credible plan to dig Canada out of the hole.”