|Print Version||Budget & Government Agenda|
Well, this is kind of cool. Finance Minister Flaherty's been upstaged by Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO). No longer left dangling at the mercy of the government, we get to hear what's happening with the nation's bank accounts right up front. Without political spin. Our new, independent spokesperson is obviously keen to tell it like it is … and steal the spotlight from the Finance Minister while he's at it.
I wonder how long it will last? Already the government is fighting back. In a footnote to yesterday's report, Mr. Page let it be known that the Department of Finance denied one of his requests for information. Senator Joan Fraser (QC) was quick to ask the Government Leader in the Senate why this was so. " I am not in a position to answer for the reasoning of the Department of Finance," answered the redoubtable Marjorie LeBreton. Good grief. So much for accountability.
In any event, we should enjoy this while we can. It's most refreshing to hear a candid assessment of the federal government's reduced circumstances. As, for example, the following statement at page 16: "The weak fiscal performance to date is largely attributable to previous policy decisions as opposed to weakened economic conditions, since nominal GDP is higher than expected in Budget 2008. Tax revenues are down $353 million year to date compared to a year earlier, due in large part to recent policy measures, such as the second one-percentage point reduction in the [GST] and reductions in corporate income taxes." Let's see what Mr. Flaherty has to say about that.
Posted On Nov 21 10:55AM
My goodness. This man Page is a marvel. I can actually understand his report (not that I'd be able to make speeches on the subject, but I think I could now at least contribute to the chit-chat at a dinner party).
He's pretty even-handed too. Doesn't actually tell anyone what to do, he just gives options. Then he talks briefly about long-term policy challenges. As in aging (I think he's spelling this word wrong, but hey, that's a minor point) - soon only 2 people will be working for every 1 in retirement. No wonder productivity is important (I never really believed those business types before when they harped on this issue). He even mentions climate change. I'd say let's keep this guy. I could really learn to trust him.
Posted On Nov 21 09:39AM
Amen to that. The Cons are kind of funny, though. Surely they could foresee this happening when they passed their infamous Accountability Act a year or so ago. Perhaps that's why it took so long to hire someone to the position. Page just started in March of this year. I wonder if they actually believed he'd toady to the PMO?
Posted On Nov 21 09:26AM
Bravo Mr. Page! Though I see he is already being attacked in the media. Before his report officially came out, CanWest papers were already sullying his reputation by claiming he was overstepping his duties and grabbing for more power. They were particularly critical of his release of the cost of the Afghanistan war during an election. (They did not say, as I suspect, that the report was due out on that date prior to an election being called -- but perhaps I'm wrong here).
In any case, I think it is crucial to have someone in Page's role to give those beyond the PMO the power and information to ask the right questions. Accountability and all of that! It needs to be a non-partisan role.
The papers are claiming Page is being partisan, but I suspect that behind this is the spin of the current government unhappy with not having control of his reports. In otherwords, they want him to be partisan after all-- but on their side!