Kevin Page the Parliamentary Budget Officer knows that he’s on the Tories hit list. All the Members of the House of Commons know that Mr Page has become a thorn in the side of the Harper government. Then why don’t the Harperites just admit that they will not give Mr Page the information that he is seeking because they are afraid he will do with that information what he has done with all the information he has received thus far-he will make it public, because that is what his job demands of him.
Mr. Page is looking for information regarding the projected effects of the cuts that are being made through the budget. The $5.2 billion in spending cuts will obviously affect government jobs, programs and services. His questions are important if he is to fulfill his mandate to respond fulsomely to the queries of Members of the House of Commons. But what we find are stalling tactics, obfuscation and lies.
As we read in today’s article by Paul McLeod in the Chronicle Herald, “The government initially said it was handcuffed from releasing cut details by union contracts that require giving advance notice to employees.”"
But government unions then went public, saying they supported more information about cuts being released as long as it didn’t name specific employees losing their job.”
“In the House of Commons on Wednesday, Treasury Board President Tony Clement said the government was holding back information for compassionate reasons.” Now get this…
“This isn’t about the unions, it’s out of compassion for workers that we decided to inform them first,” said Mr Clement. The other day Minister Peter Kent described Megan Leslie’s very reasonable question in the House as ‘sanctimonious twaddle’. How should we characterize Mr Clement’s offering? Let me just say that Mr Clement has a rather loose understanding of what is required when one is asked to honestly respond to a legitimate question.
So, why the secrecy? Why are the Harperites unwilling to respond with clear answers to these requests? Curiously it was the Harper government that passed the Accountability Act in 2006 as a means of ensuring that transparency was maintained in the reporting of financial and economic information to Members of Parliament. But here they are, now as a majority government, actually refusing to comply with the request of the person who presently holds the position that their own government established. Back then, during the debate on the Accountability Act, they argued that it was necessary to have a person charged with the responsibility of making sure that Parliamentarians were able to secure the necessary and pertinent information that would help them to make the best decisions as legislators. The Harperites, it seems, no longer feel that that is demanded of the government.
Kevin Page is very clear, both about his mandate and about the principle that is at stake. He is reported in the McLeod article as writing of his concern in this way, ”“Without transparency (we only have proposed savings by department; no baselines by program activity) it is impossible for Parliament to hold the government to account…” And this is the crucial point, Mr Page is doing precisely what he is supposed to do he is part of the system that helps keep the government accountable to the citizens of Canada by providing parliamentarians with the information they require to be able to do their job efficiently and effectively. By withholding information and maintaining secrecy on the flimsiest of rationales, the Harperites are proving that they are governing in bad faith. It also clearly shows that they have no respect for Parliament or the citizens of Canada.