A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, June 24, 2012

PMO v PBO, who will be next?

We all realize by now that nobody really knows what the financial and social impacts of the Harper regimes omnibus Buget and departmental cuts are going to be, and that includes King Harper and his retinue of script readers. For some time now our fearless Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page has been trying to figure out at least the financial ramifications of all these changes, originally so that our MPs would have some idea as to what they were voting upon (not that it would have made any difference to the 164 Con yes men) and now simply so that we all know where all this is taking us.

He has, as is normal when trying to get any information from the Harper regime, been blocked at every turn by specific instructions issued out of the Prime Ministers Office. Once again the actions of these dictatorial ideologues has been called illegal by those knowledgeable of constitutional and parliamentary matters.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page released a legal opinion Monday by a prominent constitutional lawyer that concluded Canada’s top bureaucrat and the deputy ministers of 64 departments are breaching the Parliament of Canada Act by refusing to release information on the spending cuts, including their impact on jobs and service levels to Canadians.”
Page has been in an ongoing tussle with the government for details on spending cuts. He issued two separate calls to 82 departments and agencies for details of their spending cuts following the federal budget, and only received responses from 18.
The battle took a turn when Privy Council Clerk Wayne Wouters, the country’s top bureaucrat, stepped in and told Page deputy ministers couldn’t provide those details because of collective agreements with federal unions that oblige them to first inform unions and employees about the cuts. Page sought a legal opinion from constitutional expert Joseph Magnet, who concluded senior bureaucrats had breached the law and should turn the information over. “

The only grounds for refusing are if the PBO request involves private or personal information that is restricted under the Access to Information Act or if the data is part of a cabinet confidence.
Wouters doesn’t cite any of these legal grounds for these exemptions and instead argued that the contractual obligations of collective agreements with the 18 federal unions prevent the release of any further information.
But the unions have strongly backed Page’s efforts to get details on the cuts. They argue nothing in the contracts prevents the release of details of the cuts as long as the names of people losing their jobs are protected. The major unions have written to Treasury Board to urge the release of information that Page is seeking.”

All this has, as expected, produced a renewed attack upon Mr Page and his office who like so many other critical departments that are not totally under the thumb of the Control Freak, such as Elections Canada, has had his budget cut.
When pressed in the Commons Tuesday over the Tories’ refusal to cooperate, Baird suggested that Page had overstepped his bounds in doing his job.
I have to say with great respect, I believe that from time to time and on occasion the Parliamentary Budget Office has overstepped its mandate,” Baird said.
Asked about Baird’s comment, Page said he can barely keep up with his office’s sweeping responsibility — analysis of the economy, federal finances and costing of programs.
How can I overstep that mandate. That mandate is huge relative to my resource base and staff,” “The thing that keeps me up at night is that we just don’t have the capacity.” Page said.
As Bob Rae said in the House “It’s completely preposterous to suggest that when a parliamentary budgetary authority asks for information from government departments he’s somehow overstepping his bounds,” No doubt the next thing we will be told that Yves Côté, the “low-key” bureaucrat just appointed to be the new Commissioner of Canada Elections is overstepping his mandate by investigating election fraud, if that 'investigation' ever finds out the truth which we all know will point to the Cons.

Without {winning his battle in the court of public and political opinion} “we’re dead in the water, anyway,’’

Amen to that!

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1 comment:

Peerless Cynic said...

Thank you for this. It's astonishing how Canadians seem disinterested in the creeping authoritarianism displayed by this government. If we somehow survive it we ought to look back in shame.