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, November 15, 2015

As Predicted......

To judge by a report released Tuesday by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the outgoing Harper government was unduly optimistic in its forecasts and estimates. (thats putting it 'nicely'!)
......that suggests that the Conservatives' heralded return to a budgetary surplus was in fact a mirage that could not have been achieved without the one-time sale of government-held shares in General Motors early in the first quarter.
For each of the next five years, the PBO projects fiscal deficits averaging $4.3 billion a year.
However, those deficits don't include the Trudeau government's spending plans. They are the deficits that would have occurred under the budgeting of former prime minister Stephen Harper, if his government had remained in office.
CBC Nov 11 2015

When the Liberals take power in the Fall I predict that they will find it is all smoke and mirrors, any 'surplus' will have been spent on shiny goodies and there will be a substantial deficit on the books.
'Rural' Nov 23 2014

With the above in mind lets take a closer look at what the Liberal Government intends to do about such 'slight of hand' when it comes to public accounting.

They have promised to make the Parliamentary Budget Officer truly independent, properly funded, and answerable only, and directly, to Parliament. Under the previous government he was an officer of the Library of Parliament and reported to the Speakers of both chambers. This would seem to indicate that he now would be a fully independent Officer of Parliament, we would hope that he would also be provided with the authority to make all departments provide him with the information necessary to make accurate and timely reports upon the current fiscal situation and proposed program spending. The Parliament of Canada Act states that, "the Parliamentary Budget Officer is entitled, by request made to the deputy head of a department... to free and timely access to any financial or economic data in the possession of the department that are required for the performance of his or her mandate." , however this did not stop various departments from withholding such information under the previous government. His reports can only be as good as the information that he receives, and as the previous PBO did (much to the vexation of those in power) his reports should be made publicly available by default.

There is also a promise to change parliamentary financial processes to ensure accounting consistency among the Estimates and the Public Accounts. My only comment upon that is why the hell would different departments use different accounting methods in the first place? Moving on, they say that they will provide costing analysis for each government bill and restore the requirement that the government’s borrowing plans receive Parliament’s pre-approval. I would bloody well hope so, asking MPs to vote upon proposed legislation without knowing the full impact of said bill upon the country’s finances is literally like “buying a pig in a poke”.

All these proposals are definitely a step in the right direction and we hope will be quickly instituted and we hope legislated into law to make it harder for this, or any future government to circumnavigate said rules. The question remains, as with all parliamentary 'rules' is what penalties will be introduced for those who refuse to follow said rules. As we have seen in the past there are no substantial consequences within parliament for such malfeasance other than at the ballot box every few years (if and when the public realize what is going on).

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Lorne said...

That the last government operated under such obfuscation is true testament to the fact that their fiscal 'mastery' was as deep as their integrity, Rural, and could not withstand the light of day. It is yet another reminder of how debased our democracy became under their rule.

Rural said...

Our "new" government is certainly making the right noises insofar as changing the tone and operation of our governance, Lorne. It remains to be seen how far they will get with turning things around, and how long it will take.

Owen Gray said...

Let's hope the PBO becomes a truly independent Officer of Parliament, Rural. That's the only way a repeat of the hogwash the Conservatives dished out during the election won't happen again.

Rural said...

That is the promise, Owen!

Anonymous said...

Harper didn't understand that the budget can not be balanced under current conditions. It seems to me Rocco Galati is the one with the answer to all this. One of the first guns in the battle to take us away from democracy back to feudalism was fired in 1974. We have sacrificed our social infrastructure to give the charter banks huge profits. Time to stop. http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/rocco-galati-challenges-bank-of-canada-to-offer-interest-free-loans-1.3065650

Rural said...

It certainly seems counter intuitive for 'our' bank to be making profit from public spending, Anio