The non conformer's Canadian Weblog

February 4, 2009



Budget office will be ‘crippled’ by cuts

Tories will cut funds by one-third after two critical reports. The Parliamentary Budget Office, source of two reports this year that have been critical of the government, is about to have its annual operating budget frozen, despite promises to boost it.

The Parliamentary Budget Office is a creation of the Conservative government through its Federal Accountability Act and is supposed to provide independent analysis of the government’s economic and fiscal position.

The first budget officer, Kevin Page, has published two major reports since starting his job in March, including one in early November that suggested Canada’s finances were about to go into deficit. At that time, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was insisting such a conclusion was premature.

But Page’s biggest clash has been with his bureaucratic boss, William Young, the parliamentary librarian. Young has insisted that since Page reports to him, Page ought to publish his work through the Library of Parliament. The Library of Parliament does not normally release the information or research it prepares for MPs. Page, on the other hand, believes that it is a fundamental part of his job to make his reports available to the public and to MPs.

This year, the Library of Parliament’s budget, to be allocated by Young, is about $40 million. Of that, just $1.9 million is set aside to operate the Parliamentary Budget Office.

Page’s budget next year was to increase to $2.6 million, money Page needs to hire more staff to respond to MPs’ requests for economic research. Canwest News Service has learned that Page’s budget has been frozen.

“That will cripple us,” said a source close to the budget office.

Officials with the government tried to distance themselves from the decision.

“The Government of Canada has no control over the budget of the PBO,” said a spokesman for Jay Hill, the Government House leader.

“All recognized political parties are represented on the board and their decisions are made by consensus and are confidential,” said Hill’s spokesman.

Neither Young nor Page returned telephone messages left Thursday.

Both of the major reports Page’s office has published could be seen to be critical of the government. Opposition parties relied heavily on both reports to attack the government.

“He knows his stuff. He’s got a good team. He’s not being partisan. He’s being honest,” said Liberal finance critic Scott Brison.

The first report, published in the middle of the election campaign, examined the costs of the Afghanistan mission. Page calculated that the full cost of the mission will be about $18.1 billion by 2011, but he said it was difficult to get an accurate accounting of that mission because the government was neither consistent nor transparent when it came to maintaining financial records.

In November, Page published his first major economic and fiscal assessment. It came out a few weeks before Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tabled his fiscal update that provoked the current political crisis in Ottawa. Among other things, the budget officer concluded that the federal government was, in all likelihood, heading for a deficit next year.
MEANWHILE IN OTTAWA TOO – The federal ombudsman for victims of crime has belatedly put out his first annual report – as he nears the end of his second year in office. The glossy, 14-page booklet, quietly tabled Wednesday in the House of Commons, showed ombudsman Steve Sullivan and his staff fielded roughly 500 complaints from the public in fiscal 2007-08. But it offered little analysis of how the cases were handled and provided only a bare-bones summary of policy recommendations delivered to the ombudsman’s political masters – Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and Stockwell Day, who has since been replaced by Peter Van Loan as public safety minister.
“the Conservative government’s brilliant scheme to cut pollution by taking taxpayers for a ride is  another Conservative  making of trying to buy voters with their own bus fare too”..
Alberta to provide incentives for junior energy companies  More social welfare to the corporations -Stelmach’s royalty holiday just a dressed-up tax break.  “Now the Tories are about to throw a huge chunk of cash back at junior and mid-sized oil and gas companies. They don’t call it a royalty holiday, but that’s what it will be, masquerading as a tax break. The real target in this undefined program is the banks. The Tories are deeply annoyed with them, for good reason, because they’re charging smaller oil and gas explorers a huge premium on the Bank of Canada rate. The excuse the banks use, in this government version, is that companies aren’t showing enough cash flow. Giving the companies a tax (royalty?) break will increase cash flow. Therefore, the banks will lend money to drill new wells.”
I get a really big chuckles when I  see the Conservatives still giving social welfare to the Corporations, in fact these days I cannot tell the difference between the liberals or the conservatives.. So what is the real difference between  a bad Liberal and a bad Conservative these days?
and there is certainly a lot to be said for supporting Canadian industries in the country’s time of dire economic need… but in the  “National Defence purchasing department, otherwise known as Cooked Contracts Canada.  There we find the Air Force brass diligently trying to create the appearance of a totally fair and open bidding process for $3.5 billion of new search-and-rescue aircraft. Indeed, while the government may have got away with passing out billion-dollar contracts at will during the boom times, the current economic crisis has increasingly desperate Canadian companies howling for a fair shake.”
Ottawa rewarding ridings represented by Conservative MPs,  An estimated 78 per cent of projects announced under the Building Canada Fund have gone to ridings represented by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s ruling … is also unaccetpable..
by the way the “Conservatives still  just couldn’t resist a little gutter politics along the way. This week Casey stood in the House of Commons to speak out against party officials who lodged a complaint with the RCMP that he had stolen and/or embezzled party funds. The complaint was laid by Diana Read-Miedema, Bernard’s official agent in the campaign,  These are not allegations to be taken lightly when levied against any individual but against a man who spent his professional career as a broker in the financial services industry, they smack of an even deeper innuendo.  The RCMP did not find any evidence to justify charges and have dropped the matter. Casey says party officials knew he had returned the money involved — $30,000 in election funding — and that the complaint was nothing more than a smear against his character. He’s right, again. The Conservatives’ latest skirmish with Casey will surely end up doing more to help his reputation than to achieve their goal of tarnishing it. You’d think they would have learned by now.” bit is shows how dirty the Conservatives still rather are..
First we need still a full  review of the waste, fraud, and abuse that has plagued governmental. efforts. What is also needed is a program to remove public officials from office that take our money and spend it on their own false pet projects while many of our people still are not getting the help that they need.

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