Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Parliamentary Budget Officer Says Government is Losing Control of Our Finances

Our Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, is concerned that MPs are being asked to vote on bills with no idea of their cost. And when they try to get the figures from this government before the bills are presented, they are told that the costs are a cabinet secret.

How is giving Canadians, through their elected representatives, a breakdown of how our money is being spent, a "cabinet secret"? That is our money.

And the abuse of our money is out of control.
The House of Commons and its committees have two main responsibilities. One is to review legislation and make amendments as required. However the second – and less understood – role of Parliament is to review the spending plans of government departments and approve them through votes. Committees have the
power to reduce a department’s budget if they are not satisfied with the plan provided, but that rarely happens.

The Conservative government is expected to speak in the House of Commons this week on a motion from Liberal finance critic Scott Brison, who is asking the Speaker to find the government in contempt of Parliament for refusing to provide the cost of its crime bills and for refusing to disclose information related to corporate profits. MPs on another committee, government operations, have also expressed frustration at their inability to get information on how the government is meeting its targets to cut spending in departments.

In his remarks, Mr. Page challenged the government’s claims that all of this information is subject to cabinet confidence. He noted that the government provided details on spending cuts in 2006 without claiming concern about confidentiality.
I'm a little frightened over this financial secrecy, because when we finally got rid of the Mike Harris government in Ontario, Jim Flaherty left us with a nightmare. His notion of "balancing the books" obviously meant that he could walk across the room with them on his head, because he left us with an enormous "hidden" deficit.

We have reason to be concerned.

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