By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 8, 2013 - 0 Comments
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her speech about the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Of course, she recognizes that in our Parliament, which is the Westminster system that we have inherited from the United Kingdom, it is the Crown that is responsible for making budgets, not Parliament. Parliament approves budgets that come from the Crown. I wonder if she would like to comment on that role. She seems to be saying in her remarks that the opposition members, individually, should have their fingerprints all over the budget, creating a system of what are called earmarks in the United States. Does she believe that it is an appropriate format for making budgets? I would like to comment on another aspect and add a secondary question. To what extent are opposition members using the Parliamentary Budget Officer role for partisan purposes, as opposed to trying to clarify and use it for information?
As I also mentioned, for 48 years the Library of Parliament has served members of Parliament. Its employees did not grandstand or hold regular press conferences; they simply did their job and served Parliament. That is what the Library of Parliament has done in the past and that is what we expect the Library of Parliament and the Parliamentary Budget Officer to do in the future.
Mr. Speaker, I guess it really boils to what is need for making this position an officer of Parliament? Under the position’s current mandate, the Parliamentary Budget Officer is to provide independent analysis to Parliament on the state of the nation’s finances, government estimates and trends in the Canadian economy. The role is not designed to be an independent watchdog. It is not designed to be an auditor general, chief electoral officer, privacy commissioner or access to information commissioner. All of those are independent officers, but that is not what this role was designed to be. The PBO is functioning perfectly well within the Library of Parliament, and that is where it belongs.
Mr. Speaker, I recall being on the Library of Parliament committee as my first committee when I was elected in 2008. We studied the issue of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. All the witnesses who were part of that process said that the Parliamentary Budget Officer clearly overstepped the responsibility of the role in the way they had envisioned it. I recall a point when the Parliamentary Budget Officer spoke out on a very specific issue during an election. I would like the member’s impression of it and whether he thinks it was unprecedented and, for that matter, appropriate.
The role of the Parliamentary Budget Officer is simple. It is to provide non-partisan information so that MPs can be watchdogs. It is not that the PBO is to be a watchdog of the government. That is what the opposition members want to transform the PBO into, and that is a dangerous road to go down because it could lead the PBO to being subject to legitimate criticisms of partisanship. It is to equip members of Parliament, unless the opposition members believe they are no longer effective watchdogs of the government. Maybe that is why they want to change this role.
Mr. Saxton’s comments are interesting in their blatant criticism of Kevin Page’s term.
The watchdog distinction is also an interesting point. The opposition parties want to make the Parliamentary Budget Officer to be an independent officer of Parliament. Would Mr. Watson consider the auditor general a watchdog? Would the auditor general thus be subject to “legitimate criticisms of partisanship?”
Mr. Holder seems to be hinting at the release of the Afghanistan audit in 2008—we reviewed that particular moment last week.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 28, 2012 at 4:20 PM - 0 Comments
Conservative MP Bryan Hayes explains his support for Motion 312.
“In my opinion, the formation of a committee does not pre-conclude what the results or recommendations that come forward from that committee might be. So I think it’s reasonable that a committee have some respectful dialogue around this piece of legislation. Obviously the committee was going to be tasked with some responsibilities within their realm as a committee, so when I looked at those responsibilities I thought it reasonable that those questions they would be tasked to answer deserved dialogue.”
… Hayes concluded: “Our government has gone on record as stating we will not revisit the abortion debate, but this piece of legislation states that a child is not a human being before the moment of birth. The definition of when someone is officially declared a human being is 400-year-old legislation, and I think conversation needed to occur as to whether or not that piece of legislation makes sense today.”
NDP MP Brian Masse explains his vote against.
“Generally I believe it’s a woman’s right to choose,” Masse said. “It’s as simple as that. It’s a rights issue. This motion made that rather complicated and eroded that.”
Conservative MP Randy Kamp explains his views.
“To say that it’s a completely closed issue, to have no legislation of any kind on when an unborn child deserves protection – that I think is what all that motion is about,” Kamp said.
Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber blogs.
Motion 312, which would have called for an examination of when human life begins, was defeated in the House of Commons Wednesday night by a vote of 203-91. Predictably, the “Nay” forces were claiming victory and many in the Pro-Life crowd required consoling. Neither reaction was warranted; certainly any celebrations were premature. As I told Alberta Talk Show Host, Rob Breakenridge, the sad reality is that the vote on Motion 312 resolved nothing. This matter would keep coming back until Parliament has the courage to deal with it in a fulsome and respectful manner. Refusing to study a matter does not resolution of an issue make.