By Emily Senger - Monday, March 11, 2013 - 0 Comments
PBO Kevin Page is not going out quietly
Outgoing Parliamentary Budget Office Kevin Page has been making the rounds during his final weeks in the post and one thing is for certain: he’s not going out quietly.
Here are some selected quotes from his recent interviews to prove it:
1. To The Hill Times:
“It was an accident that the current PBO became a true legislative budget office. If Parliament, the media and Canadians want a true legislative budget office they will have to stand up. The current PBO is about to go down… The timing of the selection process and the interim appointment of the librarian do not support the interests of Parliament.” Continue…
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 7:00 PM - 0 Comments
In the meantime, chief librarian Sonia L’Heureux will fill the role starting March 25
OTTAWA – The federal government has officially opened its search for a new parliamentary budget officer — and this time they’d like someone “tactful and discreet” who’s good at “achieving consensus.”
The job posting appears to signal that the Harper government, which created the fiscal watchdog five years ago, is looking for a tamer successor to the blunt-spoken and fearlessly independent Kevin Page, whose term ends this month.
“The suitable candidate should possess experience in negotiating and achieving consensus on complex issues among a variety of stakeholders with competing objectives,” says the job description posted by the Library of Parliament.
Page has taken the government to Federal Court in an effort to clarify his mandate after being stonewalled on his requests for basic departmental financial information relating to last year’s budget cuts.
By Murray Brewster - Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 10:19 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – The parliamentary budget officer says replacing the navy’s two existing supply ships…
OTTAWA – The parliamentary budget officer says replacing the navy’s two existing supply ships is expected to cost $4.13 billion, far more than the $2.6 billion budgeted by the Harper government.
Kevin Page’s latest report could spell more political trouble for the Conservatives, who’ve been hammered over delays and cost overruns in a series of military equipment projects.
The budget officer’s staff say they used a couple of different models in their calculations and cut government officials some slack in terms of delivery dates, but essentially came up with the same numbers.
The analysis says $3.2 billion would be needed to replace the navy’s 45-year-old replenishment ships, HMCS Preserver and HMCS Protecteur.
By Stephen Gordon - Monday, October 8, 2012 at 12:49 PM - 0 Comments
The Parliamentary Budget Office has been warning that the federal government has been running a “structural deficit” for several years now, and the Conservative government has been dismissing those warnings for just as long. Interestingly, though, the Department of Finance just came up with a new feature for the 2012 edition of the Fiscal Reference Tables, which were made public on Friday: estimates for the “cyclically-adjusted budget balance.” And they look a lot like the PBO’s estimates.
The idea behind the CABB is that governments should aim to run a balanced budget over the course of the business cycle: surpluses in expansions would offset the deficits incurred during recessions. Balancing the budget in every year would mean that governments would be forced to increase taxes and cut spending in downturns, and to do the opposite when the economy is growing quickly.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
Nearly a month ago, the Parliamentary Budget Office wrote to 83 departments of government seeking details of the cuts cited in this year’s budget. Today, the PBO reported back on the responses received so far.
On April 12, 2012, the PBO issued Information Request 0080 to all organizations affected by the spending reductions announced in Budget 2012. The data will be used to support parliamentarians’ consideration of the savings measures proposed in Budget 2012. Specifically, those aspects relating to planned allocation of savings on departmental program activities, personnel reductions, and service level impacts.
As of May 4, 2012, 8 departments have responded to the PBO’s request. Although this represents 9.64% of departments implicated in Budget 2012 savings measures, the responding departments are small and therefore this figure only represents 0.06% of the total savings measures and 0.61% of planned personnel reductions.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, July 11, 2011 at 11:12 AM - 17 Comments
The IMD is a structured database of budgeted and in-year expenditures listed by vote for each federal department and agency. Working with existing data sources, it is the first database that ensures congruence between the estimates and in-year financial reporting. The IMD permits legislators to identify significant variations in planned and actual spending, as well as key differences among fiscal years. This allows members and committees to focus their attention on areas that merit in-depth scrutiny.
By Colby Cosh - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 1:34 AM - 0 Comments
The Globe and Mail has finally explained where a Toronto Chief of Police and dozens of gullible journalists and politicians got the idea that the national firearms registry costs $4 million a year. I’ve watched this figure get repeated countless times over the past month or so, and every single time I kept returning with furrowed brow to the Treasury Board estimates, which put the combined operating and transfers cost of firearms registration at $22 million, just to the RCMP, for 2010-11. (The overall cost for registries and licensing infrastructure comes to $78 million.)
That’s not counting the costs to other federal agencies—most especially the cost to Corrections Canada, estimated loosely at $10 million for fiscal ’08-’09. Certainly the commentators who were soiling themselves over the PBO’s estimates for penological costs of Conservative law-and-order measures wouldn’t want to just ignore the money spent on keeping gun-registry offenders locked up longer, would they? Including the cost in registrant time and effort would drive the figure higher still; surely the Globe is bound to be giving the program a break in only revising the cost upward by a factor of 16½.
If the Globe is right, it seems only a bit of sloppily written verbiage in the new report on the registry—interpreted by dissimulators with badges, and faithfully broadcast by writers with poor financial instincts—could possibly have led anyone to believe the gun registry is a bargain. (The Firearms Centre in Miramichi has 240 federal employees, guys! $4 million wouldn’t cover 12 weeks of payroll expenses, right?) And maybe I’m just some Western flake, but in retrospect it does seem as though the propagation of $4 million figure was possible only because the RCMP played undisguised politics with the report, dawdling over a “translation” (a tactic that the Conservatives somehow ended up taking most of the blame for) and making sure to pass it around to friendly, gullible media outlets in a timely way before the vote on C-391. All of which, now, can serve only the electoral interests of the Conservatives themselves—keeping alive the hated totem and allowing them to exploit the real financial numbers in their search for a Commons majority.
[UPDATE, 10:22 am: Or not. The Citizen's board smacks down the Globe this morning, and the Globe seems to have mis-identified the source of the figure within the report—the actual source being a reference to another report to the RCMP by a government IT consultancy, Pleiad Canada. So could we have that document, or is it already too late to bother?]
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 4:11 AM - 97 Comments
The debate over the net costs of the government’s Truth in Sentencing bill is of the kind that makes me want to throw up my hands and whine “Aw, I don’t knowwwww…”. On the one hand, the Parliamentary Budget Office has presented an estimate of the costs that makes the bill seem demented. Kevin Page’s numbers don’t factor in the benefits of any potential deterrence effect; they admittedly rely, at many points, on wild assumptions; and they were assembled with the help of a lot of the sort of “independent” expert who sees prisons as inherently barbarous and would happily blow them all up if someone presented them with a big red button that would do it instantly. But as Page himself has pointed out, this is a fight between questionable evidence and no evidence. The government hasn’t really shown any good-faith sign of a serious effort to cost out the elimination of two-for-one credit for time in remand.
Penology, by and large, isn’t treated as a fundamental political issue in this country at all. We have a series of arguments over specific proposals; we don’t have explicit contending ideologies. Yet it’s discernible, surely, that those ideologies exist.
What we have, I think, is a group of citizens who believe that penology contains no moral component whatsoever. They are, or the most logical ones are, pure utilitarians who believe that punishment has no inherent place in a justice system. If we had a pill for perfect deterrence, one that could eliminate criminal tendencies with 100% effectiveness and no ill effects or pain, they would argue that the ethical thing to do would be to give it to all convicts, even serial murderers and child rapists, and turn them loose to reintegrate with society, preferably with their identities protected. And on the other side, we have the moralists, people who do believe in punishment even where it has no necessary utilitarian or deterrent value at all. They believe that the function of a criminal justice system is to provide justice, in the schoolyard, eye-for-an-eye sense of the term. These people would want prisons, and perhaps other miserable and dire punishments, even if we had a deterrence pill.
The camps don’t challenge each other ideologically very often. It goes unstated that the overwhelming majority of those who actually administer criminal sentencing don’t really believe in punishment—this is fairly obvious, for example, from their shiny-happy trade literature. And it goes unstated that people like Vic Toews are, in a sense, beyond evidentiary arguments like Page’s. Toews is pursuing “truth in sentencing” and applying the statutes of the land, which are based on an idea of punishment favoured by much of the citizenry (and by the framers and re-framers of our Criminal Code) but by few among the bureaucracy or the polite social elite. Toews’ bill may be stupid or insane, but his basic claim to be pursing an abandoned or betrayed “truth” is serious, and it is even half-supported by some critics, who agree that two-for-one remand credit is a substantially unlawful kludge.
I suppose a law-and-order conservative, somebody who has a moralist ideology when it comes to crime and punishment, can’t very well complain about the inspired passion for austerity displayed by critics of Truth in Sentencing. But when the Globe picked up its unsigned-editorial stick and gave Toews a broadly justified hiding with it on Wednesday, I wondered about the lede:
It is unfathomable that the Canadian government would be preparing to more than double annual spending on the country’s jails at a time when almost all other government departments are being held in check, or cut. Never mind deficit reduction. Never mind health care or education. Never mind the environment. Only one thing matters: to be seen as tough on crime.
When Canadian justice went on a liberalization binge between about 1965 and 1985, nobody thought it was necessary to provide an accurate accounting of every penny of the cost of the new measures. And while we’re on the subject, Page’s report notes, in passing, that the cost per individual federal inmate in our corrections system grew by about 50% in nominal dollars between 2001 and 2009. Where were the complaints about this extravagance, the demands that we be shown where the money was going? I must say it is funny how every newspaper columnist suddenly masters the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles as soon as a Conservative government wants to “be seen as tough on crime”.
(And, frankly, I’m not sure why the “seen as” is in that sentence, since Truth in Sentencing really would lengthen criminal sentences for virtually everybody that is held in pre-trial custody and eventually convicted. Can it be argued that this is not genuine toughness on crime?)
Anti-moralist utilitarians betray their own cause when they fail to count the social costs or benefits of a change to criminal justice. Surely, according to either ideology, formal line items in the federal budget should really be marginal considerations compared to whether the measures in question lead to a safer society and less fear. For the moralists, of course, the bar is even higher: the measures must also be just in themselves. The utilitarians, for their part, have a pretty strong case that we need not consider morality or Old Testament-y justice at all.* (This is basically how the emergent field of law-and-economics approaches criminal justice.)
*But then again, you can’t be a half-utilitarian: it’s not fair to fake it because you’re concealing a specious, one-sided romantic concern for the welfare of criminals. If you are going to scream for efficient deterrence as the ultimate penological standard and insist on evidence, you must be prepared to be held to the judgment of the evidence even where it supports apparently unjust or objectionable procedures.
(In the U.S., for example, I would say a consensus is forming around the proposition that capital punishment might save a large, even double-digit number of potential murder victims for each execution; but there have, on statistical grounds, just not been enough executions since Gregg v. Georgia to warrant much confidence in the relevant interstate comparisons. In other words, the jury is still out until the sample grows. So what if the large deterrent effect is upheld over time? Will reality-based liberals in Canada circa 2060 A.D. acknowledge their forebears’ mistake and bring back the noose?)
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 2, 2009 at 2:39 PM - 121 Comments
Kevin Page has apparently asked the government if it might turn over the electric version of the paper data it dumped in boxes on his doorstep last week. The NDP’s Thomas Mulcair appeared after QP on Friday with one of the boxes to unleash the following.
J’ai été, les trois boîtes, ça c’est les boîtes elles-mêmes qui ont été donné hier à Kevin Page. Celui-ci, le 2 of 3 est marqué Ontario complete. En réponse à une demande légalement formulée par le directeur parlementaire du budget, Kevin Page a reçu la réponse suivante du ministre Baird. Il a reçu trois boîtes, 4,476 pages de documents, aucun résumé, aucune version électronique.
This is one of three boxes that Minister Baird sent to Kevin Page, Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer in response to his legally formulated request for information. If you look at the Act that constitutes the Parliamentary Budget Officer, he has the right to ask for all information required to allow him to do his job. There was no summary, no synopsis, no spreadsheet, there wasn’t even an electronic version, 4,476 pages of contempt from John Baird to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. This one is marked Box 2 of 3, Ontario complete. These are the actual boxes, although you’ll understand that the documents are no longer in them because every document and we have copies for you of one of the pages, every document is marked Protected A. So these documents were sent to Kevin Page’s office.
By kadyomalley - Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 11:24 AM - 15 Comments
Full disclosure: the last time ITQ covered the Library committee, it was pretty much just to see if it could be done without the liveblogger lapsing into a coma, but this time, it might actually get interesting. Why? Three words: Parliamentary Budget Officer. Who won’t be there – not this time, anyway, although at least one opposition party – the Bloc Quebecois, to be specific – has a motion to launch a full investigation of the relationship between the Library and the PBO. Somehow, though, I suspect that Parliamentary Librarian William Young will be fielding a few questions on the subject during his appearance today.
Welcome to the Library of Parliament committee, ITQ readers! Actually, to be strictly accurate, welcome to the West Block hallway outside the room where Library of Parliament committee will eventually be meeting, which is currently occupied by a shadowy subcommittee of the environmental variety, and will hopefully be vacating the premises soon, what with all of us stuck out here sweltering in our winter coats and all.
There we go! We’re in!
So the rumour – and I stress that this is just a rumour – is that the Librarian is angling to turn this meeting, which is supposed to be focused on the main estimates, into a general roundtable/disciplinary hearing on Kevin Page, rogue parliamentary budget officer.
The chair – Senator Sharon Carstairs – attempted to get that underway, but was thwarted in mid-sentence by the Bloc’s Louis Plamandon, who point-of-orders out that actually, his motion should take precedence.
And – it’s on.
UPDATED: About that whole "Well, at least we're doing better than the rest of the world" talking point, Prime Minister …
By kadyomalley - Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 10:22 AM - 37 Comments
The latest briefing note from the Parliamentary Budget Office suggests that may not actually be the case — not if you look at Gross Domestic Income instead of Gross Domestic Product, that is:
On March 2, Statistics Canada released its National Income and Expenditure Accounts for the fourth quarter of 2008. Statistics Canada estimates that Canadian real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined by 3.4% in the fourth quarter while the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates a 6.2% decline in U.S real GDP.1 Statistics Canada and others have highlighted Canada’s relative real GDP performance, noting that in addition to the U.S. decline, “the European Union registered a decline of 5.9% in the quarter, while Japan’s economy was down 12.7%”
Among those “others” who have highlighted GDP performance is, of course, the Prime Minister. From yesterday’s speech:
So far, in fact, while the global recession has hit Canada hard, not nearly as hard as it has other countries. The American economy has been hit twice as hard as Canada. The same is true for the Europeans. The Japanese have been hit four times as hard.
Unless ITQ is very much mistaken, the PM’s assurance that Canada hasn’t been hit “nearly as hard” as other countries is based on comparative declines in GDP, as listed above. But according to the PBO, those numbers only provide a “limited snapshot”. The big picture, it seems, isn’t nearly as encouraging [emphasis added]:
Comparing Canada and U.S. fourth-quarter real GDP in 2008 with its year-ago level provides a better reflection of recent trend growth, which suggests a similar performance in the two economies. More importantly, based on a more relevant performance indicator – real Gross Domestic Income (GDI) – Canada’s fourth-quarter performance is weaker than real GDP estimates would suggest. [...]
In the first half of 2008, Canadian real GDI increased sharply while U.S. real GDI stagnated. However, with the reversal in commodity prices and consequently the terms of trade, Canada’s real GDI declined in the second half of the year, plunging by 15.3% in the fourth quarter – ten times larger than the (1.5%) decline observed in the U.S.
Despite Canada’s stronger growth in the first half of the year, the unprecedented decline in Canadian real GDI in the fourth quarter resulted in a fourth-quarter level 2.1% lower than in the same quarter of the previous year. In contrast, U.S. real GDI in the fourth quarter was only slightly lower than its year-ago level (0.7%).
UPDATE: Apparently, ITQ was not very much mistaken when she speculated that the PM was using these very numbers to bolster his contention that Canada hasn’t been as badly battered by the crisis as the rest of the world. From the brand spankin’ new Action Plan website launched earlier this morning by the Harper Government*:
While Canada’s GDP contracted during the last quarter of 2008, it was barely half the contraction experienced in the U.S. and Europe, and only one-quarter as bad as the contraction in Japan.
*Yes, the Harper Government. According to the new site, that is, apparently, the moniker by which it now wishes to be known. The word “Conservative” doesn’t appear anywhere at all, most likely to avoid accusations of using a government-funded site for partisan purposes.
PBOWatch: Okay, the Parliamentary Budget Office has now officially put more thought into those quarterly budget reports …
By kadyomalley - Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 1:46 PM - 12 Comments
… than the party that came up with the idea to have the government provide them in the first place. Or so it seems from the latest briefing note, released earlier today:
• The PBO recommends that Parliament establish an appropriate provisional reporting framework prior to the release of the Government’s reports to ensure the appropriate information is being collected up-front — on the understanding that these reports can be improved over time as information accumulates and the situation evolves.
• This note provides the PBO’s view on some key information requirements for the content of these reports — the central goal of which should be to provide Parliament with accurate, timely, and easily understood information that details: recent economic and fiscal developments and prospects; the implementation and effectiveness of budget measures; and the budget results in light of its guiding principles.
• The specific contents of future progress reports to Parliament may include:
o An evaluation of economic developments relative to Budget 2009 assumptions, and an assessment of economic risks that uses an updated survey of private sector forecasters and, if applicable, the Government’s own forecast.
o A summary of recent fiscal results and analysis of fiscal risks, as well as an estimate of the Government’s structural budget balance and statement of its fiscal targets.
o A clear implementation and oversight framework that describes for each budget measure: the spending authority and delivery mechanism; implementation indicators and progress benchmarks; and expected output and/or outcome indicators. This note provides specific examples to illustrate these concepts.
o A discussion of progress relative to the three guiding principles that Budget 2009 be: timely; targeted; and temporary.
And that’s just from the summary — the full report runs fifteen pages, and includes a very helpful backgrounder on parliamentary oversight, and extensive analysis – with tables, even - of the sort of information that will be useful in determining exactly whether the money is being spent in accordance with the stated goals of the budget. They’ve even provided a sample spreadsheet!
Now, it’s possible – although somewhat unlikely – that the Liberals have released a similarly detailed outline and ITQ missed it – or, alternately, that they specifically requested that the PBO put together this report, in which case I will cheerfully update this post. But at the moment, it looks like the parliamentary budget officer is putting more effort into making sure that these reports – the first of which, incidentally, is theoretically due by the end of March – hold the government accountable than the Official Opposition.
By kadyomalley - Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 9:21 AM - 7 Comments
Or do you just not want to give away all your secrets?
Everyone’s favourite fiscal futurist Kevin Page appears to have hit a brick wall in his efforts to persuade the FInance department to hand over the economic and fiscal projections underlying last fall’s Economic and Fiscal Statement (which, ITQ readers may dimly recall, very nearly brought down the government).
As it turned out, the folks at Finance were happy to send along the results of the private economic survey that were used to come up with their projections, but balked at releasing any “additional details” without first getting the green light from PCO, according to Deputy Minister Rob Wright, whose response is dated December 24, 2008:
By kadyomalley - Thursday, February 12, 2009 at 5:01 PM - 5 Comments
I know, I know – this is so unITQ-like in its non-live-bloggingness, but I’ll be honest with y’all – I wasn’t actually going to cover this afternoon’s Public Accounts meeting until I noticed that David Christopherson had a motion on the table to invite the Parliamentary Budget Officer to committee to “discuss his roles and issues related to his independence,” at which point I *obviously* couldn’t not show up, what with being a PBOWatcher and all.
Anyway, right now, the committee is preoccupied with last May’s Auditor General report on First Nations child and family services, and since I came in late, I’m mostly just half (or maybe a quarter) paying attention to the discussion at the moment. Sometimes the teensiest tiny bit distracted, but when it comes to accountability, ever vigilant, that’s the ITQ motto.
Okay, still not *really* listening, but I have to say that Christopherson really is one of the most underappreciated MPs on the Hill: He has such a blunt, no-nonsense way about him. Right now, he’s raking various Indian and Northern Affairs officials, and somehow, he does it without coming across as a self-important blowhard.
Meanwhile, the government members keep wanting to go back to The Residential Schools Apology, and how it made everything better, which, when you think about it, would be a question better posed to a First Nations person than bureaucrat. And there I go again, paying attention. Confound you, Public Accounts committee, with your sneaky way of making me care about stuff before I can activate my trusty apathy shield.
By kadyomalley - Sunday, January 18, 2009 at 2:49 PM - 52 Comments
… posted on behalf of Colleague Wells, who received a copy of the following missive in his morning email. What does it all mean? That Parliament can’t get back to work soon enough, that’s what it means.
From: Page, Kevin
To: Ignatieff, Michael – M.P.; Duceppe, Gilles – député; Layton, Jack – M.P.
Cc: McCallum, John – M.P.; Brison, Scott – M.P.; Mulcair, Thomas – Député; Laforest, Jean-Yves – Député
Sent: Sat Jan 17 15:43:48 2009
Subject: Parliamentary Budget Officer / Directeur parlementaire du budget
(La version française suit)
There are significant challenges to the independence, resources and operations of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) with a resulting adverse impact on the capacity of parliamentarians to hold the government to account.
As you may be aware, there have been multiple views on the mandate, operations and accountabilities of the PBO. Earlier this week, the Parliamentary Librarian (PL) made three fundamental points in his interview with the Ottawa Citizen (published January 15, 2009) and his Opinion – Editorial in the Hill Times (published January 13, 2009) – his first public remarks on the role of the Parliamentary Budget Officer since the spring of 2008:
- The PBO is accountable to the PL (not parliamentarians);
- The PBO is not independent (notwithstanding the statements of the Prime Minister both inside and outside the House of Commons) (Annex A); and
- The PL refuted the earlier written statement of the Speakers, when he indicated in the interview with the Ottawa Citizen, that the PBO has not in-fact overstepped its mandate.
The January 16 Ottawa Citizen Editorial (Annex B) provided a strongly worded response to the former article.
By kadyomalley - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 11:43 PM - 6 Comments
In his first interview on the subject, parliamentary librarian William Young tells the Ottawa Citizen why Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page had to be “reined in”, and points out – once again — that according to the legislation that created the office, Page is not an independent officer of Parliament:
For Mr. Young the law is clear. Mr. Page and his office offer “independent analysis” to Parliament and that independence means from the government, but not from the library. Where he and Mr. Page don’t see eye-to-eye is over the office’s autonomy. He said the office was never intended to be a full-fledged and ‘autonomous’ officer of Parliament, but rather an employee of the library who reports to the librarian.
“As far as I concerned, I have no absolutely no interest or concern with the independence related to the analysis or the process related to the analysis that Kevin has undertaken. I don’t spend my time vetting any of the publications . The analysis that comes out of this place is independent…based on evidence, is reviewed and goes out.”
“The issue of autonomy, on the other hand, is something defined in the legislation. I go back to the legislation and assume what parliament passed is what parliament intended the law to say and as far as autonomy is concerned the law is quite clear. – the PBO reports to me and I report to the speakers.”
(In fairness to Young, it’s worth noting that the current confusion over the PBO’s ostensible independence is not his fault – he didn’t draft the bill, he didn’t pass the Federal Accountability Act, and he can’t change the law as written.)
UPDATED: Parliamentary Budget Office facing funding freeze? This sounds like a job for the Library of Parliament committee!
By kadyomalley - Friday, December 19, 2008 at 11:52 AM - 64 Comments
Oh, wait – at this precise moment, it doesn’t actually exist because someone – we’re not pointing fingers here – decided to prorogue Parliament a month and a half before he plans to bring it back to life with a wave of his magic wand Speech from the Throne.
Anyway, if there was a functioning Library of Parliament committee at the moment, it would be the perfect outlet to discuss just what can be done about this latest skirmish between Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page – who should probably be at least a little bit alarmed at the way that “embattled” seems to have been added to his title, which generally happens right before certain staffers start to be referred to as “loyalists” – and the Library of Parliament, as recounted by the inestimable Kathryn May in today’s Ottawa Citizen:
Canada’s new parliamentary budget officer, whose controversial reports on government spending have been at the centre of a political storm over his mandate, is facing a 33-per-cent reduction in his previously approved budget.
The budget office is housed in the Library of Parliament, which informed parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page that his funding would be frozen at its start-up level of $1.8 million and he won’t be getting the additional 33 per cent he was promised — for 2009-2010 –when the office was opened nearly nine months ago. […]
When creating the budget office, the government allocated $1.8 million for the first year to cover the costs of setting it up, to be followed with a full operating budget of $2.8 million in 2009-2010. The office now estimates it needs about $5 million a year to keep up with its work doing the financial analysis and advice demanded by MPs. The office, however, has been hampered in hiring full-time employees and has a staff of eight, four of whom have been temporarily borrowed from other departments. Mr. Page had hope to expand to about 15 people by next year.
One official said the freeze would cripple the office and effectively shut it down. Others, however, said all departments and agencies in government were facing cuts or marginal increases and Mr. Page’s office was not being targeted. […]
One of the unique perks of being an independent Officer of Parliament is that the budget for your office is decided by Parliament, not government, which – in theory – should protect you from having your funding slashed by a pique-fitting Prime Minister whose nose was disjointed by a recent report.
By kadyomalley - Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 3:57 PM - 11 Comments
Just in time for the holidays, a shiny new briefing note on . . . “revisiting the spectre of deflation”? That doesn’t sound very cheerful at all. Unfortunately, it’s also recommended reading, particularly if you, like ITQ, have a mind that is somewhat less than a steel trap when it comes to economics.
The short version:
Internationally, there has been much recent concern about the possibility of a deflationary episode, particularly for the beleaguered U.S. economy where consumer prices have fallen at a record pace in recent months. Indeed, the Federal Reserve has acknowledged the small, but growing deflation risk in the U.S. and has re-affirmed that it will take the necessary actions to avoid deflation.
For Canada, a small minority of private-sector forecasters now expect a shortperiod of negative numbers for total CPI in the near-term (on a year-over-year basis). However, at the current time, the possibility of persistent outright deflation in Canada remains low. According to the PBO’s private sector survey, as of December 12, 2008, the average forecast for total CPI inflation in Canada was 1.3% for 2009 and 1.6% for 2010. Both of these annual average forecasts are within the Bank of Canada’s 1%-3% inflation target band. Furthermore, despite a recent substantial monthly price decline in total CPI, core inflation — the preferred measure of inflation’s underlying trend — has not yet recorded a drop to more worrying levels.
At the same time, the lowest CPI forecast reported in the PBO’s survey calls for inflation of 0.8% and 0.6% in 2009 and 2010 respectively. This is not an expectation of outright price declines in Canada over a sustained period, but does indicate very weak price pressures overall going forward. Overall, at the current time, taking account of the CPI measurement problems discussed above, these forecasts point to a small possibility of a quite modest deflationary experience for Canadian households during the on-going economic slowdown.
Finally, an international historical perspective offers two additional points for consideration — points which are not intended to dismiss or discredit the current deflation concerns, but rather to offer a broader context for on-going discussions. First, mild, short-lived deflationary episodes are more common than most people think; and second, with the notable exception of the Great Depression, the economic record during these past deflationary episodes is not as bad as most people fear.
The even shorter version: No need to panic just yet, but keep an eye on the CPI.
PS Confidential to the parl.gc.ca webadmin: An RSS feed for this page would be awesome.
By kadyomalley - Tuesday, December 2, 2008 at 10:45 AM - 19 Comments
2008 Economic and Fiscal Statement: Key Issues for Parliamentarians (December 1, 2008):
“The Federal Accountability Act mandates the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) to provide independent analysis to the Senate and House of Commons on the state of the nation’s finances, government estimates and trends in the national economy. In meeting the commitments of this mandate, this short note addresses some key questions regarding the Government of Canada’s 2008 Economic and Fiscal Statement:
• Do the economic assumptions presented to Parliament represent a reasonable basis for fiscal projections and are the economic risks adequately characterised?
• Do the fiscal projections provided to Parliament represent a reasonable basis for planning and are the fiscal risks adequately characterised?
In general, the economic assumptions are reasonable. However, there are some issues regarding the characterization of the impacts of previous fiscal measures and risks.
Beyond the economic risks identified in the EFS, there is additional risk associated with the Government’s ability to achieve the savings and to generate the revenues associated with the measures introduced in the EFS. Table 1 presents the Government’s budget balance prior to these actions, and separates the new measures into two categories:
1) measures incorporated in the fiscal projections that were identified; and,
2) measures for which little information has been provided.
The second category provides the highest degree of uncertainty and therefore the greater risk to the EFS fiscal projections. This category includes two items, on which the Government’s projection of balanced budgets rests:
• The recognition of $2 billion in gains from the sale of assets yet to be identified; and
• Reductions in departmental spending realized from departmental reviews.
The assessment of fiscal risk would be improved if these items were presented with supporting documentation. For the departmental spending reductions, the risk associated with obtaining the estimated $6 billion in savings incorporated over the next four years can only be assessed if a list of the proposed reductions in departmental appropriations is provided. Further, to insure informed debate, the complete list of the approximately $2.3 billion in expected reductions in appropriations in 2009-10, including the value of the planned savings in hospitality, travel, and professional services expenditures, should be explicitly included in the 2009-10 Main Estimates when they are tabled in the spring.
Parliamentarians would also benefit from further details on two additional issues: first, whether the liabilities related to the Afghanistan mission have been fully accounted for6; and second, how the $4.3 billion in revenues received from this year’s wireless spectrum auction have been incorporated into the Government’s fiscal projections.
Full document available here.
By kadyomalley - Friday, November 21, 2008 at 10:18 AM - 10 Comments
Mr. Thomas Mulcair (Outremont, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, during the election campaign, the Prime Minister stated loud and clear that the parliamentary budget officer is an independent position. However, there are some people here, in the highest circles, who want to silence him. If the Prime Minister is sincere, is he ready to defend this institution by proposing legislative amendments to guarantee his independence, without interference?
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, we created an independent position. But this position was approved by Parliament, which is responsible for managing it.
Oh, Prime Minister. Really, this question was a gimme – all you had to do was say yes.
By kadyomalley - Thursday, November 13, 2008 at 9:51 AM - 12 Comments
From today’s Ottawa Citizen:
Canada’s new budget officer has been told he can’t release any report to MPs, senators and taxpayers without the approval of the parliamentary librarian.
William Young has reportedly laid down the law in a blunt letter to Kevin Page that severely restricts what the office staff can do and say. One official described the letter as “nasty,” falling short of requiring the office staff “to get the library’s permission to use the washrooms.”
The move comes as the budget office has finished its first assessment of Canada’s economy and fiscal situation. Mr. Page had intended to publicly release his report before Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s economic update at the end of the month.
But Mr. Page says he will not let the squabble between his office and the library get in the way of the office’s “mandate” to get that report to MPs. He wouldn’t say whether he planned to first clear the report with Mr. Young, but said he would use “appropriate channels” to ensure he briefed Parliament before Mr. Flaherty delivered his update. [...]
I believe this is what is known as an ‘impossible situation’. Honestly, though, as tempting as it is to make the William Young the villain of the piece — heck, he seems pretty determined to do that all by himself — this whole unseemly showdown in the stacks could have been neatly avoided had the legislation that created the Parliamentary Budget Office not been so badly botched by the very same parliamentarians that it was meant to serve. Now that it has blown up into a fullblown power struggle, however, the government is going to be left with no choice but to admit that maybe, just maybe, they made a critical error by failing to make the PBO a stand alone Officer of Parliament, and amend the much vaunted Federal Accountability Act to do so.
By Paul Wells - Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 10:38 PM - 0 Comments
It was interesting to read about Kevin Page, the new Parliamentary Budget Officer, because in a previous existence — actually near the dawn of this existence, in 2004 — I called for the creation of an office much like the one Page now runs. It was also good to see MPs recognize that, when Page’s figures disagree with a government’s, it will create uncomfortable moments for the government. As far as I can tell, Continue…