By John Geddes - Tuesday, January 19, 2010 - 17 Comments
Meet the PM’s nemesis
Hockey isn’t an obvious decorating theme for a unit of the federal bureaucracy devoted to the non-contact pursuits of economic forecasting and spending analysis. But propped on a windowsill in the office of Kevin Page—the parliamentary budget officer whose reports have repeatedly clashed with the Conservative government’s—is a photo from the movie Slapshot. It’s Paul Newman by a locker-room blackboard, on which the chalk scrawl promises, “We supply everything but guts.” In another photo, Page himself, not a Slapshot extra, displays an ugly blackened bulge where he took a puck beneath his right eye a couple of seasons ago.
He clearly sees himself captaining a scrappy, underdog team. There’s something to that: since Page was appointed the first federal PBO in 2008, his upstart shop of just 13 bureaucrats has taken on the role of an expansion franchise, up against established powerhouses like the Department of Finance and the Prime Minister’s Office, which traditionally dominate the flow of government economic numbers. Page has elbowed his way into their league by releasing contentious studies on, for instance, the cost of the Afghanistan war and, especially, the likely persistence of budget deficits.