Thursday, July 16, 2009

Open Letter in Support of OPBO

Ce texte est également disponible en français ici.

A full list of signatories (as of July 15th) is available (pdf) here. Go here if you wish to add your name.


The Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (OPBO) was established in 2006 with a mandate to provide an independent authority on the finances of the nation and to submit the Government's quarterly fiscal forecasts to analysis. The OPBO has recently come under bi-partisan attack, with proposals to limit the ability of the OPBO to communicate to Canadians and to operate effectively. We write in support of this nascent, innovative, and necessary institution. Our support stems from three underlying reasons.

First, the OPBO can produce independent, detailed, and credible fiscal projections. The Department of Finance has a very talented economic staff, but under our Parliamentary system these economists are restrained by the political stance of the Finance Minister. Other groups of economists both inside and outside government lack either the mandate or the resources to effectively produce detailed fiscal projections and costing of government initiatives. Without the OPBO, important and vital information about Canada's fiscal position would be lost.

Second, the OPBO contributes to elevating democratic debate in Canada. A properly supported OPBO could put out credible estimates of fiscal revenues and expenses, as happens in its older sibling institution in the United States, the Congressional Budget Office. Ideally, this allows Parliamentarians to focus more on the merits of government economic initiatives, rather than allowing the debate to degrade into quibbling over differing economic assumptions. In a time when many are questioning the prevailing standard of political debate in Canada, we must support an institution that improves democratic discussions.

Third, the OPBO in its short existence has a commendable record of success. For example, the OPBO's predictions of the fiscal consequences of the current recession appear prescient. Such credibility is hard-earned and harder-still to recreate if discarded. We should allow the OPBO the opportunity to build on its success.

We call on Parliamentarians of every party to pursue the following actions in support of the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer:
  • Ensure adequate funding to carry out its mandate
  • Independence by making the PBO a full Officer of Parliament
  • Public reporting of all analysis.