Monday, August 24, 2009

The OPBO and EI reforms

The Hill Times has an editorial that touches on the PBO. It's subscription only, but the PBO part of the editorial is in the 'free' paragraph.
The Liberal Party has asked Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page to analyze the Conservative government's cost projections on the Liberals' proposal for employment insurance and they want the results by the end of this month. Thankfully, they want the PBO to make it public, as it should be, but let's not kid ourselves here—this is yet another act of partisanship, something that's definitely not needed and especially on this topic.
In my view, this is exactly the kind of thing that a well-funded OPBO could and should do. That's exactly what the CBO did in the United States on health care proposals. It contributed a lot to the discussion there. Having a timely, credible assessment of a Conservative and Liberal EI proposal would help voters sort through the issues.

Now, I share the skepticism of the editorial in two respects. First, the timeline is a little tight--especially with the meagre resources given to the OPBO. Second, it is ironic that the Liberals want this made public, yet Liberal committee members (along with the members of other parties) voted to muzzle the PBO.

But, just because there are political points gained by the Liberals by having their proposal priced by the PBO does not mean there are not gains for the public. In fact, that's the point here: we align what's in the political interest of the party with the interest of the public. Both the party and the public benefit by having a neutral, non-partisan price tag attached to policy proposals.