Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ignatieff takes up the cause

On Monday in Question Period, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff took up the cause of the PBO. In today's Star, he is quoted as asking the Prime Minister:
"Will they unshackle the parliamentary budget officer? Will they provide him with the resources he needs and open the country's books so that Canadians can finally get the truth about the nation's finances?" Ignatieff said in the Commons on Monday.
I am happy that some Parliamentarians are taking up the cause. I know there are MPs from other parties who feel strongly about this issue as well. Let's hear from them, too!

I should note, however, that there seems to be a difference of opinion within the Liberal Party. John Ibbotson noted on Saturday that Liberal Senator Sharon Carstairs (who co-chairs the Committee responsible for the PBO) is one of those pushing a restrictive interpretation of the PBO's mandate:
“I think Mr. Page went down to Washington and saw the Congressional Budget Office and thought, ‘This is what we should be doing,' ” Senator Sharon Carstairs of Manitoba said. “And maybe it is what he should be doing. But as parliamentarians, we are sworn to uphold the laws of Parliament. And this is not his legislative mandate.”
In that way, it is the Liberals as much as the Prime Minister who are doing the 'shackling' of the PBO. As I have said before, my layman's reading of section 119 of the Act does not uncover anything that requires the PBO to refrain from putting his reports out to the public. If anyone wishes to show me how it is legislated that the reports not be made public, I'd be happy to hear that. In the absence of such evidence, I remain with the position that the muzzling of the PBO is just one interpretation of the legislation; a choice that has been made by the Committee.

I'm glad that the Leader of the Official Opposition is on the case. However, I hope Mr. Ignatieff will ask the same question of Senator Carstairs that he asked of the Prime Minister.

UPDATE: An article on the G&M website suggests Mr. Ignatieff is meeting with Mr. Page today.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff raised concerns of a structural deficit in the House of Commons Monday and is meeting with Mr. Page this afternoon to discuss the future of the budget office, which is facing its own financial issues.