PBO says feds’ proposed changes would undermine office’s independence

PBO says feds' changes would damage office

OTTAWA — The head of an agency that has spent years shining a light for Canadians on the sometimes-opaque world of government spending is slamming the Trudeau government for its plan to give the office a makeover.

In a new discussion paper, parliamentary budget officer Jean-Denis Frechette argues in detail how the proposed legislation would damage the independence, non-partisanship and effectiveness of an office with a track record of getting under the skin of governments.

The Liberal government has faced criticism since it proposed changes last month that would impose new restrictions on a watchdog designed to serve parliamentarians as a check on the management of the nation’s finances.

Frechette says the most-concerning changes include new controls over the PBO by the House of Commons and Senate Speakers, limits on the office’s freedom to initiate reports, restrictions on parliamentarians’ ability to request estimates and the risks associated with an added mandate to cost election pledges by political parties.

The legislation would require the PBO to submit its annual work plans to the Speakers of the Senate and the House of Commons for approval.

The law would also prevent the PBO from making a report public until a day after it provides it to the parliamentary committee that requested the research or to the Speakers.

“The proposed amendments impose significant restrictions on the way the PBO can set its work plan and access information,” Frechette said Wednesday in a statement that accompanied the discussion paper.

“Those restrictions will undermine PBO’s functional independence and its effectiveness in supporting parliamentarians to scrutinize government spending and hold the government to account.”

Former PBO Kevin Page has also been critical of elements in the proposed bill. He has said that some of the new constraints that would likely limit the independence of the office “could be a really big price.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau argued this week that his government’s proposals would provide more resources to the PBO and strengthen the autonomy of the watchdog, which would become an independent Officer of Parliament under the legislation and have expanded access to data.

Following the backlash over the changes, the Liberals have said they are open to amendments. A government source says the feds are considering amendments to ease a new requirement that would force the PBO seek approval from the Speakers and the removal of rules restricting which subjects it may study.

Government House leader Bardish Chagger’s office has insisted there are many benefits from the proposed reform, such as a change that would set the budget officer’s term at seven years and another stating he or she could be removed from the role only through a vote by both chambers.

During the 2015 election, the Liberals pledged to ensure the PBO “is properly funded, and accountable only â€” and directly â€” to Parliament, not the government of the day.”

Follow @AndyBlatchford on Twitter

Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Starbucks baristas in Trail donate $7,000 in tips

Funds will go toward the breakfast program in five Kootenay Columbia elementary schools

Feeling the heat

What you see: If you have a recent photo to share email editor@trailtimes.ca

Air time at Trail Sk8 Park

The Trail Sk8Park is located near the Gyro Park boat launch

B.C. MP’s climate-change alarmism challenged

Letter to the Editor from Thorpe Watson, PhD, Warfield

$900,000 grant paves way for affordable housing in Trail

Lower Columbia Affordable Housing Society receives funding by BC Housing for new build in Trail

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Talent show: B.C. girl, 8, memorizes entire periodic table

Grade 4 student Maya Lakhanpal heads to B.C. talent show finals with unique talent

B.C. teacher suspended 5 days for touching colleague’s buttocks

Lancer Kevin Price of Chilliwack has handed the retroactive suspension for 2017 incidents

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

Black Panther claw, Power Rangers blade among 2018’s ‘worst toys,’ safety group says

The World Against Toys Causing Harm organized announced its 46th annual list in Boston on Tuesday

Investigation underway into reported sexual assault at B.C. naval base

An Oct. 5 allegation is being investigated by Canadian Forces National Investigation Service

Many child killers have been placed in Indigenous healing lodges according to stats

As of mid-September, there were 11 offenders in healing lodges who had been convicted of first- or second-degree murder of a minor

Sex-misconduct survey excludes vulnerable military members: Survivors’ group

But It’s Just 700 says recent research has shown young military members and those on training are among those most at risk for sexual violence

Threat of extremism posed by proportional representation overstated: academics

As B.C. voters decide on electoral reform, the Vote No side is cautioning that the system would allow extremists to be elected

Most Read