PBO Poised for Legal Action Against PMO

Julian Wolfe
June 21st, 2012

Do you remember the Accountability Act? It was a piece of legislation that the Conservatives passed in 2006 to diminish corruption by putting parliamentarians in check. It included the creation of a budgetary officer, whose mandate is to monitor federal finances. The Privy Council refused to give information on the wide range of cuts in Bill C-38 and as part of his job PBO head Kevin Page may likely be taking the Conservative government that created his position to court over a lack of accountability.

The dispute started in May when the PBO originally asked government departments to hand over “information pertaining to the savings measures undertaken within your department” and while some departments did, the majority didn’t.

The PBO was given a letter on May 15 from the Clerk of the Privy Council saying that some departments would first “provide information to affected employees and their unions in the first instance, as required under applicable collective agreements.” and that only once this is done, “the government will then begin to implement these planned reductions in departmental spending and communicate accordingly.”

In short the Privy Council told the PBO that information was being cut off until unions were told of the cuts.

Page responded noting that his office is required to have “free and timely access to any financial or economic data in the possession of the department,” as said by the Accountability Act that the Conservatives have clearly forgotten.

“A functioning democracy requires freedom of information and respect for the rule of law. By breaking the law and obstructing the work of the PBO, the Conservatives are, once again, testing Canadians to see what they can get away with,” Liberal finance critic Scott Brison said.

Page also noted that the affected federal unions “have expressed both their acceptance of disclosure and their view that provision of the information requested would not fall foul of the collective agreements by which the government is bound.”

Given the government’s continued refusal to disclose details about the cuts and deciding to ram the piece of legislation blindly through the Commons and now the Senate, the PBO is now poised to take the Conservative Government to court for breaking its own law.

In the House of Commons, the NDP presented a point of order stating that parliamentarians were deprived of the privilege of seeing the full legislation but Speaker Andrew Scheer, also a Conservative MP, found no grounds for a breach of parliamentary privilege.

Bill C38 includes cuts to public servants, the dismantling of environmental regulations and can be seen as the lobbyist’s budget which acts only to aid the development of the oil sands without considering and adapting for other factors and without taking precautions for those who are going to be effected by future oil spills. So far there have been 3 this month. The budget strays off economic policy and attempts to ram over 70 changes to Canadian laws in one shot and details are still under wraps.

Meanwhile I outlined that much of the painful cuts that are yet to come could be averted by forcing decency on bureaucrats and parliamentarians who reward themselves far too highly for the shortcomings of the Canadian economy, weakness of healthcare, rampant poverty and a blatant disregard for human rights, as firmly observed by the UN.

Please do justify bonuses for government executives, hotel upgrades, taxpayer-funded vacations23:1 golden pensions and limo service in times of fiscal restraint. Can anyone justify this?

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On Monday, the longest campaign in modern history will come to a close and if current polls are any indication, Canada may be seeing a change in government after 9 years of Conservative rule under the leadership of Stephen Harper. Accountability was his calling card in 2006 and today, accountability may very well be one of the defining reasons for his departure.

In its length, in its cost and in its debate schedule, this election is unusual. The first and possibly only real debate of the campaign ended and here are the highlights of what happened.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper left Rideau Hall this morning with Governor General David Johnston’s approval to drop the writ and Canadians are now officially headed to the polls on October 19. For the first time since fixed election date legislation was brought in by the Conservative government, a fixed election date has been followed.

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