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Group plans court challenge of federal Conservatives’ illegal appointment of interim Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) — launches national letter-writing campaign to push for key changes

Majority of committee selecting new PBO nominees must be representatives from opposition parties to ensure independent person is chosen, and mandate and powers of PBO must be strengthened to turn lapdog into watchdog for truth-in-budgeting

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch announced that it is preparing a court challenge of the federal Conservatives’ illegal appointment of the Parliamentary Librarian as the interim Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO), and launched a national letter-writing campaign to make the PBO a fully independent and fully empowered watchdog.

“The federal Conservatives were negligent in not ensuring the appointment of a new Parliamentary Budget Officer before Kevin Page’s term finished last week, and the law does not allow for the appointment of an interim PBO,” said Tyler Sommers, Coordinator of Democracy Watch. “To stop the web of lies and abuse that wastes taxpayers’ money, and to ensure honest federal government spending, a majority of the members of the nominating committee for the new PBO must be representatives from the opposition parties, and the law must be changed to give the PBO job security and an annual budget based on need not Cabinet whim, and the power to order the release of information needed for spending assessments.”

As well, Democracy Watch called on provincial and territorial governments to establish PBOs that also cover municipal governments in each jurisdiction.

As the only organization that has defended the federal PBO and called for key changes to make the PBO more effective since the office was created in 2007, including during 2009 when all federal parties in the House and Senate were attacking the PBO, Democracy Watch has documented again and again how the PBO’s lack of independence and effective powers has allowed the federal government to escape accountability for dishonest budgetting.

To ensure truth in federal government budgeting, the following changes need to be made to the federal Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO – and, again all other jurisdictions need to establish a PBO with the following structure and powers):

  • the PBO must be made a full Officer of Parliament, independent of Cabinet, with a fixed, non-renewable term of office and full power over the selection and management of their staff;
  • the selection of the PBO must be approved by a majority of party leaders after a public, merit-based nomination process to ensure a non-partisan and effective person is selected;
  • the PBO must be given the resources needed to fulfill their mandate each year (based on an independent needs assessment of their proposed budget);
  • the government must be required, before proposing significant spending, to check with the PBO to ensure that the actual total of the proposed spending is being accurately estimated;
  • the PBO must be given the power to order the disclosure of any information (as the information commissioners have in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec) they need to do their cost and spending assessments, and;
  • the PBO must be required to release the findings of their investigations as soon as they are completed whether or not parliament is in session.

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Tyler Sommers, Coordinator of Democracy Watch

Tel: 613-241-5179

Democracy Watch’s Stop Fraud Spending Campaign