Thursday, October 08, 2009

Help a brother out

Come on committee types, free Kevin Page...give the man a hand. He's trying to check an awesome force:
"The senators and MPs who sit on the joint committee that oversees Page's office should give him the resources he needs. The committee meets today. As Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has rightly argued, it should 'unshackle' Page by petitioning the Speakers of the Senate and Commons to ask the government to boost his budget."

Given that a majority of the members of the joint committee are from opposition parties, this should be a slam dunk. Unfortunately, however, funding of the PBO could be derailed by an arcane dispute. Page has been lobbying to make all his reports public – not only those he undertakes on his own but also those done at the request of individual legislators. Senators and MPs believe they are entitled to ask that research be done on a confidential basis. While that's true, they shouldn't hold the PBO hostage over it. Surely protocols can be negotiated to let Page do his sums and release the findings with minimal delay, if not instantly. It's all public money.
A fully funded PBO is as close to a necessity as one could posit at the moment as a key instrument in taking on the challenges of holding the Harper government to financial account. Checking the authenticity of deficit numbers, tracking infrastructure spending's all looming quite large. Surely this group will get that and get beyond the parliamentary niceties. Something to be watching today.