Truth and Lies on Parliament HilleBook - 2015
In March 2008, Kevin Page was appointed by the federal Conservatives to be the country's first Parliamentary Budget Officer. The move fulfilled a Tory campaign promise to deliver greater government transparency and accountability. He was later denounced by the same people who appointed him to scrutinize their spending. When he challenged the government on several issues--most notably about the true costs of the F-35 fighter planes--and publicly claimed the government was misleading Canadians, Page was vilified. He was called "unbelievable, unreliable and incredible" by then-Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Page's term was not extended and he retired from the civil service.
Page's assessment of the F-35 procurement was proven right, a major embarrassment to the Harper government. But Page's overriding concern is that Parliament does not get the information and analysis it needs to hold the executive (the prime minister and cabinet) to account. Parliament, he argues, is broken, with power centralized in the PMO. The civil service appears cowed, and members of parliament almost never see enough financial analysis to support the policy decisions they make. That was true at various times on the tough-on-crime legislation, new military procurement as well as changes to the Canada Health Transfer and Old Age Security.
In this shocking insider's account, Page argues that democracy is being undermined by an increasingly autocratic government that does not respect facts that run counter to its political agenda. Elected officials need accurate, independently verified data to support the implementation of policies and programs. In Unaccountable , Page tells all Canadians why we should be concerned.
From the critics
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I cannot tell you how the government effectively costed out the entire program because we were never privy to such information. But what I can tell you is that once the decision was made to purchase the F-35s, the government produced and distributed a one-page document in the fall of 2010—yes, a one-page document that was supposed to provide costing estimates for the jets.... We estimated the the F-35s would cost billions of dollars more than the government had projected in its one-page document—no small thing. The DND had pegged the number at $16 billion over a life-cycle of twenty year.... We estimated that a more realistic cost would be $30 billion over thirty years. Obviously, one of us was off base in our projections.
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