February 9, 2014 12:00 pm
Updated: February 9, 2014 3:17 pm

Better late than never, PBO says while still digging into Tory budget cuts

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Above: Obtaining information about the Conservatives’ $5.2 billion in cuts remains important, even two years later, in part because parliamentarians voting on each successive budget need to know, Parliamentary Budget Officer Jean-Denis Frechette says.

The Conservatives will soon have tabled two budgets since announcing $5.2 billion in cuts, yet the impacts of those cuts have yet to be uncovered. Still, the parliamentary budget officer, picking up where his predecessor left, is trying to get to the bottom of it.

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“It’s important to get that information,” Jean-Denis Frechette said in an interview on The West Block with Tom Clark. “Even (if it’s) later. Because it’s incremental … these cuts will go on for many years.”

READ MORE: PBO looking to determine cost of Canada’s natural disasters 

He’s not having much better luck than Canada’s first federal budget watchdog, Kevin Page, in getting his hands on information regarding how the service cuts announced in the 2012 budget are affecting federal services and programs.

Consistently hitting walls when asking various departments for information regarding the cuts, the PBO eventually resorted to filing requests under federal access-to-information laws which give all Canadians the right to access relevant federal documents and data.

READ MORE: Tracking unspent billions an uphill battle, opposition MPs say 

The office has filed so far 33 requests — each at a cost of $5 — related to the cuts. They are still waiting to hear back from 13 departments.

Of the 20 that responded, 13 provided data so limited it was useless in terms of being used for an analysis, six provided no relevant data at all and one department withheld all data, Frechette said.

READ MORE: PBO: ‘I’m not Mr. Page’ 

Although many may find the years-long process and consistent stonewalling frustrating, Frechette is rather zen about it.

“I have spent 27 years of my life on Parliament Hill. I cannot be frustrated every time I don’t receive information,” he said. “It is difficult. But the frustration, I change it into working harder. I’m developing a strategy and I’m building bridges with departments.”

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