PBOWatch: “He wants more information on infrastructure spending? Hasn’t he seen the ads for the website?”

As noted by Colleague Wherry earlier today, midway through the Toronto Star’s coverage of the all-but-buried-by-the-Coderre-Affair-and-don’t-think-for-a-second-that-was-a-coincidence plank walk by now former Conservative candidate Gordon Landon comes the not entirely astonishing news that the parliamentary budget officer is having some difficulty prying loose the numbers behind the government’s claim that some impressively large percentage of projects to be funded under the Canada Action! Plan are already underway:

Page said his office filed a request for specific infrastructure spending at the end of August but was stonewalled.

“We got a letter back from the deputy minister of transport and infrastructure just last week saying this is a significant data request … and they weren’t prepared to give us this data (at this time),” said Page, who has been a thorn in the Harper government’s side.

Page has embarrassed the federal government by casting doubt on Ottawa’s price tag for the Afghan mission and accurately predicting the deficit would be far greater than forecast by the Conservatives.

“We are looking at where the bar has been set in other countries on openness and transparency on stimulus money and … we will keep asking for the information so we can do our own analysis on money going out the door,” he told the Toronto Star.

For the record, here is the letter that Page sent to Transport in August:


… and here’s the reply — which, according to the datestamp, Page’s office received on September 23, 2009:


The good news? The department has assured the PBO that they are ‘working diligently” to provide his office with the requested information “within a reasonable time frame such that it respects the intent of the Act.” The bad news? They don’t seem to be willing to say exactly — or even approximately — how long that will take. What ITQ wants to know, however, is why it seems to be such an arduous demand to make, considering that all that information seems to be readily available to provide examples of shovel-festooned projects to ministers and Conservative spokesthingies faced with scepticism over the speed by which the money is flowing out the door. Why would it be so hard to collect all those talking points together and send off the whole package to Kevin Page?

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