True (Hill) Confessions: Sometimes I wish the Bloc Quebecois were in charge

(April 26, 2006) Bloc Quebecois finance critic Yvan Loubier plays Cassandra during second reading debate on the Federal Accountability Act :

[…] In this bill, the position of parliamentary budget officer is an empty shell. This person reports to the Library of Parliament. He is not given the power to access essential information. We are not speaking here about the information on individual citizens held by the Canada Revenue Agency but about aggregate data. He does not have access, either, to information from the Department of Finance. This was exactly the problem that we faced. I thought that the Conservatives were going to improve the situation, but no, this bill does not make it any better.

The greatest obstacle we faced in getting accurate forecasts, even when we hired forecasters who were independent of the government, was access to information. Senior officials in the finance department told us that they did not have time to deal with this because they were tied up with other tasks, such as the budget. Or else they just cavalierly told us that we could not have this information because the minister did not permit them to provide it to forecasters. So that was the situation we faced.

Even when the new position of parliamentary budget officer is created, we will still have the same problem. How can the parliamentary budget officer arrive at accurate, sensible figures when he does not have access to this information?

In addition, the budget officer should report to Parliament. He should basically have the same powers-although perhaps not the same budget-as the Auditor General, that is to say, the ability to get all the information he needs to provide real figures to the people of Canada. The budget officer is not vested with this mandate. He will not have the tools he needs to provide us with forecasts. We will be obliged to continue making these forecasts ourselves every year and making them as accurate as possible, as the Bloc Québécois has always done. […]

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