What do Conservative backbenchers think they’re here to do?

Conservative MP fight for transparency… from the opposition

Two years ago, the procedure and House affairs committee voted to find the Harper government in contempt for its refusal to provide costing analysis for some of its major initiatives.

Last fall, the Harper government refused to provide the Parliamentary Budget Officer with information about the government’s spending cuts.

And three weeks ago, Conservative MPs on the public accounts committee decided they didn’t want to see the government’s reports on fiscal sustainability.

Meanwhile, the Finance Minister says he doesn’t know how much his increase in tariffs will end up costing consumers.

But, last week, several Conservative MPs submitted order paper questions asking the government to provide costing analysis for several private members’ bills proposed by NDP MPs.

It is perhaps useful here to recall Brent Rathgeber’s words about the job of a government backbencher.

I understand that Members of Parliament, who are not members of the executive, sometimes think of themselves as part of the government; we are not. Under our system of Responsible Government, the Executive is responsible and accountable to the Legislature. The latter holds the former to account. A disservice is provided to both when Parliament forgets to hold the Cabinet to account.

Perhaps Merv Tweed, Ted Opitz, Randy Hoback, Kelly Block and Wladyslaw Lizon could use their next order paper questions to ask for the government’s fiscal sustainability reports or demand a costing analysis of the tariff increases. (Perhaps they could refuse to vote on the budget until such information is provided.) Perhaps they could submit order paper questions demanding exactly the information that Kevin Page is seeking. Or perhaps they could join together to propose that the Parliamentary Budget Officer be given the resources necessary to analyze all private members’ bills, thus saving the government the time and expense.

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