09/25/2012 09:17 EDT | Updated 11/25/2012 05:12 EST

Public Service Cuts: Feds Refuse To Hand Over Details To Watchdog Kevin Page


OTTAWA -- The Conservative government won't be turning over any more documents to help Canada's budget watchdog discover what federal jobs will be slashed or what government services will be eliminated.

In a letter to Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) Kevin Page posted online Monday, Wayne Wouters, the clerk of the Privy Council, writes that the federal government has already "shared extensive data" with him regarding the 2012 budget and believes what he is currently looking for falls outside his mandate.

"The Government concurs that your statutory mandate encompasses your proposed independent analysis of 'budgetary targets at the department and aggregated fiscal framework level' and remains prepared to provide your office with data in its possession that is necessary for this purpose. However, the Parliament of Canada Act does not confer the Parliamentary Budget Officer a mandate to review all of the operations of Government," Wouters writes in a letter dated September 21, 2012.

The federal government had earlier argued that it could not provide Page with details about the planned $5.2 billion in spending cuts because it was legally obliged to communicate with public service unions first. However, unions such as the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada sided with Page and asked the federal treasury to make the data public.

Now, Page says "critical" information about the cuts is being unlawfully withheld.

"Effectively the public service is now saying that financial information crucial to accountability ... will not be made available to MPs because it is operational in nature," Page wrote in an email to The Huffington Post Canada. He's requested a meeting with Wouters to clarify his letter.

The PBO is still mulling over the possibility of suing the government in Federal Court, Page added.

The information the PBO is seeking should have been tabled in departmental reports on plans and priorities this spring, but the government instructed officials not to include details on how the budget cuts would be implemented.

Now, according to Page, it means MPs are being kept in the dark and voting without complete information.

"Parliament cannot hold the government to account if departments do not provide financial plans on how they will achieve Budget 2012 fiscal objectives," he wrote.

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