02/02/2013 08:29 EST | Updated 04/04/2013 05:12 EDT

Federal Spending Watchdog Says Checks System Broken


After five years of providing senators and members of Parliament with independent analysis on the state of the nation's finances, the federal spending watchdog says the system of checks and balances is "broken."

In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, Kevin Page, the parliamentary budget officer (PBO), told host Evan Solomon the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer will never truly be independent until it reports directly to Parliament.

"The legislation is flawed," said Page, who was appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as Canada's first parliamentary budget officer for a five-year term.

"I'm appointed by the prime minister and yet I'm supposed to be the watchdog for how the prime minister spends money. The office is not independent."

Under the current legislation, the PBO is an officer of the Library of Parliament and as such has less teeth than Officers of Parliament who are independent from the government of the day.

Page says the next spending watchdog should be accountable to Parliament in the same way that the auditor general or the chief electoral officer are.

"Many times over the past five years they [the federal government] have used budget issues, human resource issues, web site issues, to prevent us from doing our work," explained Page.

Impact of cuts

Page is currently in Federal Court seeking a legal opinion before deciding whether to take the federal government to court over its refusal to hand over detailed budget information his office has been seeking since the budget was tabled last March.

"We need to make sure that deputy ministers, cabinet ministers are providing information to the PBO so that the Parliament is adequately supported," Page said.

Although his five-year term ends on March 25, Page told Solomon he would agree to stay on.

"I would stay on for a transition if the prime minister asked me to stay on for a few months," said Page.

The search for a new PBO will be led by the Library of Parliament.

The next PBO should be a person of "knowledge and experience," said Page.

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