[Democracy Watch Logo] [Op-ed]

Parliamentary Budget Officer lacks much-needed independence in latest of federal Conservatives' 30 broken government accountability promises

Set out below is a letter-to-the-editor by Democracy Watch Coordinator Duff Conacher which was published in the April 7, 2008 issues of the Hill Times.

Dear Editor,
        Your article on the new Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page (March 31) neglected to mention one key fact -- that the Officer serves at the pleasure of the Cabinet during his renewable term of five years.

The Conservatives promised during the last federal election that this position would be "independent".  Given how poorly the Conservatives have treated parliamentary officers who can only be fired by Cabinet for good reasons, the Budget Officer will lack much-needed independence because he will know that Cabinet can fire him for any reason at any time.

Opposition parties (who hold a majority of seats in the House of Commons) should move quickly to make the Budget Officer truly independent by changing the law to require Cabinet to have a good reason before firing the Officer, and in the future to require approval by a majority of parties in the House of the appointment of the Officer.

It is stunning that federal parties want increased support from voters, and yet in the more than 15 months after the flawed and incomplete Accountability Act was passed none of the parties have taken actions to show they are committed to ensuring the 30 measures the Conservatives promised but left out of the Accountability Act are passed into law (measures to require Cabinet to establish the Public Appointments Commission to end Cabinet patronage and cronyism, to strengthen the Access to Information Act in key ways, to require honesty in federal politics, to prohibit party leaders from appointing candidates and to ensure nomination races are democratic, and to end secret lobbying and secret donations to some candidates) -- To see details about the Conservatives' broken FAA promises, click here.

Nor have any of the parties shown they are committed to closing the dozens of other undemocratic and accountability loopholes in the federal government. (To see details about the 90 loopholes that still exist in the federal government's accountability system, click here)

Canadians deserve better from all federal political parties.

If any opposition party sets out a clear, comprehensive platform of measures to clean up the federal government and end federal politics as usual by closing these loopholes, they will reap the same reward of increased public support as the Conservatives did with their Accountability Act pledge during the last election.

And if Conservatives are wondering why they are stuck at the same level in the polls as at election day 2006, look no further than your 30 broken democratic reform and accountability promises, and your regular practising of dishonest, unethical, secretive, unrepresentative and wasteful politics as usual.

Duff Conacher, Coordinator
Democracy Watch

For more details, go to Democracy Watch's Clean Up the System page