There's been discussion in the news recently about the Harper government's stifling of environmental scientists, forcing them to handle all their press communications through the Office of the Privy Council, but obviously, if you know anything about the way Prime Minister Stephen Harper handles his business, that's not the only section of government affairs that needs the proverbial royal seal of approval.
In a press release set out yesterday, Guelph MP Frank Valeriote addressed the matter of the next Parliamentary Budget Officer, quoting his recent comments in the House of Commons. It's the kind of thing that seems like inside baseball, matters of procedure that only matter much to parliamentarians and politicos, but as the saying goes, the devil's in the details.
Here's what Valeriote had to say:
“Mr. Speaker, with just three weeks left before Kevin Page retires, the government finally released a job description for the next Parliamentary Budget Officer. Shockingly, the new budget officer will be required to achieve consensus among parliamentarians before releasing reports. Fat chance of that happening. Government MPs like to pretend things will cost less than they really do. The budget officer protects against that but cannot if forced to achieve consensus among the same people doing the pretending. Why are the Conservatives manipulating the job description to suit their partisan agenda?”
“Mr. Speaker, the budget officer does not need to achieve consensus. The budget officer needs to do rigorous independent analysis of the numbers presented to parliamentarians, not co-operate with the PMO spin machine. The Auditor General job description did not require consensus. The Ethics Commissioner job did not require consensus. It required them to act with integrity and speak the truth. Why are the Conservatives looking to hire a lap dog to do their bidding rather than working hard to protect Canadian tax dollars?”
There was a news story recently from the United States about how the Republican leadership in the House asked the Congressional Research Office, an independent body, to sit on some reports that said things they didn't agree with ideologically. Nobody likes the idea of that kind of attitude coming here, to say that facts and figures can be shelved because they don't say what we want them to say flies in the face of the proper goal of scientific pursuit: the truth. Heaven forbid we get a little bit more of that in politics.