What's Harper hiding?

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That Kevin Page is a good egg: http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/10/21/feud-over-harper-cuts-escalates-as-watchdog-takes-his-fight-to-court/

His office was created by the Conservatives, and it’s my understanding he was an appointee of the Conservative government. Doesn’t matter. He’s a man of principle, and if that means biting the hand that first fed him, he’ll bare his teeth and go for it.

Page is the parliamentary budget officer. It’s his job to be a sober, independent reviewer of government decisions regarding fiscal policy, spending and the economy.

Harper wanted the optics of parliamentary oversight, but not the substance. Page has demanded cuts to government spending be made public, and the government has basically refused, with just 23 per cent of federal agencies supplying requested information (a further 52 per cent have said they will comply, but their compliance is long overdue in my book).

Refusal is not an option, and claims by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty that Page is overstepping his authority are hogwash, plain and simple. Page is doing precisely what his office was created to do. Conservatives are just upset that the veneer of transparency has transformed into an actual demand for transparency.

Some pundits are upset about the prospect of government lawyers working for Page going to court against government lawyers working for other departments. It’s a shame it’s become necessary, yes, but it doesn’t signify a failure of democracy. On the contrary, in democracies, government isn’t one monolithic power, but a collection of fiefdoms with competing interests. That’s how we stop them from becoming too powerful. A court case isn’t bad. What would be bad – what would transform Canada into a dictatorship with Harper as monarch – is if the courts side with Page and government departments still refuse to disclose their information.

For the record, I’m a big supporter of government cuts. I’m not sure when we became so smitten with big government that cuts of five or 10 per cent to government budgets are disparaged as “radically Right wing” or “American-style government”. I’d like to see government on all levels halved over the next two decades, if not sooner.

I’m not Harper’s harshest critic. I think he’s an effective politician – which is not the same as saying principled – I like his vision of a decentralized Canada, and I think he deserves at least some credit for Canada’s relative prosperity in a time of global economic slowdown. I think his foreign policy is a bit muddled, though; I think his party contains elements whose ‘moral’ doctrine is woefully outdated; and I hate the disdain he holds for the common person: like too many prime ministers before him, Harper’s attitude is that he’ll answer to the people in the next election and not a minute sooner.

A final note: I’m no authority on parliamentary history. I’m sure there are experts out there who could tell you why MPs support their parties over their constituents – those experts might even argue on behalf of the practice – but it plainly disgusts me. Yes, there may be rare occasions where some kind of ‘greater good’ argument justifies voting party over electorate. But in 95-per cent of cases, an MP’s job should be to stand behind the people who elected him, not the party she belongs to.

Conservative, NDP, Liberal, whatever: Page is seeking to promote transparency in governance, which is a clear public good. MPs of all parties, including the Conservatives, should be vocal in supporting his efforts.

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