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Kevin Page's rally cry resonates with Canadians online

Categories: Canada, Community

Kevin Page is seen at the Commons finance committee on Parliament Hill in April 2012. (The Canadian Press)

In an editorial published Monday, Kevin Page stated that he may have committed "career suicide" during his tenure as Canada's first parliamentary budget officer, but added that it was a "small price to pay" for giving Canada "a true legislative budget office".

In a Toronto Star commentary, Page described his position as one that no one -- including him -- truly wanted. He explains that the Conservatives led the charge for creating an independent budget authority when they were the official opposition party, but argues that the "reality got watered down" after the party formed government. 

Page saw only two paths:

"Do the job -- give Parliament and Canadians information they have never seen before --  and face the wrath of the executive, and it will be the end of your public service career. Don't do the job -- say nice things about the government --  and you will face the wrath of the media and Canadians."

Page went on to say the death of his 20-year-old son put that choice in perspective, and gave him the courage to choose the former.

"I stopped caring about job security. We buried a son," he wrote.

'A lot at stake'

Although his Star editorial was much more personal than some of the exit interviews he has given to various media outlets, including CBC News, the crux of Page's argument remained the same: Canada's institutions of accountability are in trouble.

'Canada's Parliament is losing its capacity to hold the government to account . . . we need to wake up. There is a lot at stake.'

-- Kevin Page
He maintains that Parliament does not receive the information and analysis it needs to properly scrutinize the decisions of the prime minister and cabinet.

"We need to care," Page continues. "Canada's Parliament is losing its capacity to hold the government to account. There are negative implications for prosperity and democracy. I am sorry if I sound brash, but we need to wake up. There is a lot at stake."

If the Parliamentary Budget Office under Page's leadership was, as he described it, an "experiment in fiscal transparency," it seems many Canadians would like the experiment to continue.

Several took to social media to show their support for the thrust of his message.

Although his message was largely well received, it was not without its critics.

Some continue to argue that Page's message has a partisan bent, and that he has repeatedly overstepped his bounds.

In a recent reflection on his tenure, political blogger Stephen Taylor says Page is "no political shrinking violet" and describes his letter to CBC's As It Happens, as sour grapes.

"While it is laudable that he took the government to court in order to force departments to open their books so that he could fulfill his mandate, he deserves no praise for his political statements about the government's handling of his office or of himself," he wrote.

'Our democracy is wobbling'

Page's editorial in the Toronto Star is just the latest example of his refusal to leave his position quietly.

In a recent interview with Anna Maria Tremonti, host of CBC radio's The Current, shared what he has learned and what he thinks Canadians should demand to know. That interview began with a quote:

"In a culture where secrecy is too common, and analytical dissonance is not welcome, the future of my office -- the legislative budget office -- is in doubt. Canada is on the proverbial bike. Our democracy is wobbling. We are not peddling like we care."

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Page insists the level of scrutiny that comes out of the office should be the same regardless of who is at the helm, and that he would expect criticism from any executive.

"We see our work as totally non-partisan. We add and subtract numbers for a living," he said, insisting that he wants parliamentarians to have all the financial information they need to make informed decisions about policy directives and priorities.

During his five-year mandate, Page found himself at odds with the federal government after providing parliamentarians with analysis on the cost of the mission in Afghanistan, the purchase of F-35 fighter jets, Old Age Security, and more recently ship procurement, even criminal justice costs.

The government has repeatedly maintained they are searching for a new permanent Parliamentary Budget Officer, one who is "non-partisan" for the job.

What do you make of Kevin Page's message? Do you agree that our institutions of accountability are in trouble? Why or why not?

Tags: Canada, community, Politics

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