Liberals post details of 2012 budget cuts withheld by Conservatives

After the former Conservative government made across-the-board cuts in the 2012 federal budget, the budget watchdog complained the government refused requests for details. Today, the Trudeau government posted the information in an online spreadsheet.

Treasury Board publishes numbers showing results of cuts through 2018-19 and beyond

Harper government 'cut by stealth,' Brison says

6 years ago
Duration 0:28
The Liberals on Friday released government spending numbers from 2012 onward, data the Harper government refused to give to the Parliamentary Budget Office.

After the former Conservative government made across-the-board cuts in the 2012 federal budget, the Parliamentary Budget Office complained the government was refusing its request to see details so it could analyze the impact of the cuts on services and programs.

Today, the Trudeau government posted the information in an online spreadsheet.

Canada's budget watchdog said he is hopeful that today's gesture will mark the beginning of the end to "a long saga."

In an interview with CBC News, Jean-Denis Fréchette said more important than the data itself is the government's commitment to work with his office in responding to requests for information.

"Now we have an open door to work with the departments and find out about the impact these cuts had on service levels on the government," Fréchette said in a telephone interview Friday.

Treasury Board President Scott Brison spoke about the government's decision to make past spending details available following question period Friday.

"The previous government cut by stealth. They refused to provide to Parliament, to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, to Canadians very important information about their fiscal plans."

"We are taking a different approach, including rendering public the information they had previously hidden from Canadians," Brison said in Ottawa Friday.

Several Conservative ministers, starting in 2012, repeatedly accused then–Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page of overstepping his bounds.

Tony Clement, who was Treasury Board president at the time, said that Page was operating "outside his mandate" by asking federal departments to disclose all financial and economic information.

Fréchette's behind-the-scenes battle

The budget watchdog said the data provided by the government today is "not totally new," because some information began to flow last March after his own behind-the-scenes battle for information.

In 2013, the Federal Court dismissed on a technicality a request by Frechette's predecessor, Page, to consider whether he had a legal right to demand the government turn over information.

In his ruling, Judge Sean Harrington laid out a series of measures the PBO would have to pursue in Parliament before it could resort to the courts again in the future.

Fréchette, whose mandate began in the fall of 2013, said he exhausted all the avenues set out by the federal court judge.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Jean-Denis Fréchette said "a little bit more" data began to flow from some departments in March 2015, following his own behind-the-scenes battle for information. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

"I did all that. I complained to the Parliamentary Librarian, I complained to the clerks of the Senate and the House of Commons, I complained indirectly to the speakers as well."

Fréchette said that in March 2015, the joint committee on the Library of Parliament gave him the leverage he needed to ask for the data his office was seeking.

"A little bit more" information began arriving after that, he said.

"I followed exactly what Parliament told me to do."

Fréchette could not say when his office would be in a position to release an analysis of the impact the 2012 budget cuts had on government services and programs.

The information made public today lists details of the cuts by department, along with the expected savings each year, beginning in 2012-13 through 2018-19 and ongoing thereafter.

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