Most government budget cuts hit front-line services not back room waste, budget watchdog says

Photo by Chris Wattie/Reuters Files

The bulk of the Conservative government’s $5.2 billion in spending cuts appear to be coming from front-line programs and services for Canadians rather than the “back-office” savings the government insisted no one even would notice, says Canada’s parliamentary budget watchdog.

After months of fighting for data, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page released a report Tuesday offering the first glimpse into the $5.2 billion spending cuts that departments are digesting over the next five years. (...)

Civilian panel for complaints against RCMP needs more powers: former chair

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The civilian body that reviews complaints against the RCMP must have unfettered access to the agency’s files in order to be effective, says the body’s former chair.

Paul Kennedy says the government’s proposals for modernizing the RCMP complaints process — contained in Bill C-42 — are highly inadequate. Not only do the proposed changes not allow the review body access to all the information it needs, the RCMP can take as much time as it wants to respond to complaints, leaving the potential for lengthy delays, he says. (…)

Tories defeat last minute push for hearings on Canada-China investment treaty

Photo by Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Conservative MPs defeated a last minute push for Parliamentary hearings on a Canada-China investment treaty, which cabinet will be able to enact into law within days.

NDP MP Don Davies asked the House of Commons industry committee to hear expert witnesses on the Canada China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, but the committee handled the request behind closed doors. (…)

Tim Harper: Kevin Page’s battle with Conservatives is fundamental to Parliament

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(...) But the case of Kevin Page versus the federal government is simply too fundamental to the way this place is supposed to operate, and too vital to the tracking of taxpayers’ money, that it can’t be ignored. (...)

It speaks to the culture of fear in the capital, this government’s predilection to demonize its opponents and makes a mockery of what is left of its pledge of accountability and transparency. (...)

Fisheries and Oceans Canada rejects Council of Canadians’ request to visit ELA

Photo by the Council of Canadians

Last Friday, the Council of Canadians received a response from Fisheries and Oceans Canada denying their request to visit the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA). (…)

The rejection is the latest of a large number of recent denials of requests for more information and to visit the ELA. All media requests with scientists have been denied by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Requests from Members of Parliament have been denied multiple times. (…)

Kevin Page: Court Action Coming This Week Over Failure To Disclose Cuts

Photo by The Canadian Press

Canada's parliamentary budget officer says he'll file court action this week over the refusal of some federal departments to hand over details of billions of dollars in planned cuts by the Harper government.

In a statement issued Sunday, Kevin Page says his office "will be filing and serving legal notice on all non-compliant" deputy ministers. (…)

Omnibus Budget: Bill C-45 To Deliver Profound Changes For Environment, Natives

Photo by Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Government calls it making way for business. Outraged foes call it the slicing and dicing of environmental protection and any remaining trust with aboriginal peoples. Over several months of omnibus bills, amendments, regulations and tinkering with longstanding conventions, Ottawa has undertaken a series of adjustments that add up to undeniably profound changes in both environmental and aboriginal policy.
Bill C-45, the 457-page budget omnibus bill tabled this week in the House of Commons, is the latest instalment in what may seem like evolutionary changes. They may turn out to be revolutionary changes. (…)

Secret committee meetings harm Canadian democracy, say critics

Photo by David P. Ball

Increasing use of in camera, confidential meetings in House committees are muffling meaningful debate and obscuring public access to important information, allege opposition MPs and veteran journalists.

House Committees spent 55 per cent of their time in camera in September, according to figures compiled by Canadian political watchdog blogger The Sixth Estate* as part of his Open Government project, an independent, ongoing project to rival that of the majority Conservative government's initiative of the same name. (...)

The Human Right That Canadians Are Way Behind On

Logo from Centre for Law and Democracy

A recent global assessment of right to information (or access to information) laws placed Canada 55th out of the 93 countries with RTI laws. It languishes not only behind peer group countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, but also behind many developing countries. With a score of 79 out of a possible 150, Canada did significantly less well than countries like India and Slovenia (130 points), Mexico (119 points) and South Africa (111 points). (…)

Parliamentary watchdog moves closer to holding Harper to account

Photo by Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Just as Dr. Frankenstein invented his own worst enemy, so too did Stephen Harper. In 2006, the prime minister established the parliamentary budget office, promising a new era of accountability in Ottawa. If you asked him today, he might say he created a monster.

Last week, the head of the office, Kevin Page, made significant headway in a months-long battle with the government over its refusal to cough up financial details related to the last federal budget. A threat, issued earlier this month, to take departments withholding information to court if they didn’t change tack by last Wednesday appears to have changed a few minds. (...)