The F-35 Boondoggle

I know we’ve been over this ground before, but remind me again… why does Canada even need this heinously expensive new class of fighter jet at all? What possible military threat are we defending ourselves from? Seriously. What is the point?

Aside from the absurdity of ploughing something like $30 billion into a high-tech gizmo that serves no useful purpose whatsoever (it’s worth noting that Lockheed Martin’s last iteration of this plane, the F-22 “stealth raptor” fighter, has never actually been deployed in combat), there is the matter of the Harper government having egregiously misled Canadians about the cost of the program during the last election and then repeatedly lying to parliament subsequent to that. For instance, according to Harper and his ministers last year, there was a contract in place that would prevent cost overruns, but now they claim there is no contract. So which is it?

Bob Rae has called on Harper to resign over the issue, but, of course, nobody seriously imagines that’s going to happen. I mean, we’re only talking about a complete lack of government oversight involving a measly $10 billion discrepancy in accounts… it’s certainly nothing anywhere nearly as serious as the “AdScam” fiasco where possibly $100 million of taxpayer money was at stake! In that case, it was entirely justified that every “conservative” worth his or her salt should howl with OUTRAGE! like a gut-shot dog every day for years and years and years…

Shit or Get Off the Pot

That’s the less “politically correct” version of Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page’s recommendation that his operation of monitoring Ottawa’s financial projections and performance be shut down if he can’t get adequate funding and staff resources to fulfill his prescribed mandate (explained in this TVO interview from earlier this year).

It’s completely unconscionable that Page has been, for lack of a better expression, incessantly jerked around by the government (with the tacit complicity of the Liberals, it should be noted) in every possible way to thwart his endevours… Or so it would seem.

If Stephen Harper actually believes in the indisputably worthy principles of “accountability” and “transparency” in the management of federal affairs (as he’s so often stated in the past) then surely the PBO is an essential aspect of this process — a complimentary bookend, if you will, to the role of the Auditor General who’s charged with objectively examining government performance and value for money after the fact.

So, the question here is… why don’t the Liberals make “accountability” a pivotal issue (stealing it back from the Conservatives) and support Page with whatever political influence they can apply to the matter?

The Budget Outlook: No “Positive Stuff”

Burlington Conservative MP Mike Wallace was perturbed at Wednesday’s Commons finance committee hearing that Kevin Page, the independent parliamentary budget officer, didn’t offset his gloomy forecast that the economy would deteriorate at “a historic rate” much faster than the government had predicted in January’s budget, with more upbeat, feel-good news (like Harper will surely be delivering on Fox News Sunday tomorrow).

“How come you didn’t show us any positive stuff that Canada’s doing?” Wallace pathetically moaned. “We’re in better shape, wouldn’t you agree, than our American friends? Is there a reason that you’ve only showed us the negative?”

Indeed. Page should have focused on the “positive stuff” — like having clawed our way back to a surplus position after years of massive deficits racked up by the previous “Conservative” government, paying down the national debt and setting aside a contingency fund under the previous Liberal government (well, that is until the Conservatives pissed it away with their reckless spending and pointless GST cut). Or he could have pointed to our superior financial regulatory regime, again thanks to the Liberals, and with no help from the Conservatives, who opposed such regulation every step of the way.

Update: This seems rather appropriate here…

Take Page Out of the Library

Housing the Parliamentary Budget Office in the Library of Parliament may have seemed like a sterling idea when it was first established earlier in the year, but quite clearly the arrangement simply isn’t working. An irreconcilable difference of opinion evidently exists between Kevin Page, the first budget officer, and William Young, the parliamentary librarian, when it comes to how they view their respective mandates, especially with regards to the release of information and reports to the public.

As such, in keeping with the spirit of accountability and transparency with which the Parliamentary Budget Office was created, the government should remove it from the stifling constraints of the Library and set it up as an independent body just like the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, upon which it was modelled. Moreover, the PBO’s budget — currently frozen by the Library at $1.9 million — should be increased to $2.7 million, the amount originally planned for and approved by parliament back in the spring.