November 3, 2009 / 5:15 PM / 8 years ago

Budget watchdog says needs more cash

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s parliamentary budget officer said on Tuesday he may have to shut down his operations due to lack of funding, less than two years after the government created his job to improve transparency.

<p>Canada's Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page waits to testify before the Commons finance committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa November 3, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

Kevin Page said his office had been earmarked to receive a C$2.8 million ($2.6 million) budget from Ottawa, up from a start-up budget of C$1.8 million in its first year in 2008. But so far that funding has not been confirmed.

“In my opinion it’s necessary for our team to have the C$2.8 million budget and I‘m waiting for some good news,” Page told a parliamentary finance committee.

“But for the moment, we continue to work with our C$1.8 million budget and, if it’s not possible to receive the budget of C$2.8 million, then it won’t be possible for us to continue preparing economic and fiscal forecasts or to examine the impact of fiscal programs,” he said.

Page said he had several staffers in his office on loan from other government departments, and that he could lose them if the additional money is not forthcoming.

“If you don’t have the critical mass, I can’t perform my legal responsibilities,” he said.

Page is an independent officer whose position was created by the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to provide independent reports directly to Parliament on the state of federal finances and the costing of legislative proposals. The government committed to creating the office before the global economic crisis hit

Opposition legislators accused the Conservatives on Tuesday of deliberately choking Page of resources because his forecasts are often much gloomier than those of the government.

The government has said it has done everything it can to help Page carry out his tasks.

In his latest report, released on Monday, Page said Canada’s economy would not fully recover until 2013 and the federal government would carry a structural budgetary deficit of C$19 billion ($17.6 billion) after the crisis.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty responded by saying he expected the deficit to be temporary and that he would take steps, if necessary, to avoid permanent structural deficits.

“Once it is clear the economic recovery has taken hold, extraordinary stimulus spending will end, the economy will see significant growth again and deficits will fall,” Flaherty said.

“If necessary, we will restrain the growth of future federal government spending to eventually eliminate deficits altogether,” he said.

Reporting by Louise Egan; editing by Rob Wilson

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