Budget watchdog post in limbo: Critics

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page.



OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has yet to start the formal process to replace its loudest budget critic - but says it will do so, eventually.

The position of parliamentary budget officer was created by the Conservatives in 2008 in the name of transparency and accountability - two areas the government is often criticized by opposition MPs for ignoring.

Kevin Page's term expires next month - yet nothing indicates the government is in any rush to find a successor in time for the next budget.

Page has often annoyed the government with reports of cost overruns and analyses that challenged the government's figures and priorities, and recently went to court to get documents to study the impact of budget cuts.

Considered opposition and media friendly, his outspoken style often put him at odds with cabinet ministers, including Finance Minister Jim Flaherty who has called him opinionated and whose conclusions are often based on speculation.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair says Page has been an efficient watchdog over how tax dollars are spent.

In a letter to Harper, Mulcair says Harper should extend his term "until such time as a thorough, transparent and competitive search" is completed.

Liberal Treasury Board critic John McCallum noted that when Auditor General Sheila Fraser's term was ending the government put out a formal notice of vacancy nearly seven months in advance.

A spokesman for the prime minister says the job will be filled.

"The Parliament of Canada Act outlines the process for appointing a parliamentary budget officer," said Andrew McDougall.

"We'll get there."

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