Government wants new spending watchdog: Harper

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa January 29, 2013.

Credits: REUTERS/Chris Wattie


OTTAWA — The government hasn't officially begun the search for a new parliamentary budget officer, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday the new bean counter should be non-partisan and credible.

In a direct swipe at outgoing PBO Kevin Page, whose five-year term expires March 25 and is not being renewed, Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty suggested that Page has become a political favourite of the NDP and Liberals.

Both opposition parties cite Page's findings when the results suit their storyline if it portrays the government as fiscal dunces.

Page and the government have been at odds since the Conservatives created the watchdog post in 2008 in the name of accountability and transparency.

The opposition often side with his numbers over the government's, including the cost to find a stealth fighter jet, the impact of budget cuts on federal departments and whether the government can erase the deficit by 2015 as promised.

Recent attacks by Flaherty on Page have enraged the opposition, including comments that Page wandered from his mandate.

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said the government wants a personal lapdog, and not a taxpayer watchdog and said Page is joining other Conservative appointees who "have been thrown out of the bus" because they didn't toe the Tory line.

Harper said he's committed to hiring a replacement, but gave no signal whether the candidate would be hired in time for the next budget expected in March.

"We want to make sure in future that that office does credible and non-partisan work," he said in the House.

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