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Culture of secrecy: Federal budget cuts

THE SECRET: How the Harper government is implementing $ 5.2 billion in spending and job cuts to programs and services.

THE STORY: Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page, skeptical of the government’s claim that it can make the cuts laid out in the 2012 budget without hurting some of the services and programs Canadians rely on, sought to obtain information from federal government departments on what will be cut. Without timely disclosure, MPs would be voting on the budget implementation legislation without knowing how the Harper government’s belt-tightening measures would impact the lives of Canadians, Page said. For months, the Harper government turned aside Page’s requests, saying he was overstepping his mandate and that the information would be rolled out over 2012 and 2013 in the usual parliamentary spending reports. In October, the government partly relented and said individual departments could comply with Page’s information requests. But on Nov. 22, the PBO said the responses being received dealt with only a fraction of the $ 5.2 billion in budget reductions planned by the Conservatives. As a result, Page said, he had no choice but to seek a reference from Federal Court on whether he has the jurisdiction to order departments to provide detailed budget implementation information. If the court sides with Page, his office is convinced the government would have to bow to his data requests.

Read more Star coverage on Federal budget cuts

thestar.com – News