Government Provides Greater Independence for the Parliamentary Budget Officer and Increases Financial Transparency of the House of Commons
The Government of Canada is delivering on its commitment to enhance the accountability, transparency and openness of its Parliamentary institutions.
Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures, introduced in the House of Commons on April 11, 2017 proposes to amend the Parliament of Canada Act to deliver on two key initiatives to meet this commitment.
Greater independence for the Parliamentary Budget Officer
The proposed Bill would enhance the role of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) ensuring it is an independent, non-partisan resource to support Parliament. More specifically, the new measures would:
- Focus the role of the PBO so that it supports, as a first priority, Parliamentarians and Parliamentary Committees in the performance of their duties. The PBO would provide them with objective research and analysis on fiscal and economic matters;
- Establish the PBO as an independent Officer of Parliament, separate from the Library of Parliament, with his/her own dedicated office. The PBO would report directly to Parliament through the Speakers of the House of Commons and Senate who would oversee PBO administrative matters such as budget and staffing;
- Appoint the PBO for a term of seven years. A PBO could only be removed for cause, rather than serving at the pleasure of the sitting government as is currently the case. Both the appointment and removal of the PBO would be subject to approval by Parliamentarians, as is currently the case for Agents of Parliament, such as the Auditor General;
- Give the PBO greater access to relevant information within departments, agencies as well as Crown corporations. This would better inform the economic and fiscal analysis provided to Parliamentarians and Parliamentary Committees; and
- Allow the PBO to cost election platform proposals at the request of political parties. This would provide non-partisan assessment of a party’s fiscal plans.
All reports tabled in Parliament by the PBO would be made public. Documents prepared by the PBO at the request of Parliamentary Committees and individual parliamentarians can also be made public once they have been provided to the requester.
A Board of Internal Economy open to the public
The proposed Bill would increase transparency around the Board of Internal Economy, the body that makes decisions and provides direction on financial and administrative matters for the House of Commons. In doing so, it will open up the workings of Parliament to Canadians. These changes would:
- Make the Board’s meetings open to the public by default, with the exception of meetings dealing with personal or sensitive information (e.g. labour relations and employment issues, security, matters related to tenders); and
- Unanimous consent of all members present at the meeting would be required should the Board wish to hold a closed meeting on any other issue.
These changes would not impact the role or composition of the Board, nor would they benefit one party over another. All recognized parties, that is to say those holding at least 12 seats in the House of Commons, would continue to be given representation on the Board.
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