Canada’s democracy is broken, and it will likely require a Royal Commission to set things right, according to the former Parliamentary Budget Officer.
Kevin Page spoke on Tuesday at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre in an event with federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair. He outlined his past role as watchdog of the government coffers and the myriad frustrations he faced in showing parliamentarians exactly how they were spending Canada’s money.
“The institutional trust in Canada is at an all-time low,” Page said, and it is in part because of a federal government allergy to free information, especially when it comes to spending and budgets on things like F-35 fighter jets and other big-ticket items.
Page’s job was to examine government spending habits and plans, help develop business cases for big decisions, and share that information publicly.
Instead he was stonewalled at almost every turn and faced threats that he was violating parliamentary privilege by doing his job, he said. At one point he actually took the federal government to court.
Once, speaking to a house committee, Page was asked by NDP MP Pat Martin what to do to fix things.
“Do you want the power of the purse to rest with the House of Commons?” he asked the MPs.
“Don’t you want this information? Don’t you think you need it? You’re not a part of the executive; you’re not a cabinet minister. Even if you’re of the same political stripe, it’s still your job to hold them to account.
“They had no idea what I was talking about. It was like some strange math they had never seen before,” he said.
Rather than MPs empowered with information to vote intelligently, Page said he saw something more akin to trained seals, voting along party lines without any real understanding of the bills.
“In my view, we’re going to need almost like a Royal Commission to fix it,” he said.
“It has to be big. How do we really fix the public system so that when Mr. Mulcair becomes Prime Minister we can trust him?” Page asked.
The double-header event was sponsored by the Yukon NDP.
Contact Jesse Winter at