Twenty departments – including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency – have not yet promised to disclose spending cuts to the Parliamentary Budget Officer by Friday’s new deadline.
In a chart posted on the PBO website, the Parliamentary spending watchdog provides an update on its ongoing tug of war with federal departments.
As of the end of day on Oct. 16, 19 departments – or 23 per cent – had provided the information requested by PBO. A further 43 – or 52 per cent – confirmed they would provide the information by Friday October 19. However 20 departments, representing 24 per cent, have not made any promises that information will be forthcoming.
Among those 20 departments is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, where the minister responsible – Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz – is facing daily calls in Question Period to resign over the government’s handling of a tainted beef recall in Alberta.
The March, 2012 federal budget stated that the CFIA budget would be cut by $56.1-million a year by 2014-15 and the PBO has been calling on the government to explain the implications of this cut.
The Canada Revenue Agency is also among the 20 departments that have so far been silent. The CRA is facing a $225-million a year budget cut by 2014-15. Other departments that the PBO says have yet to respond include Citizenship and Immigration, Environment Canada, Finance Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Justice Canada, the Privy Council Office, Treasury Board and Veterans Affairs Canada.
Treasury Board President Tony Clement spoke briefly with reporters Tuesday, but was not clear as to whether his department would be providing new information this week.
“We are quite willing and able and should cooperate with the Budget Officer on items that are within his mandate and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” he said. “We continue to report to Parliament with quarterly reports and reports on plans and priorities and estimates on our spending and we’ll continue to do so.”
Mr. Clement has previously said the PBO should focus on where Ottawa spends and not on where it doesn’t spend.
The March 2012 budget announced plans to cut $5.1-billion a year by 2014-15, which amounts to 1.9 per cent of total federal program spending. The budget said this would involve the elimination of 19,200 positions in the federal public service.
While the budget broke down the cuts by department, the document provided very little detail as to how the cuts would be achieved.
Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page initially set Oct. 10 as a deadline for departments to provide those details, which he had been requesting for months. Mr. Page threatened to take the government to Federal Court if the information was not provided. Because of last minute promises for government officials, Mr. Page announced last week that he was extending his deadline for some departments to Oct. 19.