Feds give budget watchdog additional data following Global News story

April 8, 2016 – Anna Mehler Paperny, Global News

Finance Canada has given Parliamentary Budget Officer Jean-Denis Fréchette the additional budget breakdowns he asked for last week.

When Global News spoke to Fréchette Thursday, he said he hadn’t gotten so much as an acknowledgment of his request.

“I much prefer to receive at least some kind of acknowledgment of my request than nothing,” he said then.

On Friday afternoon, Finance Canada complied. Read their full response here.

READ MORE: Liberals promised to empower budget watchdog, haven’t responded to his budget request

Fréchette had wanted a more detailed breakdown of the Liberals’ spending plans over their five-year fiscal framework. Budget 2016 provided details for the first two years, but not the latter three.

That’s not as minor as it sounds, Fréchette said.

“If this government has a five-year objective … they should indicate all the measures there would be,” he said Thursday.

Deputy Minister Paul Rochon attached those additional tables in a letter to Fréchette, noting that a Tuesday deadline for a Friday request was pretty tight.

“The April 5 due date established for the Department’s response to the request was extremely, and unusually, short – one and a half business days,” the letter reads.

“The Department would ask that longer timeframes be established for future requests.”

The letter also emphasizes that the spending estimates for future years aren’t set in stone.

“Notional amounts have been earmarked for future years pending further Cabinet decisions and policy development,” the letter reads.

“Work will be undertaken over the next year to further refine these cost estimates and their profiles.”

The three charts Finance Canada sent Fréchette are still pretty high-level in their descriptions. (The third has one budget line reading “Help for the Middle Class” and another reading “Growth for the Middle Class.”)

One notable inclusion is $100 million a year for four years budgeted to give to Pratt & Whitney Canada. The company appears slated to repay $1 billion to the government this year but to receive $100 million in each of 2017-18, 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21.

Pratt & Whitney has done work for Bombardier, including designing data storage systems and engines for Bombardier’s CSeries. Bombardier is pinning its hopes for a comeback on the CSeries (toward which both Canada and Quebec have dedicated money).

READ MORE: How much does Bombardier owe Canadians? It’s a secret

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The Liberals promised during last fall’s election campaign to empower the Parliamentary Budget Officer, created by a Conservative government that would find itself battling the officer in court.

They also pledged to reform Canada’s outdated Access to Information Act. That’s now scheduled to start in 2018.

 

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