March 31, 2011Doug Hadden
Doug Hadden, VP Products
Comedian Stephen Colbert has captured some of the “truthiness” of government budget politics. This could go a long way to highlight the critical importance of budgets and, dare I say, government accounting. That’s because budget processes are so important that they must become fodder for satire.
The Canadian government fell based on a vote of confidence, triggering an election. (And explained very well in the first video clip below by a somnolent BBC reporter.) There is an interesting transparency and accountability dynamic here. The Conservative Party have won two minority governments partly based on a commitment for transparency. The Federal Accountability Act included the creation of a new post: the Parliamentary Budget Officer. This post is independent of the government and an officer of the Library of Parliament. The PBO, Kevin Page, criticized the government budget for lacking sufficient information on how estimates were developed. There has been particular debate about the cost of F-35 aircraft.
So, in typical Canadian fashion, the office set up by the government has been responsible for the fall of the government. As it was with the sponsorship scandal when the previous Liberal government set up a public inquiry.
Regardless of any viewpoint on the budget itself, it is important to realize that credible budgets and budget transparency is critical for good governance. Budget transparency is also critical. Canada is not a leader in budget transparency because of the practice of budget and cabinet confidentiality. However, Canada seems to be a leader in budget satire, as witnessed by the second video below by comedian Rick Mercer.
Yes, the Library of Parliament is a FreeBalance customer, as is the House of Commons and the Senate.
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