NDP Proposes Budget Watchdog To Restore Openness, Legitimacy

VICTORIA – The Independent Budget Officer proposed in a Private Member’s Bill being introduced today would help restore public trust in government after the B.C. Liberals hid the true state of B.C.’s finances throughout the election campaign, the Bruce RalstonNew Democrats said today.

“By hiding their real agenda until after the election, the B.C. Liberals have undermined the legitimacy of government. An independent Budget Officer would help restore the public’s faith in our democratic institutions by providing the public with objective revenue and deficit figures,” said New Democrat finance critic Bruce Ralston .

Ralston is tabling legislation today that would make B.C. the first province to have an independent Budget Officer. The federal government appointed Kevin Page as Canada’s first Parliamentary Budget Officer in 2008. Recently, over a hundred of the nation’s leading economists voiced their support for the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

The US Congress, California, and New York City also have offices that generate independent budget and forecast analysis.

“The Budget Officer would generate regular updates on provincial revenues and expenditures, and determine the impact of economic events on government finances, including prior to the start of election campaigns,” said Ralston.

The watchdog also would have the authority to calculate the financial impact of policy proposals.

“Gordon Campbell and B.C. Liberal Finance Minister Colin Hansen deliberately misled British Columbians about the state of the government’s books, and now families and small businesses are paying the price with both a higher deficit and cuts to vital services,” said Ralston.

Ralston noted that, despite warnings from leading economists and economic indicators that the B.C. Liberals’ pre-election budget numbers didn’t add up, it wasn’t until after the campaign that the government admitted they would break the premier’s budget promises. Last week, Hansen admitted that the government’s growth projections were shot by the end of April.

Carole James and the New Democrats have been holding the B.C. Liberals accountable for backtracking on their election promises to protect health care, education and other vital services, and for breaking their word on the HST.