Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Full Details on Budget Cuts Unlikely to Ever Be Made Public by Government: Full Details on Cuts Unlikely to Be Public

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Full Details on Budget Cuts Unlikely to Ever Be Made Public by Government: Full Details on Cuts Unlikely to Be Public

Article excerpt

OTTAWA - Those holding their breath to see which programs and services are being axed by the federal budget should exhale.

A complete list is likely never to be proactively provided by the federal government.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement said Wednesday that financial and planning documents to be tabled in Parliament over the next year will reflect the $5.2 billion in cuts.

But those reports traditionally don't lay out where and why the government is cutting, instead outlining what and how it wants to spend.

It will be left to individual departments to determine how much information they want to disclose to those who ask.

Asked why the government is not fully disclosing details, Clement said the opacity can be partially blamed on parliamentary and legal process. That includes the schedule of financial reporting to Parliament as well as union obligations.

"When we don't hide behind a legal process, we are accused of being in contempt," Clement said in a conference call from Brazil, where he is attending international meetings on making government more transparent.

"We've got to stick to a process and that's what our role is and we interpret a process in a particular way. Our opposition may disagree and they cite us for contempt or what have you -- it doesn't mean we just throw process our the window."

The Conservative minority government was found in contempt of Parliament and defeated in a non-confidence vote last year related to their refusal to fully disclose the cost of legislation.

They were returned with a majority government in the subsequent election.

Last month's budget -- the first substantive one of the new government -- said more than 19,000 jobs will be eliminated as the government seeks to slash spending across all departments in a bid to eliminate the deficit.

Many departments are refusing to disclose how they'll save the money, citing the need to first get through job-loss notifications. So word of program cuts are dribbling out via union leaders or those whose grant money has suddenly dried up, and there is no guarantee that more information will be forthcoming.

Clement's defence of silence on budget cuts came as he attended an international conference of the Open Government Partnership. …

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