EDMONTON, AB (March 17, 2014): Bill 202, the Independent Budget Officer Act, will provide taxpayers with more transparency on the provincial budget and provide independent, non-partisan analysis of the province’s finances , Wildrose Official Opposition said today.
The private members bill is being brought forward by Wildrose Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Heather Forsyth and is expected to be introduced and debated in the Legislature this afternoon. If passed, the legislation will create an independent budget office accountable to the Alberta Legislature. “I am bringing forward this legislation because we need more accountability around the Legislature and taxpayers deserve to know how their tax dollars are spent, free of political spin and interference,” Forsyth said. “This bill would provide an independent check on government predictions of revenue and expenditures which would prevent the government from fudging numbers for their own political gain.” The office’s mandate would be to:
- Provide independent analysis to the Legislative Assembly about the state of the province’s finances, including the budget and quarterly updates, and the trends in the provincial and national economies;
- When requested to do so by a committee of the Legislative Assembly, undertake research for that committee into the province’s finances and economy
- When requested to do so by a committee of the Legislative Assembly that is mandated to consider the estimates of the government, undertake research for that committee into these estimates
- When requested to do so by an MLA, or a committee of the Legislative Assembly, estimate the financial cost of any proposal that relates to a matter over which the Legislative Assembly has jurisdiction.
“We know the PC government has intentionally manipulated the budget numbers to confuse Albertans about the facts,” Forsyth said. “This office must be independent in order to ensure that Albertans and their representatives receive fair and non-partisan information regarding the expected financial position of the province.” All 50 US states have an independent budget office. The federal governments of Canada and the United Kingdom have established them as well. Ontario is currently in the process of setting one up. Derek Fildebrandt, Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said Bill 202 will bring Alberta in to the 21st century for independent legislative budget officers. “With Alberta’s finances as clear as mud, an independent budget officer would bring much needed clarity to the books,” Fildebrandt said. “It shouldn’t be the job of taxpayer watchdogs and opposition parties to second guess the government’s numbers. This is a job best done by an independent officer of the legislature.” Following Budget 2013, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce called for the creation of a provincial budget office. The Chamber’s submission states, “Budget numbers that are credible and widely trusted help businesses plan to prepare their own business plans without the uncertainty of rising taxes, delayed capital spending and excessive public borrowing which crowds out private borrowing opportunities.” Wildrose Finance Critic Rob Anderson is happy to see this legislation coming forward and offered his full support for Bill 202. “This type of position is long overdue in Alberta,” Anderson said. “We need to renew taxpayers’ faith and trust in the budget numbers the government provides and Bill 202 is a great start to that.”