I realize we are short of time, so I'll be really brief. I realize we're running out of time, so I'm looking to see if we can add a meeting to accommodate the PBO on the estimates. There are several reasons. We brought this up probably about six or seven months ago when we had Minister Brison here and we were discussing the changes to the Standing Orders for the estimates. We had put forward a motion requesting that he appear and, of course, that Kevin Page appear as well. That didn't come about.
I think it's incumbent upon us to have the PBO attend to discuss the estimates process. There are rumours of the minister pushing ahead with the estimates without our agreement or without unanimous consent.
We heard in committee that he's intending to move ahead. We heard from Mr. Pagan in front of the Senate on May 31, and I'll quote, “I expect there will be some developments on this front in the very near future”, which, of course, contradicts what we heard here on June 1, which was, “with respect to Mr. McCauley's question about the estimates..., we've been advised that's parked for now.”
We're hearing contradictory information, but both Mr. Pagan and Mr. Brison say they are planning on plowing ahead.
I think it's important that we hear from the PBO on this, since he has been a very outspoken critic of the plans for the estimates. We are concerned that it would take away two months of oversight from the opposition. We would also lose two of our supply days, two opposition days, in the House, and there would be less time to review and decide. If the committee of the whole is moved to May 1, that means the estimates are released and that very same day we have to submit our two committees as a whole.
We also have concerns about the program-based allocation. The PBO has said that, and I'm going to quote:
[With these changes], parliamentarians would [have to] accept the risk that money would be approved for very broad, weakly defined activities, with poor linkages to concrete results.
So far we've heard that the PBO has again put out some very unflattering reports on the government's proposals, and we're hearing that the Liberals no longer want them to appear at committee.
We're very concerned, obviously, that the PBO, who is extremely well respected and very knowledgeable on the issue of oversight, would be blocked by this government from appearing on the estimates that the government is trying to change without unanimous consent.
I just want to read a couple of quotes. Sorry, I went over the quotes earlier from Mr. Brison.
[Proceedings continue in camera]