Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Minister, for appearing today.
Minister, I'm sure you appreciate that my time is brief. I'm going to ask a number of questions. If you could be as concise as you could, that would be appreciated.
Mr. Minister, as you're aware, your government engaged the services of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. You gave the Parliamentary Budget Officer a mandate to allow Parliament to see clearly into the nation's finances, to make sure that when Parliament made decisions, it had accurate and clear information.
That same Parliamentary Budget Officer has said, and I quote, “There is genuine concern that Parliament is losing control of its fiduciary responsibilities”. He's made it very clear that his own office finds it impossible to get information and that he was stonewalled on Bill C-25 for some eight months and forced to make statistical models to go after information that he couldn't otherwise get. And after eight months, the Parliamentary Budget Officer on just one bill—and I will remind you, Minister, that we have 24 before the House--the Truth in Sentencing Act, said that the cost was going to be $5 billion over five years for the federal government and some $5 billion to $8 billion for the provinces.
You had said there would be virtually no cost to the provinces. Initially, your quote, when you were asked on February 15, was, “We're not exactly sure how much it will cost us.... There are some low estimates, and some that would see more spent—not more than $90 million.” That's where the $90 million comes from.
Now, Minister, you've subsequently said it will be $2 billion for the whole shooting match, so here's the question: if the Parliamentary Budget Officer is wrong, how is he wrong, and where is your data to back that up?