Canada's Original Think Tank

Committee of the Whole – Parliamentary Budget Officer

Committee of the Whole – Parliamentary Budget Officer

Committee of the Whole – Parliamentary Budget Officer

Senator Art Eggleton: 

You said that you compared yourself as being quite similar to the current occupant of the position, Mr. Fréchette. How would you compare your style to Kevin Page? Mr. Page was in the position longer than anybody and, I think, defined the position in many respects, so we could better judge your answer on that basis.

Mr. Yves Giroux: Thank you for that interesting question that I was hoping nobody would ask me.

It’s a bit difficult to presuppose how I will compare to Kevin Page or Mr. Fréchette. They are and were in very different positions than I will be if you approve my appointment.

Mr. Page had to establish the office. He had to establish the credibility of the office at a time when departments were not aware and probably not welcoming the office and were certainly not ready and willing to provide information.

The legislative mandate was different. I would say it was weaker or more limited, to be more precise, so it’s a very different environment in which Mr. Page operated.

With regard to Mr. Fréchette, he was also in a different position. I think he inherited an office that was quite strong, that had established its credentials, but that was still not an agent of Parliament. So it’s difficult to say whether I’d be different, similar or identical to Mr. Page. The one obvious parallel is that we’re both bald, but aside from that it’s difficult for me at this time to say whether I’d be exactly like Mr. Page or very different from him.

What can I assure you is that I will strive to deliver on the mandate that is set out in legislation and provide you and your colleagues in the other chamber the information that you need to make enlightened decisions and deliberations.

Senator Eggleton: Fair enough.

You’re an economist, and it seems like a logical kind of person to have in this position. At the same time, in dealing with all of the budget figures, social issues become part of it and I’m quite interested in how you might approach them.

I do recall Mr. Page once saying to me that people that are fighting poverty are doing God’s work. That doesn’t mean he was going to change the facts and figures with respect to the social issues, but I’d be interested to know how you feel about dealing with social issues.

I realize that you have to be requested to do these studies. In fact, under Mr. Fréchette’s guidance, there was a recent study done on guaranteed annual income, which produced a very good paper. I am wondering how you feel about dealing with social issues.

Mr. Giroux: I feel very comfortable dealing with social issues. I have worked at Finance for six years dealing with social policy issues, and a good part of my time at PCO was spent dealing with social issues.

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At PCO, the Privy Council Office, it was Heritage Canada, which is very social by its nature, as well as Citizenship and Immigration. When I was at Finance for six years, it was the broad social policy universe: justice, public safety, poverty, students, and really everything that was for seniors.

I’ve learned that it is sometimes difficult to put dollar figures on government proposals or on social policy problems, but it’s always possible to find ways to measure what needs to be addressed. There are a lot of data sources in this country about social policy issues, and I don’t feel uncomfortable at all dealing with these issues. It’s very interesting, and I think it’s at the root of many problems that we are experiencing in the country. So it’s very interesting, and I feel totally comfortable dealing with social issues.