All Canadians should be concerned with the findings of an all-party House of Commons committee that says MPs aren't getting the information they need to properly scrutinize spending. Voters send people to Ottawa to defend their interests, and what could be more basic to that than looking out for how government is spending their tax dollars?
The Canadian Press recently reported on the findings, which criticized parliamentary rules that keep MPs uninformed about government spending. For example, the story said, "not a single House of Commons committee was able to report on its examination of some proposed spending because the information arrived too late - and the session clock ran out."
The 62-page report said standing committees are "at best giving perfunctory attention to government's spending plans" and that the federal budget should be brought down earlier to give MPs the time they need to give it proper scrutiny. The report also recommends strengthening the power of the parliamentary budget officer to deliver essential financial data to parliamentarians.
What's noteworthy here is that these recommendations are coming from an all-party committee whose members agree on the need for a better flow of information to MPs. Without this, there is, as Liberal MP John McCallum put it, "a fundamental deficiency of information" which keeps MPs from doing an effective job.
The basic tenets of democracy - transparency and accountability - demand that this be addressed. What's ironic is that the report was released at about the same time the federal government's controversial omnibus bill was before the House of Commons and the opposition was criticizing government for not allowing for adequate scrutiny of items bundled in the bill.
MPs can't do their jobs without being informed, and if there are rules that are preventing or obstructing the flow of information, these need to be changed. That this recommendation comes from an all-party committee gives it a credibility that shouldn't be ignored.
Maintaining our squares
The capital city's decision to adopt a master plan for the four heritage squares in the city is a progressive one for which future generations will no doubt be thankful.
These four squares were a gift from the city's first visionaries, artfully designed to give a wonderfully landscaped texture to the city. We've had the privilege of having these squares in our midst and they require our careful maintenance if we are to pass them on to future generations.
Rochford, King, Connaught and Hillsborough squares were laid out in a 1771 plan of Charlottetown by Governor Walter Patterson and surveyor Thomas Wright. It was therefore appropriate that council decided last week to adopt a master plan for maintaining these cornerstone properties.
There's more to a community than commerce and bricks and mortar. As Coun. Melissa Hilton, chair of the parks, recreation and leisure activities committee, put it, "the squares, and the neighbourhood fabric within which they are woven, are a rich resource for the community and provide a welcome natural space within a busy urban core."
The city has a responsibility to ensure that future generations will continue to experience this "welcome natural space" in their midst.