Truth and Lies on Parliament Hill
Many times, our own government would not provide us with the information we needed, no matter how much we begged or threatened. We would therefore have to be creative about how we secured our data, and Canadians should be concerned to realize that we often had to secure our own national data from sources outside of Ottawa. For example, to get estimates of Canada’s potential output in the possession of the finance department, we needed to go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) based in Washington, DC. To get information on the costs of running a prison system, we needed to go to the provinces. We would end up doing a lot of comparison work with relevant data made available from other countries. If the government of Canada would not hand over reliable information for us to use, then we would draw our conclusions based on the analogies we might derive from outside database sources. One such important source was our friends at the Congressional Budget Office in Washington, but there were many others. Our belief was and remains that superior data always translates into superior reports. Sometimes we would make a simple phone call and connect with a world expert who had specific expertise that we required. At other times we would drop everything, get in a car or on a plane, and visit someone who could supply high-quality data for a specific costing. When it comes to government agencies, both inside and outside Canada, I was always amazed at how many times we would be the first such visitors to seek the data, and more often than not people were happy to oblige. Our office would eventually be recognized by the IMF for the consistent quality of our work.
Excerpted from Unaccountable: Truth, Lies and Numbers on Parliament Hill, by Kevin Page. © 2015 Kevin Page. Published by Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.