The federal government has further lowered its “cone of silence” over the implications of federal cuts today. Treasury Board has instructed all departments to remove any implications of the latest $8 billion in cuts from their “Reports on Plans and Priorities” (RPP). The RPPs are the central way that researchers like myself can review what departments are planning to spend on various programs over the coming 3 years. If the implications of the $8 billion in cuts are not present in the RPPs, they will be essentially useless in figuring out which departments are cut, by how much and which services are affected. This censorship of the RPPs will mean that MPs and Canadians are receiving essentially false information about government spending and employment levels.
Most of the analysis from my recent paper, The Cuts Behind the Curtain—looking at what had already been cut—came from the RPPs. As I’ve noted before, the lack of transparency around the first round of cuts from the Strategic Reviews (2007-2010) was quite alarming. However, at least the RPPs could be used to ferret out what was going to happen for each department if one was so inclined. With this new censorship of government spending estimates, the Tories are totally closing off all information on the effects of the largest cutbacks since the 1990s. Given this very concerning change, the budget will likely contain no information on how these massive cuts are going to happen and who will be affected.
By effectively falsifying departmental spending and employment projections, the federal government is concluding that Canadians don’t have a right to know what services will be cut and how much higher unemployment will be pushed as a result of these decisions. In fact, the incredible lengths to which the government is going to hide details of the cuts merely reinforces their likely wide-ranging impacts. Controlling the message has now become so pervasive that censorship of standard government documents has been deemed necessary. It is a very alarming trend.
Now the cuts aren’t behind the curtain, they are locked in a cell with an armed guard. Canadians likely won’t know what has been lost until well after programs have been eliminated.
[Update: Clement is now saying that order didn’t come from him given his push for more government transparency. He notes “If that were the case, I would be crushed by the irony.” Time will tell whether the government is with or against the censurers.]