Saturday, July 27, 2013

What Universities Are For

Today's Globe and Mail has a story that has me full of admiration and jealousy.  The University of Ottawa is giving an institutional home for the former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page so that he can set up a shadow budget office.  This is freakin' brilliant because the Canadian government seems not to understand the concept of budgets.  The last budget didn't have any numbers.  The government has resisted the efforts of the Parliamentary Budget Office to track spending.  Really.  The contrast with the US where the General Accountability Office is perhaps more feared than the Internal Revenue Service is quite stark.

So, if the government will not be at all transparent and responsible with the spending of the taxpayers' dollars, then it looks like we need some folks outside of government to do the work.  And what better place than a university?  Forget about coordinating professors, have you ever tried to manage their messages?  The Harper government obsesses about controlling information.  One could say that the Obama administration is obsessed with leaks, but the Harper government is obsessed with preventing the release of ordinary information that the US government releases all the time, like where is the money going.

Anyhow, universities and professors are the antithesis of this (except when certain professional societies try to embargo dissertations, but that is a post for another time), as the creation and dissemination of knowledge is the essential mission of universities. 

So, I admire Page and the U of O folks for doing this.  Of course, I would prefer to have had Carleton land Page, but as long as someone is preparing to hold the government's feet to the fire (parliament seems to suck at this), I am pretty thrilled.

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