Bill C-253 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (deductibility of RESP contributions)
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.
This bill was previously introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session.
Dan McTeague Liberal
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Committee Report Presented
(This bill did not become law.)
- March 5, 2008 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
- March 5, 2008 Passed That Bill C-253, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (deductibility of RESP contributions), as amended, be concurred in at report stage with further amendments.
- March 5, 2008 Passed That Bill C-253, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing lines 8 and 9 on page 2 with the following: “( b) the RESP lifetime limit minus the total of all contributions made by the taxpayer into a registered education savings plan in previous taxation years, to a maximum of $5,000.”
- March 5, 2008 Passed That Motion No. 2 be amended by adding after the word “years” the following: “, to a maximum of $5,000”.
- March 5, 2008 Passed That Bill C-253, in Clause 2, be amended by deleting lines 10 to 24 on page 1.
- Nov. 8, 2006 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.
May 27th, 2008 / 4:40 p.m.
April 16th, 2008 / 3:30 p.m.
Jim Flaherty Minister of Finance
Thank you, Chair.
I appreciate this opportunity to meet with you and the members of the committee to discuss Bill C-50, which as you know, is an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 26, 2008, which is the third budget of our government.
I am pleased to meet with you and the members of your committee today to discuss Bill C-50, an Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 26, 2008.
This year's budget builds on the decisive and timely action taken in the October 2007 economic statement to support the economy. The economic statement provided an additional $60 billion in broad-based tax relief for Canadians. Since coming to office, our government is providing nearly $200 billion in tax relief in this and the next five years.
Now, reducing our overall tax burden at the federal level is providing a terrific shot of adrenalin for the national economy. Actions taken by the government since 2006 are providing $21 billion in incremental tax relief to Canadians and Canadian businesses this year. This is significant and substantial economic stimulus, equivalent to 1.4% of Canada's GDP. We have been ahead of the curve, managing the economy prudently and responsibly.
I note for the committee that the IMF World Economic Outlook, released last week, praised the Canadian government for its pre-emptive and ongoing measures, and I quote from the report: “A package of tax cuts has provided a timely fiscal stimulus...” and “... the government's structural policy agenda should help increase competitiveness and productivity growth to underpin longer-term prospects”. So clearly our tax reductions have helped place Canada in a position of strength and allowed us to respond more effectively during this period of economic uncertainty.
This includes historic business tax reductions announced in the October economic statement that will give Canada the lowest statutory tax rate in the G7 by 2012. It will also give Canada the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7, a goal that we will reach by 2010.
Budget 2008 also builds on the government's record of strong fiscal management. By 2012-13, total debt reduction by the government since coming into office will be more than $50 billion—that's five zero.
Commitment to sound financial management and debt reduction is never easy, but we are committed to eliminating generational inequity. We will not leave our children and grandchildren with the burden of paying for the excessive spending of the past. This bill reflects that commitment.
Budget 2008 also builds on the government's record of strong fiscal management. By 2012-2013, total debt reduction by the government since coming into office will be more than $50 billion. Commitment to sound financial management and debt reduction is never easy, but we are committed to eliminating generational inequity. We will not leave our children and grandchildren with the burden of paying for the excessive spending of the past. This bill reflects that commitment.
Mr. Chairman, with the limited time available to me today, I will only focus on a few of the key provisions in this bill.
Before I do that, I would like to mention Bill C-253, which is the private member's bill that proposed changes to the registered education savings plan, a proposal that could cost the government more than $900 million annually. I note that this cost estimate is a conservative one, as we have recently seen other estimates, like the one by Don Drummond of TD Bank, that the cost could be in the vicinity of $2 billion annually. Bill C-253 is a fiscally irresponsible measure that risks putting the federal government into deficit. In a time of global economic uncertainty, this is a risk our government is not willing to take. I would also note that a vast array of stakeholders, including prominent student groups such as the Canadian Federation of Students, have come out against this legislation. That is why Bill C-50 also includes language to protect the government's fiscal plan from the effects of Bill C-253.
Let me stress, however, that this government is supporting post-secondary education in many ways that are fiscally responsible and effective. It is in this spirit that our government has taken action in the past two budgets to improve RESPs by expanding the program and making it more flexible and more available to students. Budget 2008 also builds on past action to help students pay for their education by committing $123 million over four years, starting in 2009-10, to streamline, modernize, and improve access to the Canada student loans program. Secondly, it supports students with a $350 million investment in 2009-10, rising to $430 million by 2012-13 in the new Canada student grant program. This new program will be easy to use, transparent, and broad-based, providing certainty and predictability for Canadian families and their children.
Let me now turn, Chair, to the main measures in budget 2008 that are incorporated in Bill C-50. As I noted, budget 2008 builds on the actions taken in the October economic statement in a number of significant ways. It helps Canadians save with a new tax-free savings account. It provides further assistance for Canada's manufacturing and processing sector. It supports small and medium-sized businesses by improving the scientific research and experimental development tax incentive program. These measures, which I will now address in some detail, are just a few of the actions we are taking to help improve Canada's productivity, employment, and prosperity.
On the tax-free savings account, Canadians now have more money in their pockets as a result of our tax reductions. This is money where individuals, families, workers, and seniors can spend, invest, or save. To help Canadians realize even greater benefits from saving, our government is creating a new tax-free savings account, or TFSA. Christened a tax policy gem by the C.D. Howe Institute, the TFSA represents the single most important personal savings vehicle since the introduction of the RRSP in 1957. It's the first account of its kind in Canadian history. It is a flexible, registered, general purpose account that will allow Canadians to watch their savings grow tax free.
This is how it works. First, Canadians can contribute up to $5,000 every year to a registered tax-free savings account, plus carry forward any unused room to future years. Secondly, the investment income, including capital gains earned in the plan, will be exempt from any tax, even when withdrawn. Thirdly, Canadians can withdraw from the account at any time without restriction. Better yet, there are no restrictions on what they can save for. And finally, the full amount of withdrawals may be recontributed to a tax-free savings account in the future, to ensure no loss in a person's total savings room.
To make it easier for lower- and modest-income Canadians to save, there will be no clawbacks by the federal government. Neither the income or capital gains earned in a tax-free savings account nor the withdrawals from it will affect eligibility for federal income-tested benefits such as the guaranteed income supplement.
I'll say a few words about the manufacturing sector. The Canadian economy remains strong, yet we are mindful of the challenges before us: global uncertainty, volatile markets, and the difficulties confronting some of our traditional industries such as forestry and manufacturing. In budget 2007 we brought in a $1.3 billion temporary accelerated capital cost allowance. This initiative allows manufacturing businesses to fully write off investments in machinery and equipment over a two-year period.
In budget 2008, we extended this initiative for three years, on a declining basis. This will provide the manufacturing and processing sector with an additional $1 billion in tax relief. Manufacturers asked for this extension, and we delivered.
Through the community development trust, the government is also investing $1 billion to support communities and workers affected by international economic volatility. We are now working with each province and territory to identify priority areas for action and to seek their public commitment to support communities, consistent with the objectives of the trust.
Through the community development trust, the government is also investing $1 billion to support communities and workers affected by international economic volatility.
We are now working with each province and territory to identify priority areas for action and to seek their public commitment to support communities, consistent with the objectives of the trust.
I note the Province of Ontario has been particularly appreciative of the trust and their share of this funding of over $350 million. Indeed, the Ontario government has recently outlined its plans to spend all this money in their provincial budget, including programs to provide up-to-date training for Ontario's unemployed workers who require skills upgrading.
Our government made a commitment in budget 2007 to help promote research and development. In budget 2007 and in its science and technology strategy mobilizing science and technology to Canada's advantage, the government committed to identifying opportunities for improving the scientific research and experimental development tax incentive program, including its administration.
Budget 2008 proposes to enhance the availability and accessibility of the financial support for R and D to small and medium-sized Canadian-controlled private corporations. Specifically, Bill C-50 proposes to, first of all, increase the expenditure limit for the enhanced scientific research and experimental development investment tax credit; and secondly, extend the enhanced scientific research and experimental development investment tax credit to medium-sized companies by phasing out access to the enhanced benefits over increased taxable capital and taxable income ranges.
This proposed action will help Canada stay at the forefront of R and D, which in turn will help Canada continue to be competitive.
Mr. Chairman, these and other initiatives in Bill C-50 clearly illustrate our government's commitment to deliver results. Budget 2008 reflects the stability and responsible leadership that Canada needs for these uncertain times. It builds on efforts we have taken since 2006 to reward Canadians for their hard work, improve standards of living, and fuel economic growth.
Budget 2008 reflects the stability and responsible leadership that Canada needs for these uncertain times. It builds on efforts we have taken since 2006 to reward Canadians for their hard work, improve standards of living, and fuel economic growth.
I now welcome any questions you may have about this bill. I am joined, of course, by officials from Finance Canada, who I'm sure will be of assistance to fully respond to your questions.
Budget Implementation Act, 2008
April 4th, 2008 / 10:25 a.m.
Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC
Mr. Speaker, I also want to thank my committee chair for his encouragement, especially since we are from different parties.
I am very pleased to rise today to speak about implementing the budget. By implementing the budget, we will skirt several major issues for all Quebeckers. The Bloc Québécois has been expressing specific demands since January. Those demands have been very clear, and we will see that not one of them has been met in this budget.
The budget implementation bill aims to put in place various measures that were announced when the federal budget was presented on February 26. This bill has 10 different sections that amend various Canadian laws. Part 1 amends the Income Tax Act in order to create tax-free savings accounts, increase the number of years an individual can contribute to a registered education savings plan, increase tax deductions for northern residents, increase the tax credit for medical expenses, modify the eligibility requirements for the registered disability savings plan (RDSP), extend the mineral exploration tax credit by one year, modify the rules surrounding tax credits for charitable donations, readjust the tax threshold for corporate dividends and put in place various legislative provisions to prevent implementation of the Liberal Bill C-253, which would allow RDSP contributions to be tax-free.
Parts 2 and 3 of the bill amend the excise tax legislation to adjust the tax on various tobacco products and make certain medical services GST-exempt. Part 4 dissolves the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation. Part 5 amends the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act and the Canada Student Loans Act to modify the system and increase the number of students who are eligible for assistance. Part 6 amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to authorize the minister to give priority to certain applications and refuse others without having to provide justification to the applicants.
Part 7 creates the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board. The board's mandate is to set the premium rate and manage a financial reserve. In other words, employment insurance will be managed independently and any surpluses will no longer be paid into the government's consolidated revenue account. Parts 8 and 9 authorize payments to be made out of the 2007-08 surplus to various organizations and programs. This part of the budget implementation bill includes the payments for carbon capture in Saskatchewan and the $400 million fund to recruit new police officers. Part 10 amends various acts.
I want to reiterate the Bloc's position. This may seem like a good budget, but it has next to nothing for Quebec and Quebeckers. Clearly, the Conservative members from Quebec have done nothing to defend Quebec's interests. Obviously, a member of a party that defends Alberta, cannot defend Quebec's interests at the same time. Members will see this as I go along, and I will come back to this point at the end.
Budget 2008 may seem like a good budget, but it does not comply with the demands the Bloc Québécois made public on January 23, 2008. First, it does not provide any direct, immediate assistance for the manufacturing and forestry industries, which are in crisis. Tens of thousands of jobs have now been lost in Quebec, and this government has done nothing and does not intend to do anything in this budget.
The budget does nothing to help the workers and communities hit by the crisis. It contains no measures to reimburse seniors who have been shortchanged by the guaranteed income supplement program. It continues to take a polluter-paid approach to the Alberta oil companies, rather than a polluter-pay approach, and it refuses to make a 180-degree turn on the environment. The budget makes no major investment in culture and does not undo the ideological cuts made by the Conservative government. It reiterates the government's intention of creating a single securities commission.
For all these reasons, the Bloc Québécois is against this bill and will vote against it.
Let us talk about the problem with immigration. The minister is giving herself discretionary power. Bill C-50 offers far too much discretionary power to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in determining who can and cannot enter Canada. The minister is arguing that we have to be able to clear the backlog as quickly as possible in order to give priority to those who could alleviate the labour shortage in Canada and Quebec. She will be able to determine which persons will have priority to enter Canada based on the individual's training or occupation. The Conservatives are saying that training and occupation can negatively affect a person's chance at entering Canada. If persons applying to enter Canada have the misfortune of not having the training or occupations in demand in Canada, they may have to wait much longer than other immigrants to obtain a visa to enter the country.
Although the Bloc Québécois supports the idea of reducing the backlog, it is opposed to replacing the existing transparent and objective immigration system. The government might say that we have to be fair. The goal of any good legislation is to prevent things from getting out of control. Bill C-50 gives far too much power to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. This can open the door to abuse because there is nothing to counterbalance the minister's discretionary powers.
The Bloc Québécois prefers an immigration system based on a system that is fair, transparent and equitable for everyone. By comparison, in order to accelerate the contract awarding process, would it be acceptable for a minister to have discretionary power to offer contracts and circumvent the call for tenders system for the simple reason that waiting times need to be shortened? The answer is self-evident.
The Bloc Québécois is also deeply concerned about the fact that the federal government would no longer be required to review applications for permanent residency, on humanitarian grounds, from foreign nationals applying from outside Canada. In the absence of a real refugee appeal division, the option of entering Canada on humanitarian grounds is often the only alternative available to refugees. This is proof that the Conservatives are insensitive to the suffering endured by some people in the world. We have a humanitarian obligation to at least consider their requests.
Rather than completely overhauling the system and getting rid of a transparent system, there are other ways for the government to speed up case processing. It could increase staffing in foreign countries, and it could speed up the appointment of commissioners to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. Since coming to power, the Conservatives have slowed the commissioner appointment process down considerably. Delays in case processing in Canada are due primarily to staff shortages, to a shortage of commissioners. The Conservatives are partly to blame for this problem.
With Bill C-50, the Conservatives are trying to fix a problem that they themselves created. Since the Conservatives have formed the government, the selection committee has recommended some 60 qualified individuals to fill the vacant commissioner positions. When the Conservatives came to power, there were five vacancies at the IRB. Currently, there are just under 50 vacant commissioner positions out of 156.
There are two reasons for that gap. First, the Conservative government has been making fewer new appointments. Since coming to power in February 2006, the Conservatives have appointed just 27 commissioners. Moreover, they have renewed very few of the commissioners whose terms have expired. Since February 2006, only seven commissioners' appointments have been renewed.
I should explain that a commissioner's term lasts three years. What usually happens is that one-third of the commissioners are appointed every year to compensate for terms that expire that year. The problem is not a shortage of candidates. When the former chairperson of the commission, Jean-Guy Fleury, appeared before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, he said that the minister had a list of 80 candidates when Mr. Fleury left his job on March 16, 2007. The government is taking its own sweet time appointing commissioners.
Because there are so many vacancies at the IRB, case processing is slowing down again. The waiting list is starting to get longer. At the end of 2006, there were 23,495 applications pending, an increase of 3,000 applications over the previous year at that time. In the past year, the average application processing time has increased from 11.7 months to 14.3 months. These delays have resulted in three major problems. The Government of Quebec has to pay for social services until refugee claimants get an answer.
Thus, the longer it takes to complete the process, the more it costs the Quebec government.
In the case of family reunification, it is the families that must pay while awaiting the decision. The family must meet the needs of its family members who are applying to stay in Canada. Thus, the longer it takes to complete the process, the more it costs the families.
Some refugee claimants are denied status based on a criminal record or shady past. Thus, the longer it takes to complete the process, the greater the risk of security problems.
Experts are accusing Stephen Harper's government of delaying the appointments because the candidates proposed so far do not share the Conservative Party ideology.
Budget Implementation Act, 2008
April 3rd, 2008 / 3:30 p.m.
Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for York West for her extremely important and enlightening comments in her capacity as former minister of immigration and a very diligent member of Parliament on this file. She continues to remind us that it is extremely important for us to declare to Canadians why these changes are being made on the fly through a legislative piece that was brought back as a ways and means motion, a motion that I would suggest really is about covering the Conservative agenda with respect to important legislation.
Mr. Speaker, it is critical that you be in the chair today because I am on my feet not only because of this bill but because of what the bill is attempting to do.
The will of the House of Commons was expressed very clearly on March 5 of this year. This was after a ruling that you, Mr. Speaker, made some two years ago, but which was obviously lost on Conservative members, including the Minister of Finance. He assumed that once a bill was votable that it might have an impact with respect to lessening of tax that he should not consider this, not just once but in two separate budgets. He completely and utterly ignored and threw away prudent fiscal understanding of the implications of various bills which should have been routine and instead worked with several other people to try to suggest that my bill, Bill C-253, which would give a chance for families to save in a very real way, to save for post-secondary education, by making RESPs income tax deductible and completely forgot the principle of the importance of a decision made by the House.
The bill is nowhere near dead. As we know, the bill is before the other House and is now at second reading there. I hope it is given the equal consideration and time it takes to have an important piece of legislation passed.
It seems to me that when we are talking about the future of this country we may have differences of opinions as to how this country ought to be led and how it ought to be managed but the one thing we cannot disagree with are some of the imperatives.
Students face an incredible amount of debt. Over 50% of students right now face incredible crippling debts as they leave post-secondary education, long before they are able to pay any type of debt down. It is difficult enough for them to try to find a job.
In 10 years from now we know that the average cost of education, with four years in residence, will be $100,000. Given the average income of families, I do not see how it will be possible under the current regime to have a situation where so many people will not have access to the skills that come with higher education and the training that the global economy demands in order for Canada to remain competitive. It is a reality that we all as members of Parliament agree with.
I have spoken to several members of the Conservative Party who over the years supported this bill. Dare I say that they probably voted against the bill at the final reading, although the will of the House was expressed in much greater numbers, because they were jealous? They knew this was a policy that was good for the future of this country.
I have letter after letter and members of the House on all sides received letters from their constituents asking them time and time again to not kill the bill.
I am pleased to report that those rumours of the death of my bill, which were pronounced in some of the media and greatly exaggerated in some editorials, were only rumours. The same editorials also suggested, and I am hoping some of those editorialists are listening to this, that the bill was passed by stealth, that it required a royal recommendation. I will not benefit the author of several stories in one particular paper, but it was someone who actually thought that what had been done here by parliamentarians was tantamount to what happened in 1840, which is why Lord Durham had to be brought in.
There was no revolution here. There was instead a recognition and understanding that in a minority Parliament, in a setting where Canadians expect more from their parliamentarians, members of Parliament, backbench members of Parliament of all parties worked deliberatively, not for a day, not for a week, not for a month and not through gamesmanship, but over two years to ensure that a piece of legislation on RESP deductibility would in fact be put forward.
The Minister of Finance's own riding of Whitby—Oshawa is one that I represented and I know that the Minister of Finance will know that this is so popular an issue if this is in fact going to be an election issue, which it could very well be. I know full well that it is something that I am prepared to take to the door of his riding, a riding I once represented. I can tell the House that anyone who has families, anyone who has children, anyone who wants to live the dream of this country will know that this legislation is not only timely it is supportable.
A decision made by this House of Commons, by these members of Parliament in the majority, is simply thrown away because someone has suggested that somehow it will put the country into fiscal danger.
Who put us there?
The Minister of Finance has an obligation, quite apart from his pathetic critique of the bill on RESP deductibility, which many of his members support, to explain to Canadians how it is that he took a $13.2 billion surplus and blew it away overnight.
The member from British Columbia is looking this way.
What happens if we have another forest fire in that region of the country or floods in Quebec? What if we have a national disaster of some proportion that will cost us several hundred million dollars?
When we see that amount of money that could potentially put the country at risk, we have put ourselves in a very precarious financial situation and we have not planned for the future.
We know that south of the border the federal reserve chair, Mr. Bernanke, is suggesting that we are teetering on a recession. There is no doubt that there are implications for my province and for provinces across the country. This government did not plan. It had no plan. It is extinguishing the hopes and aspirations of young people to get access to a better job, to pay the kind of taxes, to grow the kind of country and to recognize that with an aging population we need to get this right and we need to get it right now.
This bill is not the be all end all. The bill that I proposed on the RESP, which this bill, Bill C-50, proposes to kill at some point down the road, is in fact decidedly a bill that is designed to use the issue of confidence before anything that the government disagrees with.
Yes, the hon. members will probably ask us whether we will be supporting this or not. That is still a few months off, perhaps even a few weeks off, but the one thing that is clear is the idea with respect to the RESP bill is something that we cannot ignore.
I am glad to hear the NDP members cat howling in the corner but they supported this bill. They have stood, and I applaud them for doing that, to support this bill because of its importance. The Bloc also supported this bill.
They know full well that it is very important for the future of our country that students have the opportunity to get an education regardless of cost. We also have an opportunity to help the provinces, which will give students more money to invest in their futures and to go on to universities, colleges or apprenticeships.
We must not fail the next generation. Universities that want to increase their capacity for investing in infrastructure, human and physical, will not need to go cap in hand to the provinces and say that they want to raise tuition fees. There is a greater certainty now that this vehicle addresses what ordinary average families have been looking for.
In one fell swoop, with this particular legislation, the Minister of Finance and the House leader crafted a bill to try to kill this. We can talk about the gamesmanship today, but what we have is an attempt at vandalizing and compromising the future of this nation.
We have a higher obligation to serve the interests of our constituents and to help somehow, in some way, to build a stronger nation, a stronger nation where people can get access to the kind of opportunities that this generation, many of us, have been blessed with.
Previous members who have come here have always tried to build a better House and to find ways in which we can come together to find more creative means to ensuring Canada can meet the challenges of tomorrow.
I am saying this because if we were to sit down and talk to grandparents, parents and people in our communities who are struggling day in and day out to make ends meet, we would hear that there is a real and effective understanding of what they are trying to do, which is to achieve a better future for their children.
I would implore the Conservative Party, which has quietly said that it loves this bill, to actually take the time to consider what it has done. It has actually tried to reverse a position taken only a month ago by this Parliament which is widely popular with Canadians.
There will be critics either way but I would ask the Conservative Party to reconsider what it has done because I think it is in everyone's interest, partisanship aside, to ensure that good legislation, whether it is passed by backbenchers or passed by the government, does in fact have the ability to proceed.
I call on all members to work together cooperatively. This is for our future, for our children and for our Canada.
Ways and Means Motion No. 10--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
March 13th, 2008 / 11:45 a.m.
The Speaker Peter Milliken
I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East on March 11 concerning the admissibility of the ways and means motion to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 26 and to enact provisions to preserve the fiscal plan set out in that budget for which the hon. Minister of Finance gave notice on that day.
I would like to thank the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East for initially bringing this matter to the attention of the House, as well as for his subsequent intervention, and I would also like to thank the hon. member for Markham—Unionville, the hon. government House leader, and the hon. House leader for the Bloc Québécois for their submissions.
The member for Pickering—Scarborough East, in raising the matter, claimed that Ways and Means Motion No. 10, standing on the order paper in the name of the Minister of Finance, seeks to have the House decide upon a matter which it had already voted on.
That vote took place on March 5, 2008, when Bill C-253, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (deductibility of RESP contributions) was adopted at third reading. To this issue, the member for Markham—Unionville has added the contention that Ways and Means Motion No. 10, by including provisions related to Bill C-253, seeks to implement a measure that does not flow from the most recent budget, thus, he alleges, enlarging the usual parameters of budget implementation ways and means motions.
He further contended that this was a backdoor attempt to circumvent the rights of private members as provided for in the rules governing this category of business.
For the sake of clarity, I should state that sections 45 to 48 of Ways and Means Motion No. 10 are the subject of this point of order. They are conditional amendments that seek to amend or repeal the amendments to the Income Tax Act contained in Bill C-253 should the latter receive royal assent. The stated objective of these ways and means measures is, to quote the Minister of Finance at page 3971 of the Debates, “--to protect Canada's fiscal framework”.
The government House leader asserted that the broad scope of Ways and Means Motion No. 10, and the wide range of taxation and fiscal measures it seeks to implement are clear evidence that the motion is fundamentally a different matter than was Bill C-253, and therefore, that it should be allowed to proceed.
In support of his arguments a number of procedural authorities were cited, some of which I will return to later in this ruling.
Let me first deal with the argument that the inclusion of provisions regarding Bill C-253 in Ways and Means Motion No. 10 does not respect our conventions regarding the content of such motions.
The Chair wishes to remind the House that the budget speech and bills based on ways and means motions tabled at a later date are not necessarily linked. House of Commons Procedure and Practice states at page 748:
While a Budget is normally followed by the introduction of Ways and Means bills, such bills do not have to be preceded by a Budget presentation. Generally, taxation legislation can be introduced at any time during a session; the only prerequisite being prior concurrence in a Ways and Means motion.
At page 759, Marleau and Montpetit goes on to state:
The adoption of a Ways and Means motion stands as an order of the House either to bring in a bill or bills based on the provisions of that motion or to propose an amendment or amendments to a bill then before the House.
That text footnotes examples from 1971, 1973, and 1997. Furthermore, in the case before us, it must be noted that the title of Ways and Means Motion No. 10 states clearly that it not only implements certain provisions of the February 26, 2008 budget, but that it also aims to:
--enact provisions to preserve the fiscal plan set out in that budget.
On this point, namely the objection that the motion includes provisions that were not contained in the budget, the Chair must conclude that Ways and Means Motion No. 10 is not procedurally flawed.
Let us now turn to the argument that the decision of the House to adopt Bill C-253 at third reading must stand since the House cannot be asked to pronounce itself again in the same session on the same subject.
The Chair wishes to remind hon. members that while a part of Ways and Means Motion No. 10 touches on Bill C-253, the question that the House will actually be asked to vote on today, assuming it is called today, is not the same as the question it agreed to on March 5, 2008, when it adopted the bill at third reading.
In this regard the Chair has found a number of examples where a bill repeals sections of an act already amended by another bill adopted by the House in the same session.
For example, in the first session of the 38th Parliament, Bill C-18, An Act to amend the Telefilm Canada Act and another Act, and Bill C-43, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005, both proposed to amend subsection 85(1) of the Financial Administration Act.
In addition, there are also examples of bills proceeding concurrently even though some of their provisions are dependent upon one another.
As mentioned by the government House leader, Mr. Speaker Lamoureux ruled on February 24, 1971, on such a situation at page 3712 of the Debates. He stated:
There is, therefore, in my view, nothing procedurally wrong in having before the House at the same time concurrent or related bills which might be in contradiction with one another either because of the terms of the proposed legislation itself or in relation to proposed amendments.
This is further supported by the 23rd edition of Erskine May at page 580, which affirms that:
There is no rule against the amendment or the repeal of an act of the same session.
Most compelling are the rulings of Mr. Speaker Fraser from June 8, 1988, and I refer to the Debates at pages 16252 to 16258, and on November 28, 1991, pages 5513 to 5514, both of which were quoted by the government House leader. These rulings clearly support the view that the progress of any bill flowing from Ways and Means Motion No. 10 rests with the House.
As Mr. Speaker Fraser put it on November 28, 1991:
The legislative process affords ample opportunity for amending proposed legislation during the detailed clause by clause study in committee and again at the report stage in the House.
Insofar as this process affects private members' business as a category of business or indeed the rights of individual members to propose initiatives, I must point out that it is not the Speaker but the House which ultimately decides such matters.
For the reasons stated above, the Chair finds that Ways and Means Motion No. 10, as tabled by the Minister of Finance, may proceed in its current form.
Once again, I would like to thank the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East for having raised this matter.
Ways and Means Motion No. 10
Points of Order
March 12th, 2008 / 3:30 p.m.
Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON
Mr. Speaker, tempting as it is to address the other issues raised, I have only addressed the new ones. Tempting as it is to seek to appeal your earlier ruling on the admissibility of Bill C-253, I will resist the temptation to do that at this point, because that is of course not what the intention is of the ways and means motion.
The ways and means motion is quite clear. Its intention is very different. It is not indirect. It is very direct, contrary to what my friend said. It is a direct effort to repeal Bill C-253, something that is entirely proper for us to do in this fashion.
We respect the ruling that you have made, notwithstanding our submissions on the admissibility of Bill C-253 originally. This does not seek to question that. This simply seeks to launch an initiative properly through the ways and means motion and the budget implementation bill to repeal Bill C-253 because of its detrimental impact on the fiscal framework. The fact is that it is entirely contrary to the fiscal framework that this House adopted in the past, although very few members of that party participated in the vote on it.
Ways and Means Motion No. 10
Points of Order
March 12th, 2008 / 3:30 p.m.
Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise once again on this very important point of order.
Despite the citations by the hon. House leader, I think it is fairly clear, Sir, that your decision to this House of Commons on November 1, 2006, declaring that Bill C-253 standing in my name was indeed receivable and was in fact in order, is something that this House relied on.
Mr. Speaker, you will know that I have followed the procedures of this House. Not only did this House dutifully vote on the bill at the second reading, but it also passed in committee. It also passed at report stage, concurrence and third reading. I am very concerned about the ability for the government to now challenge, by an indirect means, a decision made by this House.
There are two issues. One is an issue of concern to me as to what I would refer to, and you would be familiar with, as detrimental reliance. We rely on your decision and the Chair to make a decision that is in fact applicable in determining whether a private member's bill can indeed proceed.
I would submit that this bill has done just that. Unless the hon. House leader is actually suggesting a challenge to your ruling, I would suggest that you have no choice but to rule the position of the ways and means motion by the government House leader and by the Minister of Finance, who has clearly linked this to Bill C-253, as indeed out of order.
Mr. Speaker, if we do not have that reliance on your decisions carrying through, it says much about future decisions. The hon. House leader is in fact trying to create a precedent through the back door, knowing full well that once a bill in the same session has been treated in this House, it cannot be undone and it cannot be reconsidered.
Mr. Speaker, I would submit to you again that your ruling of November 1, 2006, in which you declared Bill C-253 a bill that was indeed in order, must stand. Indeed, debates on the bill have gone on in this House in which the hon. minister and members have participated, and several members from that side of the House and that party supported the bill in principle at second reading. It seems to me that if you have made a ruling you must stand by that ruling and therefore rule this rather nefarious attempt by the minister and the House leader as indeed out of order.
Ways and Means Motion No. 10
Points of Order
March 12th, 2008 / 3:25 p.m.
Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the official opposition finance critic. It seems to me that including in the ways and means notice tabled this week provisions directly or indirectly affecting Bill C-253 is politically abusive and unparliamentary.
It must be kept in mind that the intent of the ways and means notice is to implement the budget implementation bill tabled on February 26. The ways and means notice was tabled on March 11, but Bill C-253 was passed by this House between those two dates. Had the bill been passed after March 11, the Minister of Finance and the government would not have been in a position to include provisions that short-circuit the majority decision of this House. In my opinion, it is totally contrary to the rules to include in the ways and means notice any provisions relating to Bill C-253.
If the government is dissatisfied, it has other parliamentary methods at its disposal for reopening the debate. At this point in time, however, it would be totally abusive and unparliamentary to include in the ways and means notice provisions relating to Bill C-253. Moreover, the government has made no secret of the fact that the ways and means notice includes provisions to override Bill C-253. We do not want to hear that the ways and means notice contains some elements that are substantially different from Bill C-253, because the government has admitted publicly that it would use the ways and means notice to override the majority decision by this House.
As well, the figures presented by the leader of the government in the House of Commons are pretty well ridiculous. If they were on the up and up, I fail to understand why the Finance Department and the Minister of Finance did not raise them at the Standing Committee on Finance during examination of Bill C-253. I was there, and the department people were asked to give a figure for the cost of the measure proposed by the Liberal member who tabled Bill C-253, but no reply was ever forthcoming. That was last spring.
How can it be that, 365 days or so later, they have not been able to let all parliamentarians know that this measure would cost $900 million? I hold no faith in that figure. It cropped up once the House had passed the bill. It is also very clear that the bill has other processes to go through, in the Senate in particular, and will probably not affect the Minister of Finance's budgetary framework for the current year.
For all these reasons, it seems to me that we are faced here with a tactic that is unparliamentary and politically abusive. As my Liberal colleague has done, I would request that you find out of order all those sections which, directly or indirectly, with Bill C-253.
Ways and Means Motion No. 10
Points of Order
March 12th, 2008 / 3:10 p.m.
Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON
Mr. Speaker, I know they like to come and talk but not bother to vote. At least they could let other people talk sometimes. I will make the best effort to continue, notwithstanding the interruptions.
In terms of the question, the Minister of Finance has been clear that that intention reflected in the ways and means motion will also be carried forward in the budget implementation bill. The ways and means motion corresponds exactly to what will be in the budget implementation bill. It is not a question of dealing with the statutory measure through the ways and means motion. It is a question of dealing with it through the budget implementation bill and creating, through the ways and means motion, the authority to do that and proceed with that.
On the other questions that were raised yesterday, Mr. Speaker, you heard submissions from the member for Pickering—Scarborough East in which he argued that the government's ways and means motion tabled yesterday was out of order based on the rule of anticipation. He argued that the previous consideration of Bill C-253 made it impossible to now consider the ways and means motion.
Marleau and Montpetit observes at page 476:
The moving of a motion was formerly subject to the ancient “rule of anticipation” which is no longer strictly observed.
In fact, if we read on, they go on to observe that it is even stronger than that. The rule of anticipation is not just “no longer strictly observed” in the Canadian Parliament, it never really was. Also at page 476, they write:
While the rule of anticipation is part of the Standing Orders in the British House of Commons, it has never been so in the Canadian House of Commons.
I would repeat and underline, “it has never been so in the Canadian House of Commons”.
They go on to conclude:
Furthermore, references to attempts made to apply this British rule to Canadian practice are not very conclusive.
Simply put, the argument posed by the member for Pickering—Scarborough East might succeed were he in the British House of Commons but it cannot succeed under Canadian parliamentary practice. There is no barrier to considering a different item touching the same subject matter, and most certainly the budget bill and this Bill C-253 cannot be considered to be two bills similar in substance.
Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms of the House of Commons of Canada clearly sorts out the Canadian rule at paragraph 655, found on page 198. It states as follows:
A bill is in order when substantially different from another bill on the same matter previously disposed of during the session.
That rule applies clearly to the situation at hand. The budget implementation bill is substantially different from another bill previously disposed of during the session, that being Bill C-253. In fact, the difference is so great that the government opposed Bill C-253. It is introducing and obviously supports the budget implementation bill.
Clearly, it is substantially different, not just in its breadth of subject matter but also in the substance of its effect.
The ways and means motion and budget bill are significantly broader than Bill C-253, applying to a wide range of taxation and fiscal measures. They are also substantially different in the impact they will have on the finances of the public treasury and the effect they will have on the narrow question of how RESPs operate.
In addition, and putting it another way, the ways and means motion in part is reversing a decision the House made with respect to Bill C-253. The precedence for proceeding this way is as follows. At page 496 of Marleau and Montpetit, it states:
The House may reopen discussion on an earlier decision...only if the intention is to revoke it;
Standing Order 18 basically says the same thing.
Beauchesne's Citation 592(1) states:
A resolution may be rescinded and an order of the House discharged, notwithstanding the rule that a question, being once made and carried in the affirmative or negative, cannot be questioned again....
Technically indeed, the rescinding of a vote is the matter of a new question; the form being to read the resolution of the House and to move that it be rescinded; and thus the same question which had been resolved in the affirmative is not again offered, although its effect is annulled.
There have been examples of orders being rescinded, revoked and discharged that could be found in Journals of May 7, 1898, page 269; August 1, 1942, page 708; November 22, 1944, page 923; November 24, 1944, page 927; and December 23, 1988, the House adopted an order revoking an order with respect to the sittings of the House which can be found at page 80 of the Journals of that day.
Therefore, repealing, rescinding and revoking a previous decision of the House is considered a different question.
Rule 655 of Beauchesne's can be seen to be definitive in determining that a ways and means motion and a budget bill based upon it are properly in order before the House. The roots of the rule in Beauchesne's, let us call it the Canadian rule, go back to just after Confederation.
A ruling of the Speaker on June 4, 1872, is exactly on point. The question the House was considering was an effort to legislate that one could not sit both in the House of Commons and in a provincial legislature at the same time, but two different efforts to do the same thing in a slightly different way were allowed to be considered in the same Parliament. This was found acceptable by the Speaker, who overruled an objection raised by the MP for Bothwell, who had argued, “that the principle involved in the bill is precisely the same one as the one voted on before”. More particular, he argued, “it proposes to deal with the same subject, and disqualify as candidates for election to the House of Commons the same class of persons”.
The Speaker found that was a “technical argument and that substantially the questions were different”.
As an aside, it is fascinating to read those Journals to see Sir John A. Macdonald's name listed among those voting in the majority at that time on that question in favour of the measure opposed by the Liberals of the day. It is also fascinating to see on the same day the vote on amendments from the Liberals seeking to ban any shareholder in the Canadian Pacific Railway from standing for Parliament, a discriminatory and unfair measure that the House wisely rejected that day.
However, returning to the main point, that ruling in 1872 is the anchor for the Canadian rule, different from the British, that a substantially different bill can deal with the same subject matter previously disposed of during the same session, which is exactly the case here.
The Canadian rule has been reaffirmed in many Speakers' rulings in the years that have followed. On February 24, 1971, Speaker Lamoureux restated the rule quite conclusively. He stated:
There is, therefore, in my view nothing procedurally wrong in having before the House at the same time concurrent or related bills which might be in contradiction with one another either because of the terms of the proposed legislation itself or in relation to the proposed amendments.
Related bills yet in contradiction with one another and, thus, substantially different, therefore, are entirely in order, just as is the case here.
In another decision on June 8, 1988, the Speaker reviewed all the relevant precedents and concluded as follows:
...I must declare that the practice of one bill amending another bill still before the House or not yet given Royal Assent is an acceptable one.
Again, this applies exactly here. Bill C-253 has not yet been given royal assent and the ways and means motion on budget bills seeking to affect it are acceptable under this rule.
The essence of the Canadian rule on those matters can be summarized by saying that the Speaker is never empowered to block such bills through a rule of anticipation. It is a question for the House of Commons to decide.
As Speaker Fraser ruled in 1992:
The Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons has not been given any specific authority over the form or content of omnibus bills.
Mr. Speaker, you are not empowered to do what the member for Pickering—Scarborough East is asking you to do by ruling on the content of the ways and means motion and the budget implementation bill. It is up to this House to pass judgment on the content of the motion and the bill.
I will re-emphasize once again that in a minority Parliament it is fully within the power of those members in opposition to pass that judgment contrary to the will of the government if they see fit to do so. They are seeking not to do so and seeking, instead, Mr. Speaker, to have you do that for them.
For the integrity of the government's fiscal plan, the government believes that if Bill C-253 becomes law, then it must be repealed in order to implement the provisions of the budget. We are talking about $900 million to $2 billion in lost revenues annually for the federal government and $450 million to $1 billion in lost revenues annually for provincial governments.
When the House adopted Bill C-253, it had not yet seen the detailed proposal that is contingent on repealing an earlier proposal. I see nothing procedurally wrong with the proceeding on the matter. One recent example is Bill C-27, the identity theft bill, which includes a coordinating amendment that would effectively replace the provisions of Bill C-299, a private member's bill currently before the Senate on identity theft, with the provisions in Bill C-27.
Ultimately, it is up to the House to decide. Speakers have consistently ruled that they do not have the authority to divide a bill and the question of the contents of a bill is best left as a matter for the House to decide.
Mr. Speaker, the final authority I would draw your attention to is the ruling of Speaker Fraser on November 28, 1991. It concluded, as well, that these issues are matters for the House to decide. The bill in question in 1991 was Bill C-35, an act to correct certain anomalies, inconsistencies, archaisms and errors in the Statutes of Canada. It proposed to amend, under certain conditions, a bill that was at second reading, a bill that had just received third reading, two other bills that were at third reading and two bills that were at committee.
The Speaker noted:
The legislative process affords ample opportunity for amending proposed legislation....
Speaker Fraser's observations in 1991 are a worthy guide to your role here, Mr. Speaker.
He concluded that:
It is the duty of this Chair to safeguard the rights of the Members and the House to make fully informed decisions on the matters before it....
The legislative process offers ample opportunity....
Then he goes on to review the options and scenarios, such as amendments, refusal, approval, further study and more, but ultimately he concludes:
All of these avenues offer Members full remedy to this conditional approach to legislating should they object to it. That decision rests with the House.
I repeat that key conclusion: that decision rests with this House.
The authorities are clear. Beauchesne's states the Canadian rule authoritatively:
A bill is in order when substantially different from another bill on the same matter previously disposed of during the same session.
Yes, the ways and means motion and the budget implementation bill do, in small part, touch the same subject matter as Bill C-253, but they are substantially different: different in scope, different in breadth of issues, and different in the substance of what they seek to do on the limited subject matter that they do have in common.
That difference in substance renders the ways and means motion and budget bill in order and properly a question to be decided by this House, not, with the greatest of respect, by you, Mr. Speaker. It may not be the British way, but it is the Canadian way from the time of Sir John A. and the days when he represented the fine constituency of Kingston in this House, which you represent today.
Ways and Means Motion No. 10
Points of Order
March 12th, 2008 / 3:10 p.m.
Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform
Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of points. First, I will respond briefly to the new arguments that have been raised by my friend for Markham—Unionville.
We need to be clear. The government is in no way precluded from putting in a ways and means motion for measures that do not require a ways and means motion. In fact, most budget ways and means motions have other measures in them. That is certainly the case.
The arguments that the member made with regard to budget implementation bills being narrowly circumscribed to matters that were only in the budget speech is clearly wrong.
Earlier this year we voted on a budget implementation bill which included all the provisions of the fall fiscal and economic update, a series of measures that were obviously not covered in the budget of 2007 and yet were included and, quite properly, approved by this House and, I might add, with the cooperation of the official opposition in its usual manner of abstaining on the question.
That is the fundamental nub of all these issues. These are matters that are properly decided by Parliament. They are not matters that need to be put to you, Mr. Speaker, to decide. They are properly decided by Parliament, particularly in a minority Parliament like this where we do know that all that party needs to do to have the success it is seeking is to simply vote on the matters before it.
From that perspective, I would simply put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that the arguments the member has made to you on that question do not have a basis. It is entirely appropriate and a well-established practice of this House to deal with a range of matters.
On the question of it being dealt with solely in the ways and means motion, the minister has been quite clear. The purpose of the ways and means motion is expressed clearly in its title, which addresses, as an adjunct in addition to the budget itself and implementing it, the question of preserving the fiscal framework, which is reflected in the budget.
The question of the private member's bill, Bill C-253, is that of undermining the fiscal framework, which is the essence of the budget that is created at the same time by potentially putting this country into deficit through funding, through spending or through a loss of revenues that is not contemplated in the budget. The purpose of it is of course--