House of Commons Hansard #36 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was mines.

Topics

Highways
Oral Question Period

November 24th, 1997 / 2:55 p.m.

Reform

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, each year the government opposite takes $5 billion out of the motoring public in fuel taxes. Of that $5 billion it returns to the provinces something in the order of 6%. As a result we are finding provinces going out in co-operation and tolling roads.

My question is for the Minister of Transport. The Canadian Automobile Association has stated on numerous occasions that 20% of the taxes being returned from that fuel tax would solve our problem. When will the minister return 20%—

Highways
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The Minister of Transport.

Highways
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the federal government has been involved in assisting the provinces with highway construction since 1919 so in effect a national highways program has been going on for many years.

The question is not should we have such a program but what conditions should we attach to its continuation and how much money is involved. On the specific question of taxes this is something I am sure that other colleagues will deal with, perhaps the Minister of Finance, at a later date.

There is no question that we have a program. We have just announced the extension of the agreement with New Brunswick. I hope we can continue that over the years.

Pay Equity
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, the President of Treasury Board has always placed a ceiling of $1.3 billion on any pay equity settlement with its employees.

The Minister responsible for the Status of Women, however, has just stated that the federal government apparently has more money available to end this dispute.

So why is the President of the Treasury Board delaying settlement of the pay equity issue, when we now know he has more money in his pocket to resolve matters?

Pay Equity
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Hull—Aylmer
Québec

Liberal

Marcel Massé President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the issue of pay equity, last April we offered a settlement that would have amounted to $842 million.

We increased this offer by $500 million between April and August, and during that time the union made no concessions with respect to its demands. Negotiating consists basically of two parties reaching a compromise.

We are waiting for the union to make a reasonable compromise, and we will then be ready to negotiate a solution.

Pay Equity
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleagues, that would bring to a close our question period.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleagues, I would like to draw to your attention the presence in the gallery of my brother Speaker, the Honourable Dale Lovick, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Reform

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point or order with respect to the main estimates which were tabled in the House on Wednesday, October 1, 1997 and which have just been returned from committee study and are to be concurred in shortly.

My point of order concerns irregularities with certain of these estimates. However, I would like to point out that as Madam Speaker Sauvé said on June 12, 1981, as recorded in Hansard at page 10546, it matters not whether the amount spent is a large sum or simply $1. It is the parliamentary process to which I am objecting today.

In this regard I would like to bring to your attention several votes which I believe to be out of order and inappropriate for inclusion in the subsequent appropriation bill flowing from these estimates.

Going as far back as 1971, members of this House have repeatedly objected to the government's use of the estimates as a vehicle to amend legislation and to seek authority to spend money on programs that have not received legislative authority. Your distinguished predecessors, Mr. Speaker, have consistently ruled in support of these arguments for striking votes from the estimates on March 10, 1971, March 22, 1977, December 7, 1977, March 25, 1981, June 12, 1981, June 21, 1981, March 21, 1983 and March 21, 1984.

Mr. Speaker Jerome in a landmark ruling on March 22, 1977, at page 4221 of the Debates, stated that the government received from Parliament the authority to act through the passage of legislation and receives the money to finance such authorized action through the passage by Parliament of an Appropriation Act.

This decision flowed in part from rulings of Mr. Speaker Lamoureux who, on February 5, 1973, at pages 94 and 95 of Journals, stated that the authorizing bill must become law before the authorization of the relevant estimates by the Appropriation Act.

That legislation is a necessary precondition to sanction grants of supply is also based upon ancient constitutional usage as Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice 25th edition states at page 689.

Flowing from early British laws and customs through the Constitution Act and on to Standing Order 80(1), it is claimed that all aids and supplies granted to the sovereign are the sole gift of the House of Commons.

Although the task of governing belongs to the crown, it cannot possibly provide as many services to the people unless the funds in the consolidated revenue fund are made available to it. These funds can only be made available to the crown by the House of Commons.

The House insists that the crown, when requesting funds, must specify the particular purposes for which the funds are required. It is therefore this claim to the right of control over the purse strings of the nation that we must defend vigorously and retain for this House alone.

In this defence I now bring to your attention, Mr. Speaker, the fact that eight votes in the main estimates are not properly before this House. Five votes in the estimates seek parliamentary approval for funds which have not yet received legislative authority. Three votes are attempting to legislate through the application of the Appropriation Acts.

First, the Department of Agriculture and Agri-food in its vote No. 1, operating expenditures, has an activity entitled “Policy and Farm Programs” which, among other things, concerns the Canadian Wheat Board.

As outlined in its part III, expenditure plans, the department will implement changes which centre on revamping the Canadian Wheat Board. However, no such legislation has been passed to permit this action.

Such changes were introduced in the last Parliament as Bill C-72. The bill only reached report stage before dissolution. It was, however, reintroduced as Bill C-4 on September 25, 1997 and, as of this date, has not received royal assent.

I should note here that the part II book, commonly referred to as the blue book, listing the estimates as they will appear in a subsequent Appropriation Act, does not give sufficient detail concerning each vote. Thus, it is necessary to refer to the part IIIs for details of departmental plans and priorities with respect to the funds they are requesting this House to approve.

We must use the part II book since it mirrors the proposed Appropriation Act approving the estimates.

As it is difficult to determine precisely the amount of any particular item within each respective vote, I therefore ask you, Mr. Speaker, to strike vote No. 1 of the Department of Agriculture and Agri-food from the estimates since it contains funds to finance programs which have yet to receive parliamentary approval.

Second, the Immigration and Refugee Board under vote 15, program expenditures, in its convention refugee determination division activity, has indicated that it would begin single member hearings in mid-1997 which is in conflict with the Immigration Act.

Legislation that was introduced in the last Parliament, Bill C-49 to amend section 69.1 of the Immigration Act, died on the Order Paper before receiving second reading. As a result, the board, as indicated in part III and inherently in part II in the estimates, is operating outside legislative authority for its funds as presented in the estimates.

Again, since we must use the part II book containing the estimates and as it is difficult to determine precisely the amount of this particular item within the vote, I therefore ask you, Mr. Speaker, to remove vote 15 of the Immigration and Refugee Board from the estimates.

A similar situation is occurring at Environment Canada. Within its vote 1, operating expenditures, the department has activities called “healthy environment” and “safety from environmental hazards” wherein it has set a key initiative to fully implement the new Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the Canada Endangered Species Protection Act. Neither of these two pieces of legislation has received royal assent.

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act was introduced in the last Parliament as Bill C-74 on December 10, 1996 but did not receive second reading. The Canadian Endangered Species Protection Act, Bill C-65 in the previous Parliament, reached report stage before Parliament was dissolved.

Again, since we must use the part II book containing the estimates and as it is difficult to determine precisely the amount of this particular item within the vote, I therefore ask you, Mr. Speaker, to strike vote 1 of Environment Canada from the estimates.

The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, within its Indian and Inuit affairs program at vote 5, operating expenditures, under the sub-activity of lands and trusts services, is working toward devolution and economic opportunities through sustainable development of natural resources with the help of various pieces of legislation that were introduced in the last Parliament but did not receive royal assent.

Some of these bills have been reintroduced, namely C-6, Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and C-8, the Canada-Yukon Oil and Gas Act. However, the modifications to the Indian Act, formerly Bill C-79, have yet to be presented to this House.

Again, we must use the part II book containing the estimates, and since it is difficult to determine precisely the amount of this particular item within the vote, I therefore ask you, Mr. Speaker, to delete vote 5 of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development from the estimates.

My fifth point concerns Transport Canada. The department's vote 1, operating expenditures, under its business lines entitled policy and programs and divestitures, is asking the House to appropriate funds from the consolidated revenue fund to, among other matters, incorporate Canada's major ports, establish a not for profit corporation to run the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system and to permit pilotage authorities to recover all the costs of their services in addition to winding down the Canada Ports Corporation.

A bill to authorize these undertakings was introduced in the last Parliament as Bill C-44, but it only reached the third reading stage on April 16, 1997 before dying on the Order Paper. Today, Bill C-9, a repeat of the former Bill C-44, is at report stage and Bill C-9 includes clause 197 which repeals the Canada Ports Corporation.

The departmental estimates show that payments to the Canada Ports Corporation have been reduced to zero which indicates that the department is in fact implementing C-9, which leads me to believe that the other items of Bill C-9 which require the expenditure of funds is also contained within the vote. With the corporation's budget being reduced to zero, how else would the department be able to operate?

Once again we must use the part II book that contains the estimates. As it is difficult to determine precisely the amount of this item within the vote, I therefore ask Mr. Speaker to strike vote 1 of the Department of Transport from the estimates.

The next group of three departments and agencies indicated in part III seeks parliamentary approval for funds for operational needs but in doing so is amending legislation through the use of an appropriation act. In this regard I refer to Speaker Jerome's ruling on March 22, 1977 at page 4220 of Debates when he said that changes in legislation ought to be dealt with by legislation and not by supply items.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, this point of order could have far reaching effects. I would like to hear what the hon. member has to say. If you have other meetings I would invite you please to use the lobbies. I would very much like to hear this point of order and I am being a little distracted. I return to the hon. member for St. Albert.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Reform

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, first is the Canadian International Trade Tribunal which through vote 35 on program expenditures is extending its mandate with the implementation of the agreement on government procurement. To date there is no legislative authority to extend the tribunal's mandate, as set out in the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act, allowing it to hear complaints pursuant to this agreement which has yet to be brought before Parliament for confirmation.

Again we must use the part II book containing the estimates. As it is difficult to determine precisely the amount of this item within the vote, I therefore ask Mr. Speaker to strike vote 35 of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal from the estimates.

A second irregularity comes from the Department of Public Works and Government Services. Under the supply and services program vote 15, program expenditures, is the Canada Communication Group's revolving fund, which is a special operating agency. It was established in 1990 in part pursuant to section 29.1 of the Financial Administration Act and is responsible for the government's printing and publishing operations.

In March 1997 the department officially privatized the Canada Communications Group. Parliament is now being asked to increase the CCG revolving fund by $21 million due to the sale of the printing services and distribution logistics services of CCG according to part I book of the estimates.

Privatization of the government's printing operation requires amendments to the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, section 19. This section requires that the minister appoint an officer of his department as the Queen's printer for Canada responsible for printing and publishing operations of the Government of Canada. To date no such legislation has been introduced into this House to amend this act. The department is in effect legislating through the use of an appropriation act.

It is important to note that although the CCG item in the estimates is listed as a statutory item, it is not placed there just for information, as used to be the case with previous legislative items such as salaries for ministers.

I draw attention to the fact that since 1991, section 29(1) of the Financial Administration Act allowed revolving fund agencies to use appropriation acts to change the purposes and draw down limits, thereby giving Parliament the right to be involved in their affairs. As a consequence, I ask that this item, as indicated at page 1-58 of the part II book of estimates, be deleted.

Finally, there is an unusual establishment of the Canada Information Office and its vote 40, program expenditures. This office was established by order in council on July 9, 1996 under the authority of the Financial Administration Act, section 3(1)(a) by renaming the voluntary action program as the Canada Information Office and placing it under schedule I(1) of the Financial Administration Act.

The Financial Administration Act permits the governor in council to add the name of any division or branch of the public service to schedule I(1). However, the voluntary action program was neither a division nor a branch of either the department of communications or the Department of Canadian Heritage.

In addition, it should be noted that the Financial Administration Act uses the word add, not the word create, thereby justifying my argument.

Furthermore, I would argue establishing an agency by an order in council certainly does not meet the definition of legislative authority as expressed by Speaker Jerome who said in part on December 7, 1977, as recorded in Hansard at page 1642 that the legislative process requires three readings, committee stage and, in other words, ample time for members to participate in debate and amendment.

The Canada Information Office subsequently sought to obtain legislative status through the supplementary estimates in an appropriation act. Nevertheless on March 22, 1977 at page 4220 of Hansard , Speaker Jerome ruled that supplementary estimates ought not to be used as a means to seek funds for new programs, as these supplementary estimates are only for short duration.

This point was reiterated by Madam Speaker Sauvé on June 12, 1981 at page 10546 of Debates when she said that the Appropriation Act is not the place to seek authority to do something such as to establish a new program. Rather, that act should only seek authority to spend money for a program that has been previously authorized by statute.

Again, as quoted in Beauchesne's sixth edition at citation 938, she expanded on this on March 21, 1983 at page 23968 of Hansard by declaring that the previous amendment of legislation by an appropriation act cannot justify a repeated use of an item in the estimates to amend legislation.

Therefore, in accordance with these Speaker's rulings, I ask that vote 40 of the Canada Information Office be deleted from the estimates.

I must at this time indicate my dismay with the practices of this government. The main estimates for the fiscal year 1997-98 were tabled in this House on February 20, 1997.

Because Parliament was dissolved, the main estimates were not approved by June in accordance with the standing orders. As a consequence, the government had to reintroduce in this Parliament the estimates but it reintroduced the same old package on October 1, 1997, even though it was quite aware that not all its legislative program on which these estimates were based had been completed.

In my view this action is an expression of this government's contempt of this House which requires this House to defend vigorously its sole right to grant supply. I submit that the votes I cited, Mr. Speaker, are in fact all out of order. I respectfully ask that you so rule.

In conclusion, if we are to protect this institution in our role as the sole granter of aids and supplies from misuse by the crown, then surely it is imperative that we follow the proper parliamentary procedures with respect to that supply process and within the rule of law which was so often quoted by the Minister of Justice in the last Parliament with respect to another issue.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will not be quite as long as my colleague.

The official opposition is bringing this to your attention today because we feel it strikes at the very heart of this democratic institution we have here. The government is attempting to usurp the authority and responsibility of this House and its members. This is far from a routine point of order. This is and has been a study. It is an analysis and it is a very serious issue of a fundamental question. Does government operate through the legislation of the people or does government operate outside of the very legislation it expects all citizens to be guided by?

As you are aware, this responsibility of the House represents a basic principle of our Constitution. The fundamental principle that the crown has no power to tax except by grant of Parliament is to be found even in the Magna Carta. The bill of rights of 1689 declares: “Levying money for or to the use of the crown by pretence of prerogative without grant of Parliament for longer time or in another manner than the same is or shall be granted is illegal”.

The principle that Parliament approve expenditures for the specific purposes for which they were intended began as far back as Charles II and was developed under William and Mary. As a result, we are governed today by rules that make it illegal for the executive to make expenditures except those expenditures that are approved by Parliament in ways approved by Parliament.

The member for St. Albert has argued that certain items in the main estimates have breached these rules because they lack the sanctioning of necessary legislation. To support his argument, I refer to citation 937 of Beauchesne's sixth edition:

The test which items must meet to be included in the Estimates is whether or not the government is putting forward a spending estimate under authority it already possesses, or whether it is really seeking new legislative authority to do something. It makes no difference whether an item attempts to spend a large sum or simply one dollar. The government may not, by the use of an appropriation act, obtain authority it does not have under existing legislation.

Our extensive research by a number of well qualified people finds that no authority exists in the areas we have defined.

Citation 935 puts it simply like this:

A supply item ought not to be used to obtain authority which is the proper subject of legislation.

I would support the member's claim that the amounts objected to in vote 35 concerning the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, vote 15 of the department of public works, and vote 40 concerning the Canada Information Office are without legislative authority.

The member for St. Albert has also objected to the amounts in vote 1 of the department of agriculture, vote 15 concerning the Immigration and Refugee Board, vote 1 of environment, vote 5 concerning the department of Indian affairs and vote 1 of the Department of Transport. He argues that these items seek spending authority in legislation not yet passed in Parliament.

Citation 941 of Beauchesne's sixth edition makes the case:

If a vote in the Estimates relates to a bill not yet passed by Parliament then the authorizing bill must become law before the authorization of the relevant vote in the Estimates by an appropriation act.

This is a mandate, not a request.

Citation 942 points out:

Asking for money in the Estimates before legislation is passed to establish programmes “puts the cart before the horse”.

Through these items in the main estimates the government is attempting to spend the dowry and plan the honeymoon before popping the question. Our rules are based on tradition, and before the government books the honeymoon suite in the Niagara Falls Hilton, it must take us out on three successful dates: second reading, report stage and third reading. It must also court our neighbours next door, not to mention the final approval from dad in Rideau Hall.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw to your attention a reference from the introduction of the main estimates document part II, the very document which introduces these estimates. It states: “Proposals included in votes seek authority during the 1997-98 fiscal year to make expenditures necessary to deliver various mandates which are under the administration of a minister and are contained in legislation approved by Parliament”.

That in fact is not true. The very document which contains breaches of our parliamentary rules ironically sets those rules out in its introduction. To knowingly state the rules and then ignore those rules makes a mockery of every member in this House and those who elected us.

This represents another disturbing attempt by the government to erode the influence of the Commons and render its members irrelevant. It has demonstrated this by introducing bills in the Senate, advertising the passage of bills before they are passed and setting up bodies based on legislation not yet approved by Parliament, this House.

Today the government is going too far with this attempt to spend money without legislative authority. We ask that you protect the ancient constitutional right of the Commons to insist on legislative authority as a precondition to sanction grants of supply.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the core argument today is the following.

The only words that go into the appropriation act are the words that appear in part II of the estimates. As we know, last year the part IIIs of the estimates were tabled only later because they include information on subsequent years. Nothing in part I or part III appears in the appropriation act. Only the precise wording in part II appears in the appropriation act and therefore has the force of law. Our procedure depends on the wording in part II only and in nothing else.

Mr. Speaker, before going too much further in this intervention, I would like to point out that the government has shown high respect for this House in the way it has handled the estimates process and everything else.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Before the election was called—