House of Commons Hansard #74 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Remarks Made by Minister of National Revenue
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

As is quite clear from the discussion, this looks to me, as I suggested, that it was a matter of debate. There is disagreement as to facts. It is not for the Chair to determine how many employees were here or there, or anywhere, at any given time.

I will review the remarks made by all hon. members on this question of privilege and if necessary, I will get back to the House in due course.

Canada's Clean Air Act--Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member forMississauga South on October 19, 2006, concerning the premature disclosure of Bill C-30, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, the Energy Efficiency Act and the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act (Canada's Clean Air Act).

I would like to thank the hon. member for Mississauga South for having raised this important matter as well as the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform for his comments on October 23, 2006.

In raising this question of privilege, the hon. member for Mississauga South claimed that a breach of the privileges of the House had occurred as a result of the premature disclosure of Bill C-30, Canada's clean air act. He stated that copies of the bill had been distributed at a press conference held on October 13, 2006 by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups. The bill itself was not introduced in the House until October 19, 2006.

In response to this question of privilege, the hon. government House leader contended by Bill C-30 had a much broader scope than the document tabled by the hon. member for Mississauga South. He noted that the bill proposed amendments to three statutes rather than only to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. He went on to indicate that, even with respect to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, Bill C-30 proposed amendments not identical to those in the document referred to by the hon. member for Mississauga South.

In response to this intervention, the member for Mississauga South stated that the basis of his complaint was not that the two texts were identical, but that they contained, “substantively, the same critical provisions”.

This is not the first time a question of privilege has been raised about the premature disclosure of a government bill. In cases where prima facie cases of privilege have been found, there has been divulgation of the actual bill prior to members having been made privy to its contents. Members may wish to consult the ruling delivered by Mr. Speaker Parent on February 21, 2000, at pages 3766 and 3767, of the Debates where such an issue is discussed.

When looking carefully at the document provided by the hon. member for Mississauga South, it is evident to me that it is not a copy of the bill which the government placed on notice. In addition to the differences pointed out by the hon. government House leader, an examination of the two documents shows numerous other differences. These include not only differences in the organization and numbering of its parts, but more extensive textual differences as well, since there are various provisions in the bill not found in the document provided by the hon. member for Mississauga South.

I have also looked at the press release issued by the Sierra Club in conjunction with the October 13 press conference. The press release clearly indicates that the Sierra Club's comments relate to, “...an August version of the proposed amendments...”. The Sierra Club further notes in the press release that its comments on the legislative proposal will remain valid, and again I quote, “...(a)ssuming that this draft is what is introduced into Parliament...”.

The fact that the document distributed by the Sierra Club contains blacked-out passages also indicates that the document as circulated by the government was a consultation document and not an advance copy of Bill C-30.

As has been noted in previous Speaker's rulings, the government is free to consult whomever it wishes in preparing legislation for submission to the House. It is not for the Chair to determine what form these consultations may take or what documents the government may circulate for comment.

The key procedural point, as I indicated in a ruling delivered on March 19, 2001, at pages 1839 and 1840 of the Debates and to which the government House leader made reference, is that once a bill has been placed on notice, it must remain confidential until introduced in the House. In the present case, I can find no evidence that there has been any premature disclosure of a confidential document to which the House has priority. I, therefore, must rule that no breach of privilege has occurred.

I would again like to thank the hon. member for Mississauga South for his vigilance in drawing this matter to the attention of the House.

Canada's Clean Air Act--Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. Speaker for his ruling. I accept it totally. As it turns out, it is really somewhat inconsequential, since Bill C-30 was dead on arrival in Parliament.

Bill C-253--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order, please. I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. government House leader on June 21, 2006, in relation to the procedural issues relating to Bill C-253, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (deductibility of RESP contributions), standing in the name of the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East.

In his arguments, the hon. government House leader explained that clause 2 of the bill contained provisions which would effectively increase how taxable income was calculated and thus result in potentially more taxes being collected. Specifically, subclause 2(5) would make any refund of payments regarding contributions to RESPs considered as taxable income. Subclause 2(6) necessarily repealed a section of the Income Tax Act, which would have made such refunds excluded as taxable income.

Therefore, the hon. government House leaderargued that if Bill C-253 was creating a new tax burden, then it should not have been given first reading without the adoption of a ways and means motion, and the Speaker should discharge the order for second reading and remove the bill from the order paper.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice provides some information on the operation of taxation bills on pages 758 and 759:

The House must first adopt a Ways and Means motion before a bill which imposes a tax or other charge on the taxpayer can be introduced. Charges on the people, in this context, refer to new taxes, the continuation of an expiring tax, an increase in the rate of an existing tax, or an extension of a tax to a new class of taxpayers…Legislative proposals which are not intended to raise money but rather reduce taxation need not to be preceded by a Ways and Means motion before being introduced in the House.

Furthermore, on page 898 it states:

With respect to the raising of revenue, a private member cannot introduce bills which impose taxes. The power to initiate taxation rests solely with the government and any legislation which seeks an increase in taxation must be preceded by a Ways and Means motion.

As I understand it, the current RESP regime requires the person contributing to the plan to make such contributions out of after tax income. If, subsequently, the amount in the plan is not to be used for funding post-secondary education as intended, the contributor may have the contributions refunded. This refund is not taxed as the original contribution was made from income on which tax had already been paid. Similarly, a student withdrawing money from an RESP is not required to report the contribution amount as income, but only the interest earned while the funds were invested in the plan.

Let us now turn to the proposal before the House. The summary of Bill C-253 states that the bill provides “that contributions to a Registered Education Savings Plan are deductible from a taxpayer's taxable income”.

The bill also provides that if, at a later time, contributions are taken out of the plan by the contributor, they are to included as taxable for that year. Not having been taxed initially, the contributions would cease to enjoy tax-exempt status at the time of withdrawal from the plan.

This proposal amounts to a tax deferral. Rather than making contributions out of after tax income, the contributor would be provided with a tax deduction at the time that the contribution is made. If, subsequently, the money is not used for educational purposes but is withdrawn from the plan, the funds would be reported as taxable income at that time.

I do not regard such a tax deferral as imposing any increased tax burden on the contributor. It is permissible for a private member's bill to introduce a tax exemption, or to propose a delay in the reporting of income. Therefore, I find that Bill C-253 is properly before the House.

Accordingly, in my view, debate may continue on the bill in its current form.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I have the honour to lay upon the table the report of the Canadian Parliamentary Delegation to the Republic of South Africa, from August 27 to September 3.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

November 1st, 2006 / 3:25 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8)(b) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 14 petitions.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian Delegation of the Canada-United States Interparliamentary Group, respecting its participation at three events.

The first event was the 46th annual meeting of the Regional Policy Forum--Council of State Governments--Eastern Regional Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 30 to August 2.

The second event was the 2006 annual meeting of the Council of State Governments--West: Alliance With an Attitude, Breckenridge, Colorado, August 10 through 13.

The third event was the meeting of the Canadian American Border Trade Alliance, the U.S./Canadian Border: A Unified Focus, Washington, D.C., September 10 through 12.

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have two reports to table from the Standing Committee on International Trade.

The first report I have the honour to present, in both official languages, is the second report of the Standing Committee on International Trade.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the committee has considered the Canada-Central America Free Trade Agreement negotiations and agreed to present it to the House.

The second report I have the honour to present, in both official languages, is the third report of the Standing Committee on International Trade.

In accordance with the reference of April 25, the committee has considered the main estimates and agreed on June 5 to present them to the House.

Justice and Human Rights
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

In accordance with the order of reference on Monday, June 20, your committee has considered Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Judges Act and certain other Acts in relation to courts and agreed on Monday, October 3 to report it with amendments.

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations and I think you would find the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion. I move:

That, during today's debate and the debate on November 7 on the business of supply, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be received by the Chair; and within each 15 minute period, each party may allocate time to one or more of its members for speeches or for questions and answers, provided that, in the case of questions and answers, the minister's answer approximately reflects the time taken by the question, and provided that, in the cases of speeches, members of the party to which the period is allocated may speak one after the other.

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

(Bill C-19. On the Order: Government Orders)

November 1, 2006--Report Stage of Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (street racing) and to make a consequential amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act--the Minister of Justice.

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I also believe you would find the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of this House, Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (street racing) and to make a consequential amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, be deemed reported back from committee without amendment, deemed concurred in at the report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.