I am now prepared to rule on a point of order raised on October 23, 2018, by the hon. member for Perth—Wellington regarding Bill C-76, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other acts and to make certain consequential amendments.
The hon. member objects to an amendment adopted by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, sometimes called PROC in this place, on the basis that it amends a section of the parent act not amended by the bill. He argues that the committee went beyond the mandate the House had given it and urges the Chair to strike the amendment from the bill. He notes that Speakers have exercised this power in the past to deal with inadmissible amendments adopted by a committee.
I am grateful to the hon. member for having raised this matter, as it affords me the opportunity to clear up a misconception about what is commonly referred to as the “Parent Act rule”.
As the hon. member no doubt noted, the passage he cited concerning this rule, found at page 771 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, is contained in a section about relevance.
The Parent Act rule, the idea that an amendment should not amend an act or a section not already amended by a bill, rests on a presumption that such an amendment would not be relevant to the bill. This can be true. Often, such amendments attempt to deal with matters not referenced in the bill, and this is improper.
However, there are also occasions when an amendment is relevant to the subject matter of a bill and in keeping with its scope but can only be accomplished by modifying a section of the parent act not originally touched by the bill or even an entirely different act not originally touched by the bill. This is especially so when the amendments are consequential to other decisions taken by a committee or by the House.
In the present case, an amendment adopted by the committee creates a new section 510.001 of the Canada Elections Act. This section would empower the commissioner of Canada elections to request and obtain certain financial documents from political parties. The hon. member made no suggestion that this amendment was inadmissible. He objects, however, to a related amendment to section 498 of the act that makes it an offence to refuse to comply with the commissioner's request. Section 498, while not originally part of the bill, is the section that spells out offences relating to Part 19 of the act, which is where the new section 510.001 would be found.
I have trouble seeing how this could be considered irrelevant to the bill. Were I to accept the hon. member's argument, we would find ourselves in the strange circumstance of allowing an amendment that creates a new obligation but refusing an amendment that spells out the consequences for failing to comply with that new obligation.
The parent act rule was never intended to be applied blindly as a substitute for proper judgment as to the relevance of an amendment. Clearly, amendments that arise as a direct consequence of other admissible amendments should be considered relevant to the bill, even if they are made to a section of the parent act otherwise unamended.
The hon. member noted that our procedural authorities do not reference any exceptions, leading him to conclude that none are possible. He well knows, however, that practice and precedent are also binding. As is stated at page 274 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice:
Where there are no express rules or orders, the House turns to its own jurisprudence, as interpreted by the Speaker, who examines the Journals and the Debates of the House to determine which rulings of past Speakers and which practices and precedents should be applied.
There are multiple examples of amendments of this nature having been accepted in the past. In 2003, Bill C-250, an act to amend the Criminal Code (hate propaganda), contained a single clause amending section 318 of the Code to change the definition of “identifiable group”. At the beginning of the report stage, on June 6, 2003, the Chair accepted amendments to sections 319 and 320 of the Criminal Code, which also dealt with hate propaganda.
On May 5, 2014, when the Procedure and House Affairs Committee presented its report on Bill C-23, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to certain acts, the report contained an amendment to section 345 of the act, which was not originally amended by the bill, but sought to clarify what did not constitute an election expense under section 376, which the bill did amend.
Just last year, in a report tabled on October 5, 2017, the health committee amended Bill C-45, an act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other acts, by modifying section 7 of the Non-smokers' Health Act, originally untouched by the bill. This change arose out of an earlier amendment to the definition of “workplace” in the same act.
These are just a few examples where exceptions were made to the parent act rule because the amendments were clearly relevant to the bill. Given that the present amendment is of a similar nature, I have no difficulty concluding that it too should be found in order.
I thank all hon. members for their attention.