Madam Speaker, I am rising on a point of order in response to the Speaker's statement on September 26 statement respecting the need for a royal recommendation for Bill C-285, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act, sponsored by the member for Niagara West.
Without commenting on the merits of the bill, I suggest that the provisions in the bill to amend the Employment Insurance Act provide for an exemption for disqualification or disentitlement for employment insurance benefits. This proposed amendment to the Employment Insurance Act would seek to authorize a new and distinct charge on the consolidated revenue fund that is not authorized in statute. In instances when there is no existing statute or appropriation to cover a new and distinct charge, a royal recommendation is, in fact, required.
The provisions of the bill amending the Employment Insurance Act would provide for an exception for claimants to receive employment insurance benefits if they lost their employment for the sole reason that they made certain decisions in relation to their health. This proposed amendment to section 35.1 of the act is linked to sections 30 to 33, which provide for situations in which claimants are disqualified or disentitled from receiving employment insurance benefits. In other words, the provisions in the bill would entitle a claimant to receive employment insurance benefits in a manner and for purposes not currently authorized by the act.
The royal recommendation fixes not only the maximum charge on the consolidated revenue fund, but also the objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications of provisions subject to the royal recommendation.
Speakers have consistently ruled that bills seeking to change the qualifications or alter the conditions for employment insurance benefits need to be accompanied by a royal recommendation. Let me draw to the attention of members a few germane rulings on this matter.
On April 22, 2009, the Deputy Speaker ruled on Bill C-241, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (removal of waiting period). The Deputy Speaker stated:
[T]he chair is of the opinion that the provisions of Bill C-241 would authorize a new and distinct charge on the public treasury. Since such spending is not covered by the terms of any existing appropriation, I will therefore decline to put the question on third reading of this bill in its present form....
On June 3, 2009, the Speaker ruled on Bill C-280, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits). In a ruling, the Deputy Speaker stated:
On March 23, 2007, in a ruling on Bill C-265, on page 7845 of the Debates, the Chair had concluded that:
It is abundantly clear to the Chair that such changes to the employment insurance program, notwithstanding the fact that workers and employers contribute to it, would have the effect of authorizing increased expenditures from the Consolidated Revenue Fund in a manner and for purposes not currently authorized.
Therefore, it appears to the Chair that those provisions of the bill which relate to increasing Employment Insurance benefits and easing the qualifications required to obtain them would require a royal recommendation.
Having heard no new compelling argument to reach a conclusion that is different than the one concerning Bill C-265, I will decline to put the question on third reading of Bill C-280 in its present form unless a royal recommendation is received.
As House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, states on page 772:
Since an amendment may not infringe upon the financial initiative of the Crown, it is inadmissible if it imposes a charge on the public treasury, or if it extends the objects or purposes or relaxes the conditions and qualifications specified in the royal recommendation.
A royal recommendation may be obtained by a minister of the Crown only on the advice of the Governor General. In the absence of a royal recommendation, Bill C-285 may proceed through the legislative process in the House up until the end of the debate at third reading. In cases in which the Speaker has ruled that a royal recommendation is required and it has not been provided before the third reading vote, the Speaker has refused to put the question at third reading and ordered the bill discharged from the Order Paper.
I submit that this is the case before you with respect to Bill C-285. Precedence clearly suggests that a bill that seeks to incur new and distinct expenditures from the consolidated revenue fund, in a manner and for purposes not currently authorized, requires a royal assent recommendation.
I thank you for your patience and for allowing me to speak in this forum.