I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on February 27, 2018, by the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé concerning the second reading of Bill C-69, an act to enact the impact assessment act and the Canadian energy regulator act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, under the provisions of Standing Order 69.1.
I would like to thank the hon. member for having raised this question, as well as the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for his intervention on this point.
The hon. member argued that Bill C-69 is an omnibus bill, as she feels it contains several different initiatives which should be voted on separately. She noted that the bill would delete two existing acts, would enact new ones, and would amend over 30 other acts. The hon. member requested that the Chair divide the question at second reading to allow for a vote on each of the three main parts of the bill.
Part 1 would enact the impact assessment act and repeal the existing Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
Part 2 would enact the Canadian energy regulator act as well as repeal the National Energy Board Act. The hon. member argued that this second part deals more with natural resources than with the environment and should therefore be voted upon separately.
Part 3 consists of amendments to the Navigation Protection Act, which would be renamed the Canadian navigable waters act. As this deals with matters relating to transportation, she felt that this part should also be subject to a separate vote.
The hon. member helpfully identified which of the consequential and coordinating provisions, contained in part 4, she believed were associated with each of the other parts. I am grateful for her specificity in this regard. I would note that these consequential and coordinating amendments represent the changes to the 30 other acts referenced by the hon. member. In the vast majority of cases, the changes are to reflect updated terminology relating to the names of new agencies or statutes created by the bill. The fact that there is a large number of them is not a significant factor in determining whether or not this constitutes an omnibus bill.
The hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader agreed that the bill amends several acts, but argued that there is in fact a common element to link together all of the changes. He stated that the bill represents a comprehensive review of federal environmental and regulatory processes and that to consider them separately would create unnecessary uncertainty about the overall framework.
As members will recall, Standing Order 69.1 took effect last September. It gives the Speaker the power to divide the question on the second or third reading of a bill where “there is not a common element connecting the various provisions or where unrelated matters are linked”. The critical question for the Chair, then, is to determine to what extent the various elements of the bill are linked.
To date, I have been asked to apply this standing order on two instances. On November 7, 2017, I declined to allow multiple votes in relation to Bill C-56, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Abolition of Early Parole Act, as I felt the two issues raised by the bill were sufficiently related and that they were essentially provided for under the same act. On November 8, I agreed to apply the standing order in relation to Bill C-63, the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2, as I considered that there were several issues contained in the bill that were not announced in the budget presentation. On November 20, in relation to Bill C-59, the national security act, 2017, I ruled that the standing order could not apply to a motion to refer a bill to committee before second reading, though I invited members to raise the issue again prior to third reading of the bill if necessary.
I would underscore, as I did in my ruling on Bill C-63, that the Chair does not have the power to divide a bill into different pieces of legislation to be considered separately. The Standing Order only allows me to divide the question on the motions for second and third reading for the purposes of voting.
Bill C-69 does clearly contain several different initiatives. It establishes two new agencies, the impact assessment agency and the Canadian energy regulator, and makes a series of amendments to the Navigation Protection Act. One could make the case, as did the parliamentary secretary, that there is indeed a common thread connecting these various initiatives, in that they are all related to environmental protection. However, the question the Chair must ask itself is whether the purpose of the standing order was to deal only with matters that were obviously unrelated or whether it was to provide members with the opportunity to pronounce themselves on specific initiatives when a bill contains a variety of different measures.
In presenting arguments relating to Bill C-63, the hon. member for Calgary Shepard raised an interesting concept from the practice in the Quebec National Assembly. Quoting from page 400 of Parliamentary Procedure in Québec, he stated: “The principle or principles contained in a bill must not be confused with the field it concerns. To frame the concept of principle in that way would prevent the division of most bills, because they apply to a specific field.”
While their procedure for dividing bills is quite different from ours, the idea of distinguishing the principles of a bill from its field has stayed with me. While each bill is different and so too each case, I believe that Standing Order 69.1 can indeed be applied to a bill where all of the initiatives relate to a specific policy area, if those initiatives are sufficiently distinct to warrant a separate decision of the House.
In this particular instance, I have no trouble agreeing that all of the measures contained in Bill C-69 relate to environmental protection. However, I believe there are distinct initiatives that are sufficiently unrelated that they warrant multiple votes. Therefore, I am prepared to allow more than one vote on the motion for second reading of the bill.
As each of the first two parts of the bill does indeed enact a new act, I can see why the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé would like to see each one voted separately. However, my reading of the bill is that the regimes set out in part 1, the impact assessment act, and part 2, the Canadian energy regulator act, are linked in significant ways, reflected in the number of cross-references. For example, the impact assessment act provides for a process for assessing the impact of certain projects, but contains specific provisions for projects with activities regulated under the Canadian energy regulator act. There are also obligations in the Canadian energy regulator act that are subject to provisions in the impact assessment act. Given the multiple references in each of these parts to the entities and processes established by the other part, I believe it is in keeping with the Standing Order that these two parts be voted together.
With respect to part 3, which amends the Navigation Protection Act, I find that it is sufficiently distinct and should be subject to a separate vote. While there are some references in part 2 to changes made in part 3, I do not believe they are so deeply intertwined as to require them to be considered together. There would be an opportunity to correct these references as part of the amending process if part 3 should not be adopted by the House.
As I stated earlier, part 4 of the bill is made up of consequential and coordinating amendments arising out of the other 3 parts. In my ruling on Bill C-56, I recognized that the analysis and division of a bill into different parts can sometimes be quite complex. Based on my reading of part 4, which differs slightly from that of the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé, clauses 85, 186, 187, and 195 seem to be related to part 3 and will be voted with that part. The remaining clauses in part 4, with the exception of the coming into force clause, specifically 196, appear to relate only to parts 1 and 2 and will therefore be grouped with those parts. The schedule relates only to part 1 and will also be grouped with it.