Mr. Speaker, I would indeed like to raise a point of order.
I am rising today to ask you, Mr. Speaker, to apply Standing Order 69.1 to Bill C-74, the budget implementation act, 2018, no. 1.
In this corner of the House, we believe that this bill is an omnibus bill, as defined under Standing Order 69.1. As you know, Mr. Speaker, and have ruled in the past, Standing Order 69.1 was added to the Standing Orders last June and was supposed to be the government's answer to the abuse of omnibus legislation.
I will remind you, Mr. Speaker, though I know you are well versed in this, that Standing Order 69.1(1) says the following:
In the case where a government bill seeks to repeal, amend or enact more than one act, and where there is not a common element connecting the various provisions or where unrelated matters are linked, the Speaker shall have the power to divide the questions, for the purposes of voting, on the motion for second reading and reference to a committee and the motion for third reading and passage of the bill. The Speaker shall have the power to combine clauses of the bill thematically and to put the aforementioned questions on each of these groups of clauses separately, provided that there will be a single debate at each stage.
Since the adoption of the Standing Order, we have seen a number of new omnibus bills tabled by the government. Bill C-63, the previous budget implementation bill, was divided for votes at second and third reading, because it contained so many different provisions. Mr. Speaker, you ruled on that.
We also had a huge environmental bill, Bill C-69, that was split for the purposes of voting. Mr. Speaker, you will recall that you ruled that the section on the Navigable Waters Protection Act was distinct enough from the rest of that environment bill to split it.
We have serious concerns, and all parliamentarians should have serious concerns, about the use of omnibus bills in this place. It becomes increasingly difficult for members of Parliament to represent their constituents when governments table these massive bills, in which so many different things are lumped together.
Bill C-74 poses a particularly problematic situation. This massive bill is over 555 pages long and affects over 40 different acts. It is clearly an omnibus bill because it deals with matters as diverse as veterans' compensation, changes to the Parliament Act with respect to maternity and parental arrangements, and the establishment of the office of the chief information officer of Canada. This is, in fact, the most massive budget bill ever.
What worries us most, however, is that this budget implementation bill enacts the greenhouse gas pollution pricing act.
Mr. Speaker, you are aware, of course, that the second paragraph, Standing Order 69.1(2), stipulates:
The present Standing Order shall not apply if the bill has as its main purpose the implementation of a budget and contains only provisions that were announced in the budget presentation or in the documents tabled during the budget presentation.
We looked through the budget speech, the budget documentation, the tax tables, and everything else that was tabled with the budget in February. The only reference to carbon pricing in the budget documents is a few short paragraphs, including the following:
The Government recently released draft legislative proposals on the federal carbon pollution pricing system, as well as a regulatory framework outlining the approach to carbon pollution pricing for large industrial facilities, and intends to introduce legislation to establish that system.
In that short paragraph, there is an acknowledgement that the government actually was working on separate legislation that should properly be put to the House separately. Of course, in terms of the spirit of Standing Order 69.1, the fact that this draft legislation was developed separately, and that the government even seemed to indicate a propensity to introduce that legislation separately, should give cause for consideration in terms of Standing Order 69.1, because it has an impact on all of us as members of Parliament being able to adequately represent our constituents.
Because of those few paragraphs, the Liberals—the government—felt justified in including the brand-new greenhouse gas pollution pricing act, a bill that takes up 215 pages of the budget bill, 215 of 556 pages.
The issue is that the government intended to introduce legislation to establish this system. This indicates that the intention was to have separate legislation on the subject. A federal carbon pollution pricing system is a big step that deserves to be properly studied, looked at, and voted on by parliamentarians.
Mr. Speaker, I will remind you of your ruling of March 1, 2018, on Bill C-69, when you said the following:
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.
At that time, you answered very appropriately and courageously, establishing the precedent for separating that bill out so that members of Parliament could have the opportunity to adequately represent their constituents through that separate vote.
I also want to quote the Minister of Public Safety, who said the following with respect to the issue of omnibus legislation, and I could not agree with him more:
The Liberals did in fact condemn the Conservatives' repeated use of omnibus bills as undemocratic. Now that they are in power, they are using some of the very tactics they criticized. Here is what the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness said about the Conservatives' 2012 budget implementation bill when he was in the opposition:
He further stated:
On the procedural point, so-called omnibus bills obviously bundle several different measures together. Within reasonable limits, such legislation can be managed through Parliament if the bill is coherent, meaning that all the different topics are interrelated and interdependent and if the overall volume of the bill is not overwhelming. That was the case before the government came to power in 2006.
That was the Minister of Public Safety, speaking in 2012, commenting on the previous Conservative government. He went on:
When omnibus bills were previously used to implement key provisions of federal budgets, they averaged fewer than 75 pages in length and typically amended a handful of laws directly related to budgetary policy. In other words, they were coherent and not overwhelming.
However, under this regime the practice has changed. Omnibus bills since 2006 have averaged well over 300 pages, more than four times the previous norm. This latest one introduced last week had 556 sections, filled 443 pages and touched on 30 or more disconnected topics, everything from navigable waters to grain inspection, from disability plans to hazardous materials.
That was the previous record before the budget implementation act of a few weeks ago.
TheMinister of Public Safety completed his comments by stating:
It is a complete dog's breakfast, and deliberately so. It is calculated to be so humongous and so convoluted, all in a single lump, that it cannot be intelligently examined and digested by a conscientious Parliament.
I could not agree more with the current Liberal Minister of Public Safety in condemning what the impact is on parliamentarians of having these dog's breakfast omnibus bills. As members know, the current budget implementation bill is the largest we have ever seen dumped on the floor of the House of Commons, and 215 pages are on carbon pricing. This clearly violates the spirit of Standing Order 69.1.
As the Speaker, it clearly gives you the opportunity, despite the loophole I am sure the government House leader or the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader will try to use, to justify what is unjustifiable.
There is long precedence in this place that we try to make sure that our votes count and that legislation is distinct enough so that as members of Parliament, we have the ability to truly represent our constituents.
This dumping in of 215 pages around carbon pricing to make the most massive budget implementation act in Canadian history simply violates to every degree the spirit and the principles around Standing Order 69.1.
You have ruled in the past on these important measures, Mr. Speaker. You have taken the opportunity to judge whether parliamentarians, or parliament, or ultimately Canadians are well served by this dumping in of legislation. It started under the previous government. Standing Order 69.1 was designed to give you the tools to counter that abuse by governments of dumping in separate legislation. There is no doubt that the government is violating the spirit of Standing Order 69.1 by dumping in carbon pricing into this massive bill.
What I ask you to do today, Mr. Speaker, is to take the time to consider what I have said, and other members may choose to join in as well, and ultimately to rule to separate out carbon pricing so, as members of Parliament, we can truly represent our constituents.