Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
Yesterday evening, Monday, February 28, the Speaker said:
I would encourage members who would like to make arguments regarding the requirement for a royal recommendation with respect to [Bill] C-237...to do so at an early opportunity.
I am rising on a point of order this evening in relation to that.
I admit that I was surprised by this statement. Royal recommendation is the mechanism by which a private member's bill cannot have any financial implications unless it is recommended by the Crown.
Financial implications refers to both new expenditures and reallocation of funds for other purposes. Bill C-237, which I am introducing, does not do either.
In my view, it is clear that Bill C-237 does not require a royal recommendation and has the potential to be voted on by the House at all stages and implemented, for the following five reasons.
First, it does not require any new spending.
Second, it does not change the transfer amounts, nor does it change the names of the beneficiaries or how the funding is allocated to them.
Third, it does not change the purpose of the transfer. The Canada health transfer will still be dedicated to paying for health care. The same goes for other transfers that are allocated to a province if it has “a program whose objectives are comparable to those of a federal program”.
Fourth, it does not force the executive's hand, which retains the latitude and margin of appreciation required to transfer the funds. That prerogative remains in place. The executive will decide whether the province has a comparable program and will determine whether the province is complying with the conditions in the Canada Health Act.
Finally, precedents are on my side. There have been many bills that have changed the normative framework without any financial implications. I actually found 31 bills that amend the Canada Health Act, and not one required a royal recommendation.
For all these reasons, I believe that Bill C‑237 does not require a royal recommendation.
Let us examine it in detail. Bill C‑237 amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act in two ways.
It provides all interested provinces with the opportunity to opt out of a federal program that falls under the legislative authority of the provinces. In that case, the government can pay the province a transfer equivalent to the contribution that it would have received had it not withdrawn. This means that it is an equal amount or a zero sum.
The bill adds that the government will only pay the contribution if the province “has a program whose objectives are comparable to those of a federal program”. In short, the purpose of the transfer does not change either.
This mechanism is quite similar to the one that exists in the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act, for example. If a province has its own program and withdraws from the federal program, it receives the same transfer that it would have received had it not withdrawn.
The transfer is unconditional and goes into the province's consolidated revenue fund, but only if it has a comparable program. It is up to the minister to determine whether it has a comparable program.
Without any conditions on how the province runs the program, the transfer still serves the same purpose, which is to ensure that students can access financial assistance.
This same principle is in Bill C-237, which I introduced. It does not change the amounts or recipients, the distribution of the amounts among them, or the purpose of the transfer. It simply reduces federal control over the management of provincial programs in the provinces' own jurisdictions. Again, this is about provincial management of provincial programs. That is the only thing that is impacted here, and it has little to do with the prerogative of the federal Crown.
Bill C‑237 proposes a second amendment to the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, this one just for Quebec. The federal government has announced that it plans to set conditions applicable to long-term care facilities and retirement homes. I assume that they will be included in the Canada Health Act, since long-term care facilities fall under the definition of “extended health care services” in the act.
Since Quebec was the only one to object, Bill C-231 would exempt Quebec, and only Quebec, from the Canada Health Act, much like the proposal by my colleague from Montcalm to exempt Quebec from the Canadian Multiculturalism Act in his Bill C-226 in the 43rd Parliament, which did not require a royal recommendation.
The Canada Health Act does not have financial implications per se. It sets out a normative framework, five principles for the government to consider in the Canada health transfer, which is provided for in the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act. It is the latter act that has financial implications.
My bill, Bill C‑237, does not change the purpose of the Canada health transfer. It does not change the purpose of the transfer defined in section 24(b) of the fiscal arrangements act as “contributing to providing the best possible health care system for Canadians and to making information about the health care system available to Canadians”. Bill C‑237 does not change this section of the act, which sets out the purpose of the transfer.
Under the Canada Health Act, the government is responsible for determining whether the provinces are in compliance. In Bill C‑237, the government determines whether the province has “a program whose objectives are comparable”. Personally, I would have preferred not to include that clause in Bill C‑237, but I realized that this would have changed the purpose of the transfers and could therefore have required a royal recommendation.
Bill C‑237 has no financial implications in terms of the amounts, their destination, their purpose or the general conditions. Only specific conditions in the Canada Health Act are affected.
Madam Speaker, I hear a lot of noise in the House and I am having a hard time delivering my speech.