I have a point of order.
I assert that the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development lacks the authority from the House to propose amendments to Bill C-45 or to issue a report to the Standing Committee on Finance and therefore that we should not participate in this clause-by-clause hearing.
Let me remind this committee of where we, as a committee, derive our authority to do the things we do. We derive our existence and our authority from the House of Commons itself. The House creates our committee specifically through Standing Order 104, and the Standing Orders further regulate how our committees are constituted and governed under Standing Order 106.
The House also sets out the specific mandate of each standing committee under Standing Order 108. An excellent summary of this regime can be found in the book entitled House of Commons Procedure and Practice, commonly called O'Brien and Bosc. On pages 960 and 962, referring to standing committees, the document reads:
They are empowered to study and report to the House on all matters relating to the mandate, management, organization and operation of the departments assigned to them. More specifically, they can review: the statute law relating to the departments assigned to them; the program and policy objectives of those departments, and the effectiveness of their implementation thereof; the immediate, medium and long-term expenditure plans of those departments, and the effectiveness of the implementation thereof; and an analysis of the relative success of those departments in meeting their objectives. In addition to this general mandate, other matters are routinely referred by the House to its standing committees: bills, estimates, Order-in-Council appointments, documents tabled in the House pursuant to statute, and specific matters which the House wishes to have studied. In each case, the House chooses the most appropriate committee on the basis of its mandate.
Please note that all the abilities cited in this citation flow from the House, not from another committee.
So let us look at what we have here with Bill C-45.
On October 18th of this year, following the adoption of Ways and Means motion 13, the Minister of Foreign Affairs moved, on behalf of the Minister of Finance, that Bill C-45 be read a first time and printed. In October, the Minister of Public Safety moved that Bill C-45 be read a second time and referred to a committee, and after using time allocation, the debate on the second reading of Bill C-45 ended with the passage of the following the motion on October 30th of this year:
that Bill C-45, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.
Hansard on October 30th, immediately following the passage of the motion in the House, specifically quotes the Speaker saying:
I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the Bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.
The reference of this bill to committee was always only to the Standing Committee on Finance. The motion passed in the House referred only to the Standing Committee on Finance.
This is important, Mr. Chair. Under the legislative process that the House of Commons follows, a bill can only be referred to a single committee, the committee assigned by the House itself. This does not preclude any other committee from studying the subject matter of the sections of this omnibus bill. The official opposition has always advocated that this bill be split up, and effectively studied. The official opposition actually proposed a series of motions in the House to split this bill, using the same method as was used to pass Bill C-46, the MP pension plan provisions. Sadly, the House did not adopt those motions.
Those motions would have allowed this committee to actually study the separate bills which would have been referred to them, and then each committee could legitimately hold hearings, calling a variety of witnesses, with multiple viewpoints, and then, after hearing these points of view on the sections of the bill referred to them, could formulate reasoned amendments for debate and decision in a clause-by-clause meeting, and then the decision of the committee would be reported to the House in due course.
The traditional practice of committees to allow witnesses to be called from a variety of sources is being overridden by this fake belief that our committee will somehow have a meaningful clause-by-clause consideration of the parts of the bill referred to them by the Standing Committee on Finance.
There is another problem. We are being asked by the Standing Committee on Finance, not the House, to study and propose amendments to a bill, on such a short time line that, as we have seen, there is no opportunity for reasoned debate. In fact, we were not able to invite some witnesses to our meeting today, given the very short timelines. The process has been corrupted.
I wish to relate to you all one line from O'Brien and Bosc on committee reports. On page 985, it says:
In the past, when a committee has gone beyond its order of reference or addressed issues not included in the order, the Speaker of the House has ruled the report or a specific part of the report to be out of order.
I submit to you, as the Chair, that the Standing Committee on Finance is unable to refer any parts of Bill C-45 to anyone. Their only duty is to study this bill and to report back to the House with or without amendment.
Let me review quickly how a committee is supposed to deal with a complex bill referred to it by the House after second reading.
Normally, after passage at second reading, the committee which received the bill would organize its time, call for a variety of witnesses based on the lists provided by the recognized parties in proportion to their representation at the committee, hear the witnesses, formulate amendments, schedule a clause-by-clause meeting, call each clause, hear amendments to the clauses, vote on the amendments and the clauses, and then vote on the bill. The results of these decisions would then be reported to the House.
The House, in its wisdom, has even provided a mechanism to allow for a variation on this normal progress of a bill through committee, which it called the motion of instruction.
I refer once more to O'Brien and Bosc, this time in the chapter on legislative process on page 752:
Once a bill has been referred to a committee, the House may instruct the committee by way of a motion authorizing what would otherwise be beyond its powers, such as, for example, examining a portion of the bill and reporting it separately, examining certain items in particular, dividing a bill into more than one bill, consolidating two or more bills into a single bill, or expanding or narrowing the scope or application of a bill. A committee that so wishes may also seek an instruction from the House.
So, if the government was interested in following the rules of this place, and wanted to have a variety of committees study this bill, then it could have moved to instruct any variety of those committees to conduct a review of the portions of the bill, allow amendments to those portions, and to report them separately. But the power to authorize this variance in the legislative process rests with the House of Commons, not the Standing Committee on Finance.
Because we have not received any order of reference from the House, and because there has been no instruction from the House subsequent to the passage of the bill at second reading, I submit to you that it is out of order for this committee to have any vote on any amendment relating to C-45. Unfortunately, our work will have been in vain.
I also submit to you that this committee has the right to initiate a study on the subject matter. In fact, it is really important to do so with the help of witnesses with different points of view. But we do not have the authority to report to another committee, only to the House.
While committees have the power to meet jointly with other committees, a report from a joint committee must report only to the House, not to another committee such as the Standing Committee on Finance.
Once again, I would like to quote O'Brien and Bosc on this. On page 983, when referring to a joint committee, it says:
If a report is adopted during a joint meeting, each committee may present to the House a separate report, even though the two reports will be identical.
So, according to O'Brien and Bosc, Mr. Chair, the report goes to the House, not to another committee.
Mr. Chair, I also refer you to the same chapter, pages 984 and 985, dealing with the way in which a committee can report to the House:
In order to carry out their roles effectively, committees must be able to convey their findings to the House. The Standing Orders provide standing committees with the power to report the House from time to time, which is generally interpreted as being as often as they wish. A standing committee exercises that prerogative when its members agree on the subject and wording of a report and it directs the Chair to report to the House, which the Chair then does.
It is really very clear. I will continue reading:
Like all other powers of standing committees, the power to report is limited to issues that fall within their mandate or that have been specifically assigned to them by the House. Every report must identify the authority under which it is presented. In the past, when a committee has gone beyond its order of reference or addressed issues not included in the order, the Speaker of the House has ruled the report or a specific part of the report to be out of order.
I must remind you, Mr. Chair, the words come from O'Brien and Bosc.
We have rules for committees that show the committees receive their authority from the House, and that also say that committees report their information to the House. The request for us to somehow become subcontractors to shoddy work by the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance should not be given any credence.
I suggest to you, Mr. Chair, that our job is to hear witnesses on Bill C-45 and report findings to the House. I do not believe that we should entertain any amendments to C-45, because the bill was never envisioned by the House as being dealt with at any committee other than the Standing Committee on Finance. I have already made reference to this, and it is very well explained in O'Brien and Bosc in the passages I have referred to above.
I further submit that it flies in the face of all our basic principles of being a committee if we agree that committees should receive their mandates from another committee—that is unheard of—and should then report to that committee rather than to the body which gives us authority, the House of Commons.
With that, I humbly await your ruling and decision on the matters I have just discussed.