Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I am surprised that the hon. member has raised this point today in the House. The bill has been before the House for a period of time. I am surprised that if he had objections to the format of the bill he would not have raised them in a procedural way before.
However having done so, it is only fair for the hon. member to bear in mind this is not a particularly onerous bill in terms of the material contained in it. It is actually quite short. It is only 21 pages and by any standard in this House it is not a thick bill. There are ones with many more pages which have been introduced in this session already.
I also note that all the provisions in this bill are ones that arose out of the budget presented by the Minister of Finance a month ago. As such they were debated in the House for four days in the course of the budget debate. All the issues were discussed during those four days and those same issues will be discussed again on second reading of this bill.
The issues are exactly the same as those raised by the minister in his budget address and which have been debated by the House
already. I do not think there is anything unusual about lumping these together for the purposes of debate. The hon. member suggests they are totally disjointed and I suggest they are not. They are part of the overall economic plan of the government as announced in the budget.
There are many different acts involved in terms of amendments because of the freezes imposed on various parts of the public service, including members of Parliament, judges and so on. All those amendments to the various acts that are involved in those freezes are part of an overall freeze on payments made by the government.
Similarly the changes to the Unemployment Insurance Act fall into the same arrangement. The changes with respect to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation deal with freezes that were put in place in previous legislation and previous budgets and allow for some borrowing authority.
While the subject matter may be diverse, I suggest to the hon. member that given the fact they were all introduced in the budget, they form a whole, unified policy thrust which the government has put forward and which it will be defending in the course of the debate on this bill. Therefore in my submission, the bill is entirely in order.
In support of my position I refer to Beauchesne's, sixth edition, citation 634. I recognize the hon. member for Calgary West quoted a citation from Beauchesne's and quoted from a ruling of the Speaker in 1971 which is quoted in citation 634 of Beauchesne's. Notwithstanding his very able argument, I think he has missed the point. Citation 634 reads:
Speakers have expressed deep concern about the use of omnibus bills, and have suggested that there must be "a point where we go beyond what is acceptable from a strictly parliamentary standpoint". Nevertheless, the practice of using one bill to demand one decision on a number of quite different, although related subjects, while a matter of concern, is an issue on which the Speaker will not intervene to divide the bill.
I do not know what the hon. member is asking, if he is asking Your Honour to divide this bill or not. The authority in Beauchesne seems to be that the Speaker will not intervene to do that. I suspect he is really raising this matter this morning as a bit of a red herring.
I point out citation 635 of Beauchesne sixth edition. It says:
In the case of an omnibus bill, the Speaker has encouraged the use of motions to delete a clause at the report stage, pursuant to Standing Order 76(2) to permit the House to decide a specific issue contained in an ominbus bill, even though the motion might offend the principle of the bill.
If the hon. member genuinely believes that this is an omnibus bill that involves too many subjects for him to deal with in the committee or for the committee to deal with in a reasonable way, he has a remedy. He may propose amendments at the report stage to delete sections of the bill that would constitute obviously a one policy thrust if indeed he regards this as a series of different policy thrusts and have the House make a decision on that at report stage.
I suggest that is a fair and reasonable remedy, certainly in this situation. I do not think this falls in the category of a bill that deals with a host of subjects that are massive in their import. This is a relatively modest bill by any standard. As I have indicated it follows from a major policy thrust, namely this year's annual budget from the Minister of Finance.