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House of Commons Hansard #36 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was treaty.

Topics

HighwaysOral Question Period

November 24th, 1997 / 2:55 p.m.

Reform

Roy H. Bailey Reform Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, each year the government opposite takes $5 billion out of the motoring public in fuel taxes. Of that $5 billion it returns to the provinces something in the order of 6%. As a result we are finding provinces going out in co-operation and tolling roads.

My question is for the Minister of Transport. The Canadian Automobile Association has stated on numerous occasions that 20% of the taxes being returned from that fuel tax would solve our problem. When will the minister return 20%—

HighwaysOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The Minister of Transport.

HighwaysOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette LiberalMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the federal government has been involved in assisting the provinces with highway construction since 1919 so in effect a national highways program has been going on for many years.

The question is not should we have such a program but what conditions should we attach to its continuation and how much money is involved. On the specific question of taxes this is something I am sure that other colleagues will deal with, perhaps the Minister of Finance, at a later date.

There is no question that we have a program. We have just announced the extension of the agreement with New Brunswick. I hope we can continue that over the years.

Pay EquityOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, the President of Treasury Board has always placed a ceiling of $1.3 billion on any pay equity settlement with its employees.

The Minister responsible for the Status of Women, however, has just stated that the federal government apparently has more money available to end this dispute.

So why is the President of the Treasury Board delaying settlement of the pay equity issue, when we now know he has more money in his pocket to resolve matters?

Pay EquityOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Hull—Aylmer Québec

Liberal

Marcel Massé LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the issue of pay equity, last April we offered a settlement that would have amounted to $842 million.

We increased this offer by $500 million between April and August, and during that time the union made no concessions with respect to its demands. Negotiating consists basically of two parties reaching a compromise.

We are waiting for the union to make a reasonable compromise, and we will then be ready to negotiate a solution.

Pay EquityOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleagues, that would bring to a close our question period.

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleagues, I would like to draw to your attention the presence in the gallery of my brother Speaker, the Honourable Dale Lovick, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia.

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point or order with respect to the main estimates which were tabled in the House on Wednesday, October 1, 1997 and which have just been returned from committee study and are to be concurred in shortly.

My point of order concerns irregularities with certain of these estimates. However, I would like to point out that as Madam Speaker Sauvé said on June 12, 1981, as recorded in Hansard at page 10546, it matters not whether the amount spent is a large sum or simply $1. It is the parliamentary process to which I am objecting today.

In this regard I would like to bring to your attention several votes which I believe to be out of order and inappropriate for inclusion in the subsequent appropriation bill flowing from these estimates.

Going as far back as 1971, members of this House have repeatedly objected to the government's use of the estimates as a vehicle to amend legislation and to seek authority to spend money on programs that have not received legislative authority. Your distinguished predecessors, Mr. Speaker, have consistently ruled in support of these arguments for striking votes from the estimates on March 10, 1971, March 22, 1977, December 7, 1977, March 25, 1981, June 12, 1981, June 21, 1981, March 21, 1983 and March 21, 1984.

Mr. Speaker Jerome in a landmark ruling on March 22, 1977, at page 4221 of the Debates, stated that the government received from Parliament the authority to act through the passage of legislation and receives the money to finance such authorized action through the passage by Parliament of an Appropriation Act.

This decision flowed in part from rulings of Mr. Speaker Lamoureux who, on February 5, 1973, at pages 94 and 95 of Journals, stated that the authorizing bill must become law before the authorization of the relevant estimates by the Appropriation Act.

That legislation is a necessary precondition to sanction grants of supply is also based upon ancient constitutional usage as Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice 25th edition states at page 689.

Flowing from early British laws and customs through the Constitution Act and on to Standing Order 80(1), it is claimed that all aids and supplies granted to the sovereign are the sole gift of the House of Commons.

Although the task of governing belongs to the crown, it cannot possibly provide as many services to the people unless the funds in the consolidated revenue fund are made available to it. These funds can only be made available to the crown by the House of Commons.

The House insists that the crown, when requesting funds, must specify the particular purposes for which the funds are required. It is therefore this claim to the right of control over the purse strings of the nation that we must defend vigorously and retain for this House alone.

In this defence I now bring to your attention, Mr. Speaker, the fact that eight votes in the main estimates are not properly before this House. Five votes in the estimates seek parliamentary approval for funds which have not yet received legislative authority. Three votes are attempting to legislate through the application of the Appropriation Acts.

First, the Department of Agriculture and Agri-food in its vote No. 1, operating expenditures, has an activity entitled “Policy and Farm Programs” which, among other things, concerns the Canadian Wheat Board.

As outlined in its part III, expenditure plans, the department will implement changes which centre on revamping the Canadian Wheat Board. However, no such legislation has been passed to permit this action.

Such changes were introduced in the last Parliament as Bill C-72. The bill only reached report stage before dissolution. It was, however, reintroduced as Bill C-4 on September 25, 1997 and, as of this date, has not received royal assent.

I should note here that the part II book, commonly referred to as the blue book, listing the estimates as they will appear in a subsequent Appropriation Act, does not give sufficient detail concerning each vote. Thus, it is necessary to refer to the part IIIs for details of departmental plans and priorities with respect to the funds they are requesting this House to approve.

We must use the part II book since it mirrors the proposed Appropriation Act approving the estimates.

As it is difficult to determine precisely the amount of any particular item within each respective vote, I therefore ask you, Mr. Speaker, to strike vote No. 1 of the Department of Agriculture and Agri-food from the estimates since it contains funds to finance programs which have yet to receive parliamentary approval.

Second, the Immigration and Refugee Board under vote 15, program expenditures, in its convention refugee determination division activity, has indicated that it would begin single member hearings in mid-1997 which is in conflict with the Immigration Act.

Legislation that was introduced in the last Parliament, Bill C-49 to amend section 69.1 of the Immigration Act, died on the Order Paper before receiving second reading. As a result, the board, as indicated in part III and inherently in part II in the estimates, is operating outside legislative authority for its funds as presented in the estimates.

Again, since we must use the part II book containing the estimates and as it is difficult to determine precisely the amount of this particular item within the vote, I therefore ask you, Mr. Speaker, to remove vote 15 of the Immigration and Refugee Board from the estimates.

A similar situation is occurring at Environment Canada. Within its vote 1, operating expenditures, the department has activities called “healthy environment” and “safety from environmental hazards” wherein it has set a key initiative to fully implement the new Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the Canada Endangered Species Protection Act. Neither of these two pieces of legislation has received royal assent.

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act was introduced in the last Parliament as Bill C-74 on December 10, 1996 but did not receive second reading. The Canadian Endangered Species Protection Act, Bill C-65 in the previous Parliament, reached report stage before Parliament was dissolved.

Again, since we must use the part II book containing the estimates and as it is difficult to determine precisely the amount of this particular item within the vote, I therefore ask you, Mr. Speaker, to strike vote 1 of Environment Canada from the estimates.

The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, within its Indian and Inuit affairs program at vote 5, operating expenditures, under the sub-activity of lands and trusts services, is working toward devolution and economic opportunities through sustainable development of natural resources with the help of various pieces of legislation that were introduced in the last Parliament but did not receive royal assent.

Some of these bills have been reintroduced, namely C-6, Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and C-8, the Canada-Yukon Oil and Gas Act. However, the modifications to the Indian Act, formerly Bill C-79, have yet to be presented to this House.

Again, we must use the part II book containing the estimates, and since it is difficult to determine precisely the amount of this particular item within the vote, I therefore ask you, Mr. Speaker, to delete vote 5 of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development from the estimates.

My fifth point concerns Transport Canada. The department's vote 1, operating expenditures, under its business lines entitled policy and programs and divestitures, is asking the House to appropriate funds from the consolidated revenue fund to, among other matters, incorporate Canada's major ports, establish a not for profit corporation to run the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system and to permit pilotage authorities to recover all the costs of their services in addition to winding down the Canada Ports Corporation.

A bill to authorize these undertakings was introduced in the last Parliament as Bill C-44, but it only reached the third reading stage on April 16, 1997 before dying on the Order Paper. Today, Bill C-9, a repeat of the former Bill C-44, is at report stage and Bill C-9 includes clause 197 which repeals the Canada Ports Corporation.

The departmental estimates show that payments to the Canada Ports Corporation have been reduced to zero which indicates that the department is in fact implementing C-9, which leads me to believe that the other items of Bill C-9 which require the expenditure of funds is also contained within the vote. With the corporation's budget being reduced to zero, how else would the department be able to operate?

Once again we must use the part II book that contains the estimates. As it is difficult to determine precisely the amount of this item within the vote, I therefore ask Mr. Speaker to strike vote 1 of the Department of Transport from the estimates.

The next group of three departments and agencies indicated in part III seeks parliamentary approval for funds for operational needs but in doing so is amending legislation through the use of an appropriation act. In this regard I refer to Speaker Jerome's ruling on March 22, 1977 at page 4220 of Debates when he said that changes in legislation ought to be dealt with by legislation and not by supply items.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, this point of order could have far reaching effects. I would like to hear what the hon. member has to say. If you have other meetings I would invite you please to use the lobbies. I would very much like to hear this point of order and I am being a little distracted. I return to the hon. member for St. Albert.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, first is the Canadian International Trade Tribunal which through vote 35 on program expenditures is extending its mandate with the implementation of the agreement on government procurement. To date there is no legislative authority to extend the tribunal's mandate, as set out in the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act, allowing it to hear complaints pursuant to this agreement which has yet to be brought before Parliament for confirmation.

Again we must use the part II book containing the estimates. As it is difficult to determine precisely the amount of this item within the vote, I therefore ask Mr. Speaker to strike vote 35 of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal from the estimates.

A second irregularity comes from the Department of Public Works and Government Services. Under the supply and services program vote 15, program expenditures, is the Canada Communication Group's revolving fund, which is a special operating agency. It was established in 1990 in part pursuant to section 29.1 of the Financial Administration Act and is responsible for the government's printing and publishing operations.

In March 1997 the department officially privatized the Canada Communications Group. Parliament is now being asked to increase the CCG revolving fund by $21 million due to the sale of the printing services and distribution logistics services of CCG according to part I book of the estimates.

Privatization of the government's printing operation requires amendments to the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, section 19. This section requires that the minister appoint an officer of his department as the Queen's printer for Canada responsible for printing and publishing operations of the Government of Canada. To date no such legislation has been introduced into this House to amend this act. The department is in effect legislating through the use of an appropriation act.

It is important to note that although the CCG item in the estimates is listed as a statutory item, it is not placed there just for information, as used to be the case with previous legislative items such as salaries for ministers.

I draw attention to the fact that since 1991, section 29(1) of the Financial Administration Act allowed revolving fund agencies to use appropriation acts to change the purposes and draw down limits, thereby giving Parliament the right to be involved in their affairs. As a consequence, I ask that this item, as indicated at page 1-58 of the part II book of estimates, be deleted.

Finally, there is an unusual establishment of the Canada Information Office and its vote 40, program expenditures. This office was established by order in council on July 9, 1996 under the authority of the Financial Administration Act, section 3(1)(a) by renaming the voluntary action program as the Canada Information Office and placing it under schedule I(1) of the Financial Administration Act.

The Financial Administration Act permits the governor in council to add the name of any division or branch of the public service to schedule I(1). However, the voluntary action program was neither a division nor a branch of either the department of communications or the Department of Canadian Heritage.

In addition, it should be noted that the Financial Administration Act uses the word add, not the word create, thereby justifying my argument.

Furthermore, I would argue establishing an agency by an order in council certainly does not meet the definition of legislative authority as expressed by Speaker Jerome who said in part on December 7, 1977, as recorded in Hansard at page 1642 that the legislative process requires three readings, committee stage and, in other words, ample time for members to participate in debate and amendment.

The Canada Information Office subsequently sought to obtain legislative status through the supplementary estimates in an appropriation act. Nevertheless on March 22, 1977 at page 4220 of Hansard , Speaker Jerome ruled that supplementary estimates ought not to be used as a means to seek funds for new programs, as these supplementary estimates are only for short duration.

This point was reiterated by Madam Speaker Sauvé on June 12, 1981 at page 10546 of Debates when she said that the Appropriation Act is not the place to seek authority to do something such as to establish a new program. Rather, that act should only seek authority to spend money for a program that has been previously authorized by statute.

Again, as quoted in Beauchesne's sixth edition at citation 938, she expanded on this on March 21, 1983 at page 23968 of Hansard by declaring that the previous amendment of legislation by an appropriation act cannot justify a repeated use of an item in the estimates to amend legislation.

Therefore, in accordance with these Speaker's rulings, I ask that vote 40 of the Canada Information Office be deleted from the estimates.

I must at this time indicate my dismay with the practices of this government. The main estimates for the fiscal year 1997-98 were tabled in this House on February 20, 1997.

Because Parliament was dissolved, the main estimates were not approved by June in accordance with the standing orders. As a consequence, the government had to reintroduce in this Parliament the estimates but it reintroduced the same old package on October 1, 1997, even though it was quite aware that not all its legislative program on which these estimates were based had been completed.

In my view this action is an expression of this government's contempt of this House which requires this House to defend vigorously its sole right to grant supply. I submit that the votes I cited, Mr. Speaker, are in fact all out of order. I respectfully ask that you so rule.

In conclusion, if we are to protect this institution in our role as the sole granter of aids and supplies from misuse by the crown, then surely it is imperative that we follow the proper parliamentary procedures with respect to that supply process and within the rule of law which was so often quoted by the Minister of Justice in the last Parliament with respect to another issue.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Reform Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will not be quite as long as my colleague.

The official opposition is bringing this to your attention today because we feel it strikes at the very heart of this democratic institution we have here. The government is attempting to usurp the authority and responsibility of this House and its members. This is far from a routine point of order. This is and has been a study. It is an analysis and it is a very serious issue of a fundamental question. Does government operate through the legislation of the people or does government operate outside of the very legislation it expects all citizens to be guided by?

As you are aware, this responsibility of the House represents a basic principle of our Constitution. The fundamental principle that the crown has no power to tax except by grant of Parliament is to be found even in the Magna Carta. The bill of rights of 1689 declares: “Levying money for or to the use of the crown by pretence of prerogative without grant of Parliament for longer time or in another manner than the same is or shall be granted is illegal”.

The principle that Parliament approve expenditures for the specific purposes for which they were intended began as far back as Charles II and was developed under William and Mary. As a result, we are governed today by rules that make it illegal for the executive to make expenditures except those expenditures that are approved by Parliament in ways approved by Parliament.

The member for St. Albert has argued that certain items in the main estimates have breached these rules because they lack the sanctioning of necessary legislation. To support his argument, I refer to citation 937 of Beauchesne's sixth edition:

The test which items must meet to be included in the Estimates is whether or not the government is putting forward a spending estimate under authority it already possesses, or whether it is really seeking new legislative authority to do something. It makes no difference whether an item attempts to spend a large sum or simply one dollar. The government may not, by the use of an appropriation act, obtain authority it does not have under existing legislation.

Our extensive research by a number of well qualified people finds that no authority exists in the areas we have defined.

Citation 935 puts it simply like this:

A supply item ought not to be used to obtain authority which is the proper subject of legislation.

I would support the member's claim that the amounts objected to in vote 35 concerning the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, vote 15 of the department of public works, and vote 40 concerning the Canada Information Office are without legislative authority.

The member for St. Albert has also objected to the amounts in vote 1 of the department of agriculture, vote 15 concerning the Immigration and Refugee Board, vote 1 of environment, vote 5 concerning the department of Indian affairs and vote 1 of the Department of Transport. He argues that these items seek spending authority in legislation not yet passed in Parliament.

Citation 941 of Beauchesne's sixth edition makes the case:

If a vote in the Estimates relates to a bill not yet passed by Parliament then the authorizing bill must become law before the authorization of the relevant vote in the Estimates by an appropriation act.

This is a mandate, not a request.

Citation 942 points out:

Asking for money in the Estimates before legislation is passed to establish programmes “puts the cart before the horse”.

Through these items in the main estimates the government is attempting to spend the dowry and plan the honeymoon before popping the question. Our rules are based on tradition, and before the government books the honeymoon suite in the Niagara Falls Hilton, it must take us out on three successful dates: second reading, report stage and third reading. It must also court our neighbours next door, not to mention the final approval from dad in Rideau Hall.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw to your attention a reference from the introduction of the main estimates document part II, the very document which introduces these estimates. It states: “Proposals included in votes seek authority during the 1997-98 fiscal year to make expenditures necessary to deliver various mandates which are under the administration of a minister and are contained in legislation approved by Parliament”.

That in fact is not true. The very document which contains breaches of our parliamentary rules ironically sets those rules out in its introduction. To knowingly state the rules and then ignore those rules makes a mockery of every member in this House and those who elected us.

This represents another disturbing attempt by the government to erode the influence of the Commons and render its members irrelevant. It has demonstrated this by introducing bills in the Senate, advertising the passage of bills before they are passed and setting up bodies based on legislation not yet approved by Parliament, this House.

Today the government is going too far with this attempt to spend money without legislative authority. We ask that you protect the ancient constitutional right of the Commons to insist on legislative authority as a precondition to sanction grants of supply.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the core argument today is the following.

The only words that go into the appropriation act are the words that appear in part II of the estimates. As we know, last year the part IIIs of the estimates were tabled only later because they include information on subsequent years. Nothing in part I or part III appears in the appropriation act. Only the precise wording in part II appears in the appropriation act and therefore has the force of law. Our procedure depends on the wording in part II only and in nothing else.

Mr. Speaker, before going too much further in this intervention, I would like to point out that the government has shown high respect for this House in the way it has handled the estimates process and everything else.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Before the election was called—

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

I appeal to you, my colleagues. I want to hear what is being said, so I would ask you please to refrain from heckling.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, before the election was called, the government sought interim supply to last through the election period. In so doing, it obtained the consent of this House for the functioning of Parliament both during the election period and in the subsequent period. This is something that has seldom been done before, if ever.

Second, immediately after the election and contrary to what had been done in many previous parliaments, if not all of them, no Governor General's warrants were issued although those would have been totally appropriate and in conformity with the Financial Administration Act. Out of respect for this House everything was done to do things in a timely fashion and in order to avoid the use of Governor General's warrants.

I would like to add there was co-operation of members on all sides of the House, and the House leaders in particular, who saw fit to arrive at a formula whereby we could debate supply and provide for the number of opposition days and arrive at the day at which we will have arrived tomorrow, which is the final day for debating supply and the subsequent appropriation bill. This was done with the consent of all parties and I thank all hon. members.

Fundamentally it was the will of the government to adhere not only to the rules of the House, but to ensure that certain vehicles such as the use of Governor General's warrants were avoided in order to show nothing but the highest of respect for the institution. Although as I said, the use of such warrants would have been permitted.

The part IIIs of course do not form the principal element of this issue. As I indicated previously they are a rather recent invention. As a matter of fact, last year they were not even tabled at the same time as the estimates. They were tabled at some point later so that additional information could be put in the part IIIs in regard to subsequent years and in conformity with one of the campaign commitments that we made prior to the 1993 election. We believe that this formula has allowed members to participate more fully.

I want to address a few of the issues that have been raised in detail by the hon. member. It has been said that the wheat board item should be set aside because appropriation is being sought where according to the opposition no government bill setting out the details has yet been passed. A similar argument is being made about vote 15 for the Immigration and Refugee Board. The same is alleged with regard to Environment Canada vote I.

I would like to suggest two things. First is that every one of these bills that is before the House where necessary has a royal recommendation regarding the crown's prerogative to spend money. Second is that of course this could not be done without having proper supply.

To that extent I want to indicate first that this is not an expenditure in itself. This is merely an action by these estimates providing for the funding for the expenditure. The expenditure itself will only come if and when the legislation is passed. Of course the money would not be spent either without the bill or the attending royal recommendation if such is required under a particular act.

There is another thing which I believe is quite important for the Chair to consider. Those very same expenditures were voted on in the interim supply last March. I submit to the Chair that if this argument on the part of the opposition is all that valid, we have to wonder why it was not valid according to the same sources and the same people only a few months ago.

If the House had no problem in voting interim supply on the exact same wording as part IIs last March, I submit that the House is equally qualified to vote on these same estimates as they are when it votes on these estimates presumably late in the day tomorrow.

It could very well be that the President of the Treasury Board might want to add to the comments I have just made. Nothing I have said should be equated with my speaking on his behalf.

On behalf of the government generally, in terms of how these estimates were put together, I do believe that they were constructed in a good and appropriate way according to the customs of the House and not only that, but according to the way the House voted on many of the same items only a few months ago, namely in March 1997.

That is the submission I wish to make to the Chair. I ask the Chair to consider that the point made by hon. members across is not valid and that the estimates as they are presently printed are in order and should be disposed of at the appropriate time which could be tomorrow.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have two or three points I would like to raise on this same point of order. I can tell that all members of the House realize the importance of this point of order not only to the government but to the opposition and to Parliament itself. This cuts to the very core of why we are here, which is to approve legislation and the funding required to carry it out.

If we follow through on the government's request, to follow the logic of the government House leader, he says that just because we approve the estimates is no big deal because nothing happens until the legislation is passed. If that is true, then the entire estimates process is a sham.

We approve the estimates in good faith assuming that the government will follow through on the spending contained therein. To bypass the estimates process, which is to scrutinize it to make sure that the money is spent where and when it is authorized and so on, is truly putting the cart before the horse. The expenditures are being approved before legislation is in place to give the government the authority to do so.

Second, I would point out that the goodwill arrangement and the negotiations that go on between the government and opposition parties with respect to supply days is carried out in good faith. Again that is irrelevant to this argument today, which is that supply cannot be voted on unless the legislation has been approved. We can negotiate in good faith and arrange days for debate. There is a supply day tomorrow but that is irrelevant to the point of order which is before you today, Mr. Speaker, which again comes down to which comes first, the law or the estimates?

Third, earlier in this Parliament, Mr. Speaker, you ruled on a point of order that I brought forward with respect to the creation of an investment board by Bill C-2, which is a bill not yet passed. Although you ruled at that time that because no money had been spent the bill was not contradicting my privileges as a parliamentarian, you did admonish the government. You said words to the effect that you took this very seriously. You admonished the finance department and those responsible for putting these types of things together. You said that they were pushing the edge, and I realize I am ad libbing here. They were right at the edge and you said that you took it very seriously. You said that this was not the first time it had happened and that you hoped it would not happen again.

Tomorrow if you allow the estimates to proceed as tabled, we will not only be near the edge, we will be down in the abyss, at the bottom looking up at what used to be a very noble procedure where laws were put in place and then appropriations were given.

Mr. Speaker, I would urge you to look at the arguments presented by members on this side of the House today. To not do what was asked by the hon. member for St. Albert would be to neuter the role of parliamentarians in their attempts to bring all the light which is necessary to bear on the estimates process.

Mr. Speaker, I urge you to realize that the line has been crossed. I urge you to make the proper decision tomorrow, which I hope will be that these estimates votes be deleted from tomorrow's voting.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

Is the hon. government House leader rising to present new information?

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to comment pursuant to the last remark that was made and not comment on anything that was said previously pursuant to how you instructed us. Commenting only on what the hon. member has just said and adding new information to that, the reverse of what the hon. member has just stated would be totally illogical.

If one could ever conceive that this government would pass all kinds of legislation and royal recommendations inherent involving the spending of money and provide no funding within its estimates for the programs it was planning to deliver, this would essentially mean that all of us would be legislating and no program could ever be put together in the same calendar year. You would have to provide funding only for subsequent years because you would never be providing funding in order to make it happen. A situation like that would be totally irresponsible and unworkable.

Conversely, if governments were to plan to spend money in legislation and never have anything in the estimates in the same year to provide for it and to go ahead with it right away, it would be the same people across the way challenging the government. They would be indicating, and probably quite correctly, that in fact the government is undertaking new expenditures for which it has received no authority under appropriation. It cannot be both ways.

I do not believe the last point raised adds to the point made before by the hon. member. What has just been stated now adds to the credibility of the government and the way in which the estimates were put together.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. I have just a couple of quick points, if you would indulge me.

The first is that in reply to the statement previously made by the hon. House leader of the government, I was under the impression that the reasoning behind the practice of supplementary estimates, not the main estimates, is to ensure the government has a vehicle in which it can bring forward legislation and actually get it under way in the same calendar year.

Second, just briefly on the issue, it is a longstanding tradition that ministers appear before the standing committees. Speaking as the chief opposition critic for the minister of agriculture, the minister responsible for this first disputed item, vote 1, policy and farm programs, has not given the opportunity to members of Parliament and me as the critic to question him about that expenditure. Had that happened perhaps some of this could have been avoided.

I am informed a large number of ministers have not appeared. Now with the seventh and last supply day being tomorrow, as was indicated by agreement effectively if ministers appear subsequently they will not actually be debating the estimates or have any effect on whether those estimates can be reduced following their cross-examination at committee.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have one small point again in rebuttal to the government House leader.

Much legislation died on the order paper when parliament was dissolved last April and that included the main estimates. The main estimates were reintroduced without any changes whatsoever on October 1. However, because the government did not reintroduce the legislation that died, it was obvious its agenda had changed.

If the government's agenda had changed, if its decision about what was to be spent and what was not to be spent had changed, surely it had an obligation to the House to amend and introduce the estimates to reflect its agenda after the election, not the one before.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

The Speaker

To say the least an interesting point of order has been raised. I will surely take into consideration the information and the opinions of both sides.

I will take all the information and I will do my own study of it. I will return to the House not today but hopefully in very short order. I will take all these things into consideration and report to the House after I have reviewed everything.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Reform Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of information. I presume you are telling us that you would report back to the House prior to the vote on the estimates tomorrow night.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

The Speaker

My intention would be to do as much research as I can, but I am sure the hon. member would not want me to make a decision if I did not have all the information I could possibly have in front of me. I will endeavour to do that and hopefully I will be able to do that.