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.