Mr. Speaker, I am please to continue the debate on this private member's bill moved and drafted by my hon. colleague from Durham.
I endorse the bill. I support the bill. I endorse the concept. The member would agree that some fine tuning of all our bills which emanate from private members' business can best be done at committee.
The bill causes the taxpayer, the parliamentarian and the drafter of a bill or statute to recognize at the front end the fiscal costs associated with the change, whatever it might be. It is not a new idea but it is the first time it has been proposed here. It is an excellent idea.
The current procedure, as I understand it, begins in the executive branch of government where a bill is drafted and proposed. Although I have never sat at the cabinet table I understand that modern cabinets have financial assessment figures and projections at the front end whenever they consider legislation. As we are all aware a bill proposed in the House by the government has the support of cabinet. Before cabinet makes a decision cabinet knows what the numbers will be.
I would have thought it would be a fairly simple operation to make the same numbers available when the bill is presented in the House of Commons. Someone has already done the work on the calculator. I would have thought it would be pretty easy to add one page to the bill or the proposal and make it available for parliamentary debate and committee perusal as the statute or reform is being considered.
As it sits now, the House does not necessarily have this information as it considers a bill. It may in some cases be made privy to the departmental calculations as the bill goes through the committee process. In addition I have noted, as I am sure all members have noted, that most ministries deal with these issues publicly when they put forward a proposal. In any event I do not think it is a bad idea at all to nail this little procedure down at the front end.
To draw two analogies of similar concepts at work, the parliamentary secretary referred to what is called the regulatory impact analysis statement, RIAS, which is now used for almost all government regulatory initiatives. That impact statement for regulations includes references to the cost. That is a useful tool. It does not show up in this House because it is regulatory. The field has already been delegated by another statute to the executive branch. The RIAS is a very useful document. My colleague's proposal would in effect put a financial impact statement on the front end of a bill.
The second analogy is with environmental impact statements that are required by statute in many different areas now. They are
very useful in assessing the potential impact of statutes and changes in the way we do things in government.
The backdrop of this should include a recognition that the parliamentary estimates procedure, the process by which Parliament is supposed to review government spending, does not always work as effectively as we would like. Over the years this has been reformed from time to time. Every few years we revise the estimates procedures to try to enable Parliament to get a better handle on what is a very large and complex matter these days, government spending. It is quite huge, exceeding the $100 billion mark. I understand there is ongoing work to improve, change and update this procedure in the House of Commons. The initiative put forward by my colleague from Durham can only enhance whatever process we might subsequently adopt in the House.
As I understand it, given that the government and cabinet already do calculations for all government initiatives put forward by way of statute or changes in policy, given that it already happens in camera in cabinet, and given that the information is not always made public in the process that brings bills into the House, I am very much in favour of a House mandated procedure that would cause the numbers to be placed in front of all of us as we debate, pass and not pass legislation.
With tongue in cheek I might ask-and I do not need the answer-whether there is an estimate provided by the mover of the bill of its financial impact. It might have been a nice start. I do not know whether the hon. member has done that, but it is a great idea and I will support it.