Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Bill S-7 should be withdrawn from the order paper because it would violate the financial privileges of the House. I argue this point as a matter of precedence. While the bill has some redeeming value it is contrary to parliamentary practice and consequently would establish a deleterious precedent.
Further, the bill in its present form and in the route by which it was placed on the Chamber's order paper was a conscious attempt by the heritage minister and her officials to avoid dealing with the issue. The summary of the bill states:
This enactment amends the Broadcasting Act in order to enable the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to make regulations establishing criteria for the awarding of costs, and to give the Commission the power to award and tax costs between the parties that appear before it. Costs are the allowed expenses that a party incurs in respect of a proceeding. The taxation of costs means the review of the costs by an officer of the Commission with a view to determining that they are authorized and reasonable.
The bill attempts to amend the Broadcasting Act by adding the following after section 9:
9.1(1) The Commission may award interim or final costs of and incidental to proceedings before it and may fix the amount of the costs or direct that the amount be taxed.
(2) The Commission may order by whom and to whom any costs are to be paid and by whom they are to be taxed, and may establish a scale for the taxation of costs.
The awarding of costs for intervener status already exists on the telecommunications side of the CRTC. This is creating a level playing field, so to speak, for the broadcasting side. The costs are met by companies that come under the jurisdiction of the CRTC which took part in the proceedings and will be affected by the outcome.
One of the principles of reimbursement is to compensate deserving interveners for the costs incurred by an intervention based on fair market value for the work performed. Like the costs for company representation the funds come from the key industry intervener's services budget. This procedure would be the same as that already in place under the Telecommunications Act.
In exercising its responsibility under the Broadcasting Act the CRTC is given decision making powers that are important for and have a great impact on the association of Canadians with the promotion of Canadian culture, the setting of rates, the introduction of competition and the resolution of stakeholder disputes.
Mr. Speaker, on June 12 you set the stage for the ruling I am asking for in your ruling on Bill S-15. Since the same stage can be used for my argument regarding the procedural inadmissibility of Bill S-7 I will begin by quoting from your ruling. Citing chapter 18 of Marleau and Montpetit you said:
Initially, the Commons were content simply to have grants of Supply originate in their House. However, over time the Lords began “tacking on” additional legislative provisions to Commons “money bills”, by way of amendments. This was viewed by the House as a breach of its prerogative to originate all legislation which imposed a charge either on the public or the public purse, and led the Commons, in 1678, to resolve that:
All aids and supplies, and aids to his Majesty in Parliament, are the sole gift of the Commons; and all Bills for the granting of any such aids and supplies ought to begin with the Commons: and that it is the undoubted and sole right of the Commons to direct, limit, and appoint, in such Bills, the ends, purposes, considerations, conditions, limitations, and qualifications of such grants; which ought not to be changed or altered by the House of Lords.
--300 years later a virtually identical formulation is found in our own House of Commons Standing Order 80(1) which reads:
All aids and supplies granted to the Sovereign by the parliament of Canada are the sole gift of the House of Commons, and all bills for granting such aids and supplies ought to begin with the House, as it is the undoubted right of the House to direct, limit and appoint in all such bills, the ends, purposes, considerations, conditions, limitations and qualifications of such grants, which are not alterable by the Senate.
This same principle is captured in an early source on Canadian procedure, Bourinot 4th ed., at page 491, which states, and this is a translation:
As a general rule, public bills may originate in either house; but whenever they grant supplies of any kind, or involve directly or indirectly the levying or appropriation of any tax upon the people, they must be initiated in the popular branch, in accordance with law and English constitutional practice.
In Canada, the constitution itself enshrines the ancient English practice whereby the elected representatives of those who will be affected by any tax measure should be the first to examine such a measure and accept or reject it.
In matters of taxation, the House is provided with priority over the Senate. The Constitution Act, 1867 provides, in section 53: “Bills for appropriating any Part of the Public Revenue, or for imposing any Tax or Impost, shall originate in the House of Commons”. The standing orders provide that the House may only consider taxation measures that have been initiated by a minister through the usual ways and means procedures.
As with Bill S-15, the central issue in this case is whether or not the fees imposed are for purposes beneficial to the industry concerned. I refer the House to page 779 of Erskine May, 22nd edition:
Modern legislation, however, frequently makes provision for the imposition of other types of fees or payment which, although not taxes in a strict sense, have enough of the characteristics of taxation to require to be treated as 'charges upon the people'--
As I said earlier, the sole purpose of Bill S-7 is to compensate deserving interveners for the costs incurred by an intervention based on the fair market value of the work performed. Like the cost for company representation, the funds come from the key industry interveners' services budget.
As I stated, I am arguing the bill as a matter of precedence and not as a motion on behalf of the industry although Bill S-7, unlike Bill S-15, does not even attempt to make the case that it is beneficial to the industry.
I have not been able to identify in the bill any dispositions that provide for any benefit to the industry. The bill would work against the industry. At the moment a member of the public can bring to the CRTC a grievance against a telecommunications company and the intervener would be compensated for any costs incurred. Bill S-7 seeks to extend this benefit to the broadcasting side of the CRTC. This would encourage more people to launch complaints against the broadcasting industry.
The difference between Bill S-15 and Bill S-7 is that in the case of Bill S-15 no such fund existed at all. Bill S-7 seeks to expand the use of a fund that already exists. This cannot be a legitimate argument to allow Bill S-7 to remain on the order paper.
On June 12, 1973, the Speaker ruled Bill S-5, the Farm Improvement Loans Act, out of order because while the bill did not in itself propose a direct expenditure it proposed substantial additional liabilities on public moneys. The Speaker ruled that the bill infringed on the privilege of the House.
On October 23, 1991, the speaker of the Senate ruled a Senate bill out of order that sought to extend war veterans benefits to merchant seamen. The speaker pointed out that the bill would give rise to claims by merchant seamen and their spouses against the government and would cause the government to incur liabilities.
Bill S-7 would have the same effect in that it would increase liabilities upon the existing fund. It introduces for the first time a scheme for compensating interveners for the broadcasting industry.
In F. A. Kunz's The Modern Senate of Canada there is a reference to the war risk insurance bill of 1942. The government had to accept a number of amendments made by the Senate except one which enabled the minister to enter into an agreement with provincially registered insurance companies. After debate Mr. Ilsley told the House on July 29 that the Senate:
--contravenes constitutional usage and practice, because the alteration of that scheme in any important particular is the alteration of what is essentially and soundly considered a financial bill.
The attempt by Bill S-7 to alter the criteria for the awarding of costs and give the commission the power to award and tax costs between the parties that appear before it is the alteration of what is essentially and soundly a financial matter.
To sum up, Bill S-7 would introduce a tax for the broadcasting industry. It would not be beneficial to the broadcasting industry. It would alter an existing scheme that increases the liabilities of an established fund.
If the heritage minister and her department want to create such a change let her exhibit leadership by bringing forward such legislation and in effect taking ownership of it. Using the back door of a bill originating in the Senate, even one with some redeeming value, is unbecoming for the Minister of Canadian Heritage.
Bill S-7 would violate the financial privileges of the House and establish a precedent for future bills. It should therefore be withdrawn.