Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order with regard to two issues within the supplementary estimates (A), 2005-06, which I believe are not properly before the House.
As Madam Speaker Sauvé said on June 12, 1981 at page 10546 of Hansard , “it matters not whether the amount spent is a large sum or simply one dollar.”
Going back as far as 1971, members of this House have 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 have consistently ruled in support of these arguments by 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. You yourself, Mr. Speaker, protected the rights of the House in the matters of supply on November 22, 2001.
I will first deal with the funding for Service Canada which appears to be a new government department, perhaps. Order in council P.C. 2005-1609 issued on September 8, 2005, appointed Ms. Maryantonett Flumian as the “Deputy Minister of Service Canada” with that style and title.
The Financial Administration Act assigns important powers directly to deputy ministers such as Ms. Flumian. The specific responsibilities include: ensuring an adequate system of internal control and audit, subsection 31(3); establishing procedures and maintaining records, subsection 32(2); providing the required certification to authorize any payment to be made, section 34; maintaining adequate records in relation to public property, section 62; and preparing a division of an appropriation or item included in the estimates--and note that one Mr. Speaker--subsection 31(1). Where are her estimates?
Deputy ministers also hold other directly assigned authorities including personnel management in the public service and the Official Languages Act.
So where is the department and her estimates? We know Ms. Flumian has been appointed as Deputy Minister of Service Canada but is being paid by HRSDC. Are you getting a little confused, Mr. Speaker? I am.
Also, according to Service Canada's website, it employs over 20,000 staff, serves 32 million Canadians per year, has 320 offices across the country, handles 14 million website visits per year, and answers over 50 million calls per year. It definitely sounds like a ministry to me, so where is the legislation authorizing this department and where are its own estimates as required by the Financial Administration Act to cover these costs?
I draw your attention to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, on June 12, 2003 at page 7221 of the debates. You said:
--the Chair is troubled by the current case which is an example of a persistent problem that I have had occasion to comment on before, that is, the adequacy of information provided to Parliament regarding estimates. Committees have always been dependent on being provided with complete and accurate information concerning proposed public spending. In light of the size and complexity of modern government, this is all the more true....If that documentation is inadequate, then members seeking clarification have no recourse except, as the hon. member for St. Albert did, to raise a point of order in the House.
Here I am again, Mr. Speaker.
I would also draw your attention to an article by Kathryn May from the September 27, 2005 edition of the Ottawa Citizen where she noted:
--senior officials say Service Canada is intended to be different from other departments. They argue it makes sense to experiment before setting the agency's parameters in stone with legislation. It is expected that legislation will eventually be drafted once ministers and bureaucrats figure out how best to run the agency.
Is this a department that is halfway through its gestation period and already spending money without authorization? Surely this is a new concept for the House. She also writes:
Service Canada is being put together using orders-in-council, memorandums of understanding and other contractual arrangements. Over the coming months, it will have agreements with about 12 departments--
It still sounds like an independent department, Mr. Speaker, does it not?
I find this to be a grave situation. We have unnamed senior government officials stating on the record that the government is using taxpayers' money to run an unofficial department that has no parameters in legislation, but will be formally created “once ministers and bureaucrats figure out how to best run the agency”. This is an affront to Parliament.
I next seek the Chair's indulgence to raise the issue of one-dollar votes to transfer funds from the Department of National Defence to Parc Downsview Park, Inc. There are a number of votes which deal with this in the supplementary estimates (A) 2005-06. Vote 4a of National Defence, in the amount of $1, forgives a debt owed by Parc Downsview Park Inc. amounting to $15,059,000. Vote L11a of the Office of Infrastructure seeks to complete a transfer of land to Parc Downsview Park Inc. in the amount of $2.49 million. Vote L13a of the Office of Infrastructure is another $1 vote, seeking to establish a borrowing authority of $100 million for Parc Downsview Park Inc.
Marleau and Montpetit state at page 733:
The inclusion of one dollar items in the Estimates also gave rise to the issue of using Estimates to “legislate”....
Marleau and Montpetit continue on page 735, stating:
Speaker Jerome stated in a ruling: “...it is my view that the government receives 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. A supply item in my opinion ought not, therefore, to be used to obtain authority which is the proper subject of legislation”.
The government is required to legislate in another way and Parliament grants funds through the estimates process.
Madame Speaker Sauvé also ruled on March 25, 1981, at pages 8600-8601 of the Debates that eight one-dollar items in that case were out of order.
Other references that may be of assistance include the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts of the 35th Parliament, First Session, which discusses the issue of legislative authority and the estimates.
A succinct case study of the Parc Downsview Park Inc. is contained in the report of the Auditor General tabled in the House yesterday. Chapter 8, at pages 22 and 23, states:
[The government]...informed us that the ministers concerned intend to seek Parliament's approval for the transfer through the supplementary estimates process in the fall of 2005. The intent is to transfer the lands at their current book value, which is the normal practice for transactions between related government entities. The book value of the lands to be transferred is $2.49 million. The request for approval of this appropriation will also indicate that the fair value of the lands being transferred is estimated to be $152 million according to a recent appraisal.
This type of transfer should be accomplished in a manner outside the estimates process, but instead they have sought to subvert the estimates process for this transaction.
It is clear that the government is seeking to transfer land into the crown corporation, Parc Downsview Park Inc., in a manner not consistent with our parliamentary rules and traditions. Estimates are for Parliament granting supply to the government. Transfers of land from one department to another should not form part of the estimates.
I am therefore asking you, Mr. Speaker, to rule these votes out of order because they seek to accomplish a goal which is not consistent with the estimates process.
Finally, it is rumoured that Parliament may be dissolved for an election soon. During election periods, the government may pass special warrants to appropriate the necessary funds until Parliament returns.
In your response to this point of order, Mr. Speaker, if you find that it is legitimate, I would ask that you indicate in your ruling that it applies to special warrants as well as any estimates before this House, and, if you do not have the time to rule prior to Parliament's dissolution, that you find a way to communicate to the government that special warrants should not circumvent the rules of the House.