Mr. Speaker, I rise today to submit to you that recently there was a procedural mistake which took place during the clause by clause study of Bill C-23, which could have an impact on the business of the House.
I specifically ask you to look into the rulings of the chair on the subject of the requirement of a royal recommendation, even where there is a previous statutory authority.
If I can summarize the facts of the situation as I understand them, there was a meeting on clause by clause consideration of Bill C-23 on February 10. Certain amendments were proposed that day by the member for Chambly—Borduas. Specifically, I refer to the minutes which state:
Yves Lessard moved: That Bill C-23, in Clause 20, be amended by replacing line 32 on page 6 with the following:
“consisting of seventeen commissioners to be appointed by the”
Debate arose thereon.—
The Chair ruled the proposed amendment inadmissible because it infringes on the financial prerogative of the Crown, as provided on page 656 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice.
The chair ruled then, and ruled again today when I attended the meeting, that the proposed amendment to increase the number of commissioners in the bill was outside the scope due to the lack of a royal recommendation.
I submit that the chair and the committee staff failed to take into account the ruling made by Speaker Parent on February 12, 1998 when deciding on the admissibility of the amendment from the member for Chambly—Borduas. I submit a copy of his short ruling.
The crux of the ruling is that a royal recommendation is not required for an initiative for which there is already a statutory authority.
In the case of Bill C-23, I submit that there is a statutory authority for a set number of commissioners. I submit that an additional royal recommendation is not required for the numbers of commissioners to be changed, even expanded, so long as their is existing statutory authority.
I specifically call your attention to Erskine May, 21st edition, page 717 under paragraph (c)(6), which states that a Queen's recommendation is not needed for an expenditure covered by an existing authority, including:
Widening the jurisdiction of a court or creating offences although they may have the effect of increasing the costs of the administration of justice.
That is the quote relied upon by Speaker Parent in his ruling.
In this case the member for Chambly—Borduas was attempting to widen the membership of the board from 4 to 17. I submit that this proposed amendment was in order and that the committee should be given the opportunity to consider this amendment in clause by clause on Bill C-23.
Mr. Speaker, I am aware of your rulings on committees that state that committees must be and remain masters of their own affairs, and of course I respect that ruling, but unless we can have clarity on the admissibility of this amendment, I do not see how we can proceed with the legislation should it be reported back this week, which is the current plan of the committee.
I therefore ask you to rule on the admissibility of the amendment and transmit your ruling to the chair of the committee before the committee reports, which has already been done and we have agreed to present it today in the House of Commons. However I hope you will give us a decision that will reflect the decision of Speaker Parent in 1998.