I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on October 3, 2006, by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform concerning the need for a royal recommendation for Bill C-285, An Act to amend the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Act (profits distributed to provinces), standing in the name of the hon. member for Québec.
I would like to thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for having raised this important matter as well as the hon. member for Québec for her comments.
In his presentation, the hon. parliamentary secretary noted that Bill C-285 seeks to require the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to distribute any surplus from its reserve fund to the provinces.
He pointed out that the bill is similar in this regard to Bill C-363, introduced during the 1st Session of the 38th Parliament and acknowledged that, in a ruling given on October 3, 2005, at pages 8293-4 of the Debates, the Deputy Speaker had ruled that Bill C-363 did not require a royal recommendation.
The Parliamentary Secretary went on to make two points which he felt were relevant to the determination of whether or not Bill C-285 requires a royal recommendation. First, quoting from section 2 of the Financial Administration Act, he asserted that all of the revenues received by CMHC fall within the definition of “public money”.
He then went on to argue that, and I quote from Debates of October 3, 2006, at page 3589:
“—the accounts of CMHC are consolidated with the government’s revenue and available for future appropriations determined by Parliament. By transferring this money to the provinces, Bill C-285 is effectively an appropriation.
I have examined this matter with care because I recognize its importance both to the government and to all hon. members. I would also like to remind the House that my role here is restricted to ensuring that our rules are respected. It is not within the responsibilities of the Chair to deal with matters of legal interpretation.
The Chair continues to have difficulty with the assertion that the proposed amendment constitutes an appropriation. As I noted in my ruling of October 3, 2005, on Bill C-363, at page 8293 of the Debates:
--the reserve fund is an operational account that CMHC uses to conduct its corporate business. Until amounts from the reserve fund are actually transferred to the Consolidated Revenue Fund each year, they are not available to the Crown for general appropriations.
As I stated in my earlier ruling and as it is defined in section 2 of the Financial Administration Act, an appropriation is the approval by Parliament for a withdrawal of funds from the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF). Funds which have not been deposited in the CRF cannot be subject to appropriation.
Until such time as funds are paid over to the Receiver General, pursuant to section 29 (2) of the CMHC Act, they are not in the CRF and they cannot be appropriated. A bill which alters the Act to require that reserve funds not be paid to the Receiver General but be used for another purpose does not touch the CRF and does not require a royal recommendation.
As such, Bill C-285 does not seek to appropriate public funds and would not require a royal recommendation.
I would once again like to thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for having raised this matter. As I said earlier, it is a matter of some interest to all hon. members and one on which it is best to have as clear an understanding as possible.