I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. 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-284, An Act to amend the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act (Canada access grants), standing in the name of the hon. member for Halifax West.
I would like to thank the hon. Parliamentary Secretary for having raised this issue as well as the hon. member for Halifax West for his comments.
In his presentation, the hon. parliamentary secretary argued that Bill C-284 seeks to create a new category of assistance for students with permanent disabilities and students from low income families, claiming that such a program does not currently exist in the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act.
The hon. member for Halifax West countered that this grant program already does exist and that the purpose of his bill is simply to extend the program over the course of four years.
After examining Bill C-284, the Chair has concluded that it has two objectives. First, it takes the existing Canada access grants program, established by regulation, and transfers its provisions out of the regulations into the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act.
I remind hon. members that a regulation cannot impose a charge on the public revenue without express authority having been provided in the enabling legislation. The government cannot expend funds pursuant to a regulation unless the legislation on which that regulation is based was accompanied by a royal recommendation.
In this case, then, the Canada access grants program, established by authority granted to the minister by the Canada Student Assistance Act is covered by the royal recommendation which accompanied that act. Accordingly, the Chair is satisfied that moving the program out of the regulations into the act does not violate the royal recommendation.
However, the second objective of Bill C-284 is more problematic for the Chair. As the sponsor of the bill, the hon. member for Halifax West himself pointed out, the bill seeks to expand the grants program, so that students will be eligible for grants in every year of a program rather than only during their first year of post-secondary studies. In enlarging the program in this way, the bill extends the program's scope beyond that originally envisaged.
Such an extension is not covered by the terms of any existing appropriation. Funds may only be appropriated by Parliament for purposes authorized by a royal recommendation. Any extension of the terms of an existing program must be accompanied by a new royal recommendation. Through the royal recommendation accompanying the original act, the minister was able to authorize the funding of a one-year program. The royal recommendation did not cover a program of four years, as proposed in the hon. member's bill.
Therefore, the Chair must conclude that those provisions in clause 1 of the bill, which relate to increasing the availability of Canada access grants, would require a royal recommendation.
In its present form, I will therefore decline to put the question on third reading of this bill in its present form unless a royal recommendation is received. However, the debate is currently on the motion for second reading and the motion shall be put to a vote at the close of the second reading debate.