The Chair is now prepared to rule on the points of order raised by the government House leader and the hon. member for Wascana on June 1, 2006 in relation to Bill C-292, An Act to implement the Kelowna Accord.
At the outset, I wish to thank both hon. members for having raised their concerns early in the legislative process for, in so doing, they have afforded all members an opportunity to become better acquainted with this initiative and its procedural implications.
I also wish to thank the government House leader and the hon. member for Wascana for tabling the Kelowna accord, thus adding to the material available to me in preparing this ruling.
The Chair has also noted that the hon. member for Wascana has explained that, in November 2005, as the then minister of finance, he had made provision in the fiscal framework for the implementation of the Kelowna accord. That said, I must make it clear that while the machinery of government could not operate without such planning, it is irrelevant to the question before the Chair.
Hon. members will know that, as Speaker, I can only address procedural issues and that these issues are separate and distinct from fiscal management issues.
The Chair must judge, not whether funds were set aside to meet the government's obligations, but rather whether this specific private member's initiative, Bill C-292, seeks authorization to spend funds. In other words, does Bill C-292 actually propose to spend public funds for a distinct purpose?
The contentious section is in clause 2 of the bill, which reads as follows:
The Government of Canada shall immediately take all measures necessary to implement the terms of the accord, known as the “Kelowna Accord”, that was concluded on November 25, 2005 at Kelowna, British Columbia, by the Prime Minister of Canada, the first ministers of each of the provinces and territories of Canada and the leaders of the Assembly of First Nations, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Metis National Council, the Native Womens’ Association of Canada and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.
The Chair must decide whether clause 2 is a provision that contains a clear authorization for funds to be drawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for a distinct purpose. If clause 2 does seek such authorization, then I must be guided by House of Commons Procedure and Practice, which explains on page 709:
Under the Canadian system of government, the Crown alone initiates all public expenditure and Parliament may only authorize spending which has been recommended by the Governor General.
In other words, the bill would require a royal recommendation.
As I stated in a decision on March 21, 2005, at page 4373 of the Debates:
--a bill effecting an appropriation of public funds or an equivalent authorization to spend public funds does so immediately upon enactment. Once Parliament approves a bill that requires a royal recommendation, there should be nothing further required to make the appropriation.
So, in the case before us, we need to ask what specific spending is contemplated?
Bill C-292 in clause 2 does state that the government shall “take all measures necessary to implement the terms of the accord”, but it does not provide specific details on those measures. The measures simply are not described. In the absence of such a description, it is impossible for the Chair to say that the bill requires a royal recommendation.
This conclusion may seem somewhat surprising and may well lead members back to a question raised earlier by the government House leader: namely, if Bill C-292 does not require a royal recommendation and the bill were to pass, what would be the obligations of the government in terms of implementing the Kelowna accord?
As I read it, the Kelowna accord tabled in the House sheds light on the plan of action, but it is not clear whether the accord could be implemented through an appropriation act, through amendments to existing acts, or through the establishment of new acts. From my reading, implementation would appear to require various legislative proposals.
In any event though, this is more of a legal question than a procedural one. The government House leader's legal advisors are best placed to reply to that question. As my predecessors and I have said on many occasions, the Speaker does not rule on matters of law. When, or perhaps if, enabling legislation comes forward, the Chair will, as usual, be vigilant in assessing the need for a royal recommendation.
In summary then, Bill C-292 can continue through the legislative process and the Chair can put the question at third reading since this bill does not require a royal recommendation.
I thank the House for its patience in allowing me to review this rather complex matter.