On January 30, 2007, just prior to debate on Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts), a point of order was raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to the effect that this bill required a royal recommendation.
The sponsor of the bill, the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, and the hon. member for Mississauga South also made interventions arguing that this bill did not infringe on the financial initiative of the Crown.
The Chair thanks the hon. members for having addressed this matter at an early opportunity so that a ruling could be delivered before the question is put at second reading.
In his submission, the Parliamentary Secretary argued that clauses 1 and 2 of the bill were adding a new purpose to the Broadcasting Act.
These provisions would give new powers to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to regulate violence on television, verify broadcasters’ compliance, issue annual reports, and undertake a five-year review including the holding of public consultations. These activities, it was argued, were new responsibilities that would clearly require spending.
Citing rulings delivered on February 8, 2005, May 9, 2005, and September 19, 2006, the parliamentary secretary stated that these precedents express the principle that a royal recommendation is required when a bill proposes significant change in the mandate of a public body that entails spending.
In short, the parliamentary secretary made the point that a royal recommendation is required when legislative action seeks an authorization for new spending for a distinct purpose.
In the case of Bill C-327, the question is whether the power to make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent scenes constitutes spending by the CRTC for a new and distinct purpose.
First, I would like to point out that, as a rule, a power to make regulations given to the government in an act of Parliament is not an authorization either for new spending or for an appropriation. It is simply a statutory power to make regulations.
On the issue of determining if there is a new and distinct purpose contained in Bill C-327, the Chair notes that section 5 of the Broadcasting Act provides that the CRTC
--shall regulate and supervise all aspects of the Canadian broadcasting system with a view to implementing the broadcasting policy set out in subsection 3(1)....
Subsection 3(1) of the act specifies that
(d) the Canadian broadcasting system should
(i) serve to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada, [and]
(ii) encourage the development of Canadian expression by providing a wide range of programming that reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity....
It seems to the Chair that the provisions being contemplated in C-327 would not authorize spending for a new and distinct purpose. As the Broadcasting Act indicates, the CRTC presently has the authority to regulate programming to safeguard social values, a part of the CRTC mandate into which new regulations to reduce violence in the programming offered to the public would appear to fall. The Chair is of the view that as a whole, Bill C-327 proposes activities which are already being performed by the CRTC within its existing mandate, that is to say: the making of regulations, the conducting of reviews, the holding of public consultations and the reporting to Parliament on the broadcasting industry.
Bill C-327 may or may not result in a greater workload for the CRTC, but the activities being proposed are within its mandate. If additional staff or resources are required to perform these activities then they would be brought forward in a separate appropriation bill for Parliament’s consideration.
In summary, Bill C-327 in its current form can continue through the legislative process without a royal recommendation.