On February 2, 2007, prior to debate on report stage of Bill C-288, An Act to ensure that Canada meets its global climate change obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, a point of order was raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader and Minister for Democratic Reform .
He said that amendments to this bill reported by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development on December 8, 2006 required a royal recommendation. Interventions were also made by the hon. members for Don Valley West, Wascana, Honoré-Mercier, Cambridge and Mississauga South.
The Chair thanks all the hon. members for having addressed this matter.
In his submission, the parliamentary secretary referred to my ruling of September 27, 2006 where I concluded that Bill C-288, as it was introduced in the House, did not require a royal recommendation. He did not dispute this decision, but argued that two amendments adopted by the standing committee created a new and distinct purpose which involved new spending, and that comments by the sponsor of the bill in a CBC interview confirmed the fact that significant new spending would result from the adoption of the bill.
The Chair has examined the two amendments reported by the committee. The first one modifies clause 5 of the bill. That clause requires the minister to prepare a climate change plan and lists measures to be taken to ensure that Canada meets its Kyoto obligations. The amendment adopted by the committee adds a provision to the list of measures regarding transitions for affected workers. It results in an additional element that the minister must address in the climate change plan.
As I mentioned in my September 27, 2006 ruling, the measures which this bill obliges the minister to bring forward may or may not entail spending. The Chair cannot speculate on what those measures may be, for they are not contained in this bill. Therefore, the amendment does not require a royal recommendation because it does not contain any authorization for spending; it merely directs the minister as to what should be addressed in the plan.
The second amendment modifies clause 10. That clause deals with the review of the Minister’s Climate Change Plan. The amendment gives the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy the responsibility of analyzing the plan and advising the minister. The Parliamentary Secretary argues that this is a new and distinct purpose for the National Round Table which will involve new spending.
In examining the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy Act, the Chair notes that section 4 establishes its mandate as follows:
… to play the role of catalyst in identifying, explaining and promoting, in all sectors of Canadian society and in all regions of Canada, principles and practices of sustainable development by
(a) undertaking research and gathering information and analysis on critical issues of sustainable development;
(b) advising governments on ways of integrating environmental and economic considerations into their decision-making processes and on global issues of sustainable development….
In determining whether a royal recommendation is needed for a new and distinct purpose, the Chair considers whether some entirely new activity or function is being proposed which radically diverges from the activities already authorized in existing legislation.
In the present case, section 4 of the act calls on the national round table to perform activities relating to an analysis of sustainable development issues and to advising the minister on environmental and economic considerations.
The terms of the amendment to Bill C-288 appear to me to fall precisely within its ongoing mandate: that is, to analyze the climate change plan and to advise the minister. Now it might be argued that this would increase the workload of the national round table, but even if this were so, an increase to its budget would be sought through existing appropriation arrangements.
In summary, then, on the arguments related to the text of the bill, as amended, I must conclude that the amendments to Bill C-288, adopted in the standing committee, do not constitute new spending for a new and distinct purpose, and the bill, as amended, does not require a royal recommendation.
Let me now deal with various ancillary points raised during interventions on Bill C-288.
The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the transcript of a CBC interview where the member for Honoré-Mercier alleged to have confirmed the fact that Bill C-288 would result in significant public expenditures. The hon. member for Honoré-Mercier disputes this interpretation.
The Chair is of the view that this is a matter of debate and not germane to the point of order itself.
Another matter was raised by the hon. member for Mississauga South. He asked how the House is formally informed that a bill, amended and reported from committee, requires a royal recommendation. The Chair would strongly encourage any member who has doubts in this regard to raise a point of order shortly after a committee has reported amendments to the House. In this manner, the Chair would be able to return with a decision in time for the appropriate action to be taken at report stage.
Once again, I thank the House for its assistance on these matters and its patience in permitting me to deal with this particular complex question.