The Chair is now prepared to rule on a point of order raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform on May 3, 2007 in relation to Bill C-280, An Act to Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (coming into force of sections 110, 111 and 171), standing in the name of the hon. member for Laval.
In his submission, the parliamentary secretary explained that Bill C-280 proposed to change the manner in which provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act would come into effect. That act was amended in 2001 by Bill C-11, which contained a clause, clause 275, providing that:
The provisions of this Act come into force on a day or days to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.
This sort of clause is frequently found in bills and is commonly known as the “coming into force clause”.
Some provisions of Bill C-11 have yet to be proclaimed by the governor in council. Bill C-280 proposes to have three such provisions, namely sections 110, 111 and 171 of the act, brought into effect immediately upon royal assent of Bill C-280, and not by way of proclamation to be determined by the governor in council.
The parliamentary secretary noted that the substantive effect of implementing sections 110, 111 and 171 of the act would be to establish the refugee appeal division at the Immigration and Refugee Board and that this would entail significant new expenditures of an administrative nature. He then went on to explain that through its coming into force clause, Bill C-11 gave the governor in council the power to determine at what time the division would be created and the associated expenditures would be incurred.
The parliamentary secretary contends that by changing the coming into force of these sections of the act, the terms and conditions of the royal recommendation accompanying Bill C-11 are being altered. He read from citation 596 of Beauchesne's sixth edition, which explains that the royal recommendation not only fixes the amount of an expenditure but also the way that it would be incurred.
He went on to cite two precedents from 1985 and 1986 to support his arguments that Bill C-280 should therefore be accompanied by a new royal recommendation.
The Chair has examined the two precedents cited by the parliamentary secretary in support of his basic argument that an alteration in the coming-into-force provisions of a bill infringes on the financial initiative of the Crown.
The first precedent, in 1985, concerns a report stage motion to Bill C-23, an act to amend the Small Business Loans Act. The bill sought, among other things, to restrict to 90% the amount of loss sustained by the minister for loans made to small business enterprises after March 31, 1985. The report stage motion sought to maintain the existing law and make the minister liable for the full amount of the loss. On March 26, 1985, Mr. Speaker Bosley ruled the amendment inadmissible because it relaxed a condition of the royal recommendation.
The second precedent, in 1986, concerns an amendment put forward during consideration in committee of the whole of Bill C-11, an act to amend the Income Tax Act. The bill sought to allow the prepayment of a child tax credit in the following taxation year. The amendment would have permitted the prepayment during the greater part of the current taxation year. In ruling the amendment inadmissible on October 17, 1986, the chairman of the committee of the whole simply explained that the proposed amendment infringed on the royal recommendation.
While these precedents may be useful in understanding how programs may be limited or extended in their application, they do not assist us in better understanding the issue at hand.
The fundamental issue in the present case is whether the coming-into-force provision of an act which was originally accompanied by a royal recommendation can be altered without a new royal recommendation.
After considerable reflection on the matter, the Chair would present the situation as follows.
In 2001 Bill C-11 sought an authorization from Parliament to establish the refugee appeal division. As I see it, the action of setting up the statutory framework for the new division required that a royal recommendation accompany Bill C-11 because a new and distinct authority for spending was being requested.
As it happened, Bill C-11 also contained a coming into force provision which would allow the governor in council to decide when the refugee appeal division would be formally established. In the view of the Chair, it is very important to remember that even after the governor in council proclaims the establishment of the division, Parliament would still have to approve spending plans for its operations through the estimates and the subsequent appropriation act.
In this light, therefore, it appears to the Chair that the chief financial components which require a royal recommendation are: first, authorization for setting up the statutory framework for the refugee appeal division, duly provided by Bill C-11 with its original royal recommendation; and the operational funding to be sought in a future appropriation act where financial authority can be duly provided in the usual estimates process.
Although the proclamation of the coming-into-force provision will set into motion the establishment of the refugee appeal division, it should be seen as independent of the royal recommendation and not part of its terms and conditions.
Our rules and practices hold that coming into force clauses of bills have always been open to amendment and a vote. If we were to accept the argument that an alteration in the coming into force provision would somehow infringe upon the royal recommendation, then it should not be admissible for a committee or the House to negative or amend such a clause unilaterally. Such is clearly not the case.
Essentially, it is a question of timing. The royal recommendation originally attached to the bill applies, unaltered, to its provisions irrespective of the point in time at which such provisions come into force and, from a procedural standpoint, the alterations to the coming into force provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, as expressed in Bill C-280, cannot be seen as infringing on the financial imitative of the Crown.
Consequently, Bill C-280 may proceed for debate and a vote at third reading.
I think that the hon. Leader of the Opposition wishes to rise on a question of privilege.