Mr. Speaker, in reply to the claims the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform made in his point of order of April 8, 2008, I would like to review the arguments he cited to argue against the need for a royal recommendation to allow for a vote on Bill C-490 at third reading.
With regard to royal recommendation, s. 54 of the Constitution Act, 1867 states the following:
It shall not be lawful for the House of Commons to adopt or pass any Vote, Resolution, Address, or Bill for the Appropriation of any Part of the Public Revenue, or of any Tax or Impost, to any Purpose that has not been first recommended to that House by Message of the Governor General in the Session in which such Vote, Resolution, Address, or Bill is proposed.
Clearly any bill that would establish a new program requiring monies from the public treasury requires a royal recommendation. We all agree on that. It is based on the principle of responsible government.
As for the matter of procedural principle, the Chair must examine the notion of appropriation that is referred to in section 54 and that has always been debated in this House. The Robert dictionary defines appropriation as “taking possession of, ownership of”. Yet the aim of this bill is quite the opposite of a measure requiring a royal recommendation. Instead of assuming ownership of money from the public purse, the bill states that this money belongs to seniors and not to the government.
The spirit of the Constitution Act, 1867 must be understood in such a way that a distinction is made between the creation of a program that requires new public funds and a bill that forces the government to pay money back to people who never consented to giving it to them in the first place. That is precisely the case in the guaranteed income supplement file and Bill C-490.
Let us be clear. The people affected by this bill should have received the amounts requested. If they had applied for them the first year they were entitled to them, that money would in fact have been paid. The government deliberately kept seniors in the dark, hoping that most of them would not assert their rights and counting on the fact that this misappropriation of funds would not be reimbursed retroactively.
It is ridiculous that the government can put money owing into the public treasury but cannot take money out for spending that should have taken place, but did not.
In closing, it is appalling to watch the Conservatives play politics by raising this point of order. When the Conservatives were on the opposition side they joined with the Bloc Québécois in calling for full retroactivity of the money owed to seniors under the guaranteed income supplement program. This was even part of their election platform.
Since they have been in power, they have changed their tune when they had the chance to take action. Seniors in Quebec will remember the Conservatives' broken promises, as will all Quebeckers.
I am convinced that the argument that has just been made will ensure that Bill C-490 will not require a royal recommendation. We could then proceed to a vote on this bill at third reading stage, for the good of our seniors and social justice.