Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order regarding Bill C-471, the pay equity task force recommendations act, on the grounds that it requires a royal recommendation.
Normally, royal recommendation interventions are made before the first hour of debate, which occurred on this bill last night. However, after a request from the Liberal Party, who had an event of some importance last night, we delayed that so that we would not unduly delay the members opposite from attending their most important event.
Let me make my intervention now. Bill C-471 proposes to do two things. First, it imposes on the government a duty to implement the recommendations of the 2004 pay equity task force report that sets deadlines by which this must be done. It is noted in clause 2 of the bill that this includes establishing “all statutory oversight agencies”.
The second component of Bill C-471 is to immediately repeal the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, which was passed by Parliament nine months ago in March 2009. I have objections to both of these components and will address them in turn.
Turning to the first component, subclause 2(1) of the bill imposes an imperative duty on the government to “implement the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force set out in its final report”. I have considerable concerns with this provision. While a sponsoring member may attempt to argue that Bill C-471 is similar to the Kyoto protocol implementation act or the Kelowna accord implementation act, which you ruled in order in the last Parliament, there is significant distinction.
In your ruling on September 27, 2006, regarding Bill C-288, you stated:
In a ruling earlier this week on a similar matter, namely, C-292, An Act to implement the Kelowna Accord, the Chair made a distinction between a bill asking the House to approve certain objectives and a bill asking the House to approve the measures to achieve certain objectives. So too in the case before us, the adoption of a bill calling on the government to implement the Kyoto protocol might place an obligation on the government to take measures necessary to meet the goals set out in the protocol but the Chair cannot speculate on what those measures may be.
In the case of Bill C-471, the measures are set out in detail in the 113 recommendations of the task force report, which is referenced in this bill. The recommendation is that “Parliament enact new stand alone proactive pay equity legislation”. The other 112 recommendations describe the measures that should be included in that legislation.
As a result, this bill raises grave concerns. It places an impossible duty on the Crown of implementing the recommendations, which can only be done by passage of legislation. It seeks to bind this or a subsequent Parliament to pass this new legislation, which I submit would unconstitutionally undermine the fundamental principle of parliamentary sovereignty. It would fundamentally alter the relationship between the Crown and Parliament, and that is the heart of the financial initiative.
In your February 24, 2005, ruling, you aptly quoted:
Suffice it to say that those relations are neatly summed up in the phrase, “the government proposes, and parliament disposes”.
Bill C-471 clearly turns that relationship on its head by both proposing and disposing the measures in purposes for which public moneys should be spent. This is made even more apparent by subclause 2(2) of the bill. This provision sets the deadline by which the government must implement the task force recommendations. In particular, it states:
The Government of Canada shall ensure that all statutory oversight agencies are put in place no later than January 1, 2011.
This provision of the bill also distinguishes it from Bill C-288 and Bill C-292, considered in the last Parliament. Neither of those bills dictated the establishment of new institutions, much less as part of its expressed terms. Based on the task force report, the duty in subclause 2(2) entails the new creation of two new statutory agencies as well as a new system of adjudicators. Assuming Bill C-471 is constitutional and the government is bound by its terms, it has no choice but to establish these new bodies.
It is trite to say that such a measure would require the expenditure of new funds to a new purpose. For example, the Speaker's ruling of September 19, 2006, concluded that the creation of advisory committee requires a royal recommendation, since this clearly would require the expenditure of public funds in a manner not currently authorized. For this reason, Bill C-471 requires a royal recommendation to be in order.
The second component of Bill C-471 also clearly demonstrates that a royal recommendation is required. As mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, Bill C-471 at clause 3 repeals, in its entirety, the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. This repeal would take immediate effect if this bill were to be given royal assent.
The nature of this provision is completely different from anything that was in Bill C-288 and Bill C-292 from the last Parliament.
To fully understand why it has an impact on the financial initiative of the Crown, it is first necessary to understand the purpose of the PSECA. The purpose of this act, put simply, was to remove jurisdiction over public sector pay equity complaints from the Canadian Human Rights Act and to create a new statutory scheme for dealing with public sector pay equity issues proactively.
By the same token, the PSECA removed jurisdiction for dealing with public sector pay equity complaints from the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Complaints that arise out of the PSECA process are instead dealt with by the Public Service Labour Relations Board. The grounds for those complaints are defined in the PSECA.
This is underscored in the PSECA's consequential amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act, which states:
The Commission does not have jurisdiction to deal with complaints made against an employer within the meaning of the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act [related to the pay equity provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act].
The effect then of clause 3 of Bill C-471 is to reverse all of that. This has two distinct impacts. First, it gives jurisdiction over public sector employers to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal, whose jurisdiction was expressly removed in the PSECA. Second, it subjects public service employers, that is, the Crown as employer, to liability for new statutory grounds of complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Both of these impacts infringe upon the financial initiative of the Crown.
In the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, O'Brien and Bosc state a fundamental principle of the royal recommendation at pages 833 to 834:
An appropriation accompanied by a royal recommendation, though it can be reduced, can neither be increased nor redirected without a new recommendation...A royal recommendation not only fixes the allowable charge, but also its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications. For this reason, a royal recommendation is required not only in the case where money is being appropriated, but also in the case where the authorization to spend for a specific purpose is significantly altered. Without a royal recommendation, a bill that either increases the amount of an appropriation, or extends its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications is inadmissible on the grounds that it infringes on the Crown's financial initiative.
Mr. Speaker, this principle is reflected in your ruling of February 11, 2008, in which you held that Bill C-474 required a royal recommendation because it proposed to substantially alter the mandate of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. The same principle applies to the bill before you today.
The object of the Public Service Equitable Compensation Act was to fundamentally change the structure, process and jurisdiction for dealing with public sector pay equity issues from what existed before the passage of the act. A royal recommendation accompanied the budget implementation bill, which included the PSECA.
Accordingly, repealing the PSECA and giving the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal jurisdiction over public sector pay equity complaints is essentially a fundamentally new and altered purpose for those organizations. No royal recommendation accompanies that change in Bill C-471.
The royal recommendation that accompanied the PSECA cannot be redirected to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal, and past appropriations for the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal cannot be used for a purpose and jurisdiction that Parliament expressly removed from the PSECA. On that ground alone, Bill C-471 infringes upon the Crown's financial initiative.
In addition, the bill infringes upon the financial initiative on the basis that it exposes the Crown to a distinct liability that would be paid by public moneys. As stated in Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice, 21st edition, on page 714:
Any proposal whereby the Crown would incur a liability or a contingent liability payable out of money to be voted by Parliament [requires the Queen's recommendation].
In this vein, a June 12, 1973, Speaker's ruling held that a royal recommendation was required for Bill S-5, an act to amend the Farm Improvement Loans Act.
The Speaker noted:
It may be said that the proposal in Bill S-5 does not in itself propose a direct expenditure. It does, however, propose substantial additional liabilities on public moneys.
Similarly, a May 5, 2009, ruling from the Speaker of the other place ruled Bill S-219 out of order because it would change the Crown's liability under the Canada Student Loans Act. As held in that ruling:
The passage of Bill S-219 would expand the range of conditions under which the government would have to make good its guarantee of loans under the Canada Student Loans Act. This would change the existing scheme, since payments from the Consolidated Revenue Fund might increase due to the change in possible obligations. As such, the bill should have a Royal Recommendation, and would have to originate in the other place.
This is also consistent with a ruling on February 12, 1988 regarding Bill S-4, an Act to Amend the Canada Shipping Act. In that case, Mr. Speaker, you found that increases to the limits of civil liability of shipowners did not require a royal recommendation because the payment was covered by the authorization in section 30 of the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act.
My correction, Mr. Speaker, if you were not here in 1988. You have been for so long, I think of you as being here forever. That is a compliment, and please take it as such.
That act essentially provides that the Crown could be civilly liable in court for breaches of what is known in the common law tradition as tort or property law. Crown liability for breaches of its law of civil salvage is also expressly provided under section 5. Section 30 provides judgments issued by a court against the Crown are authorized to be paid.
The case of Bill C-471 is clearly distinguishable from Bill S-4 in that it creates a new and distinct statutory liability for the Crown under the Canadian Human Rights Act. The Crown Liability and Proceedings Act does not authorize payments for new statutory liabilities of the Crown. In fact, section 33 states:
Except as otherwise expressly provided in this Act, nothing in this Act affects any rule of evidence or any presumption relating to the extent to which the Crown is bound by an Act of Parliament.
Bill C-471 would create a new and distinct statutory charge of the Crown's liability. The more adversarial quasi-judicial setting of the human rights regime is fundamentally different from the proactive and integrated approach of the PSECA.
Under the PSECA, pay equity obligations are integrated in the bargaining process subject to complaint on certain grounds of the Public Service Labour Relations Board. In contrast, under the Canadian Human Rights Act, liability is initiated by individual complaints adjudicated before an administrative tribunal and potentially results in awards for damages. The authority for awarding those damages is the Canadian Human Rights Act.
As you may recall, Mr. Speaker, through the previous complaints based process under the Canadian Human Rights Act, the government has paid out of public moneys multi-billion dollar judgments. The Crown's obligations are significantly different under the PSECA and a royal recommendation is required to change that.
Before concluding, and I know the wish is for me to conclude quickly, I would like to address a point that may arise during the study of this bill. As we know, the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act has been passed by Parliament, but it has not been not been proclaimed into force. Like many other statutes, Parliament delegates to the Governor-in-Council the authority to determine the day on which the act comes into force.
This transitional period, as one of the terms under which Parliament has passed the law, allows the executive time to prepare for the effective implementation of provisions. For purposes of assessing the need for a royal recommendation for Bill C-471, it does not matter whether or not the legislation has been proclaimed into force, it suffices that the law has been passed by both Houses of Parliament and that it has received royal assent.
What is and should be most critical and salient is Parliament's decision to make law. In the 21st edition of Erskine May, in formulating the test for whether a charge is new and distinct, it is stated at page 712:
The question may arise whether a proposal for expenditure or for increased expenditure is not already covered by some general authorization. The test for determining this question in the case of a substantive proposal, ie. a provision is in a bill, as introduced, is a comparison with existing law.
In this case, the Public Service Equitable Compensation Act was passed by Parliament on March 12, 2009. It forms part of the Statutes of Canada, it reflects the will of Parliament and it will be implemented under the terms passed by Parliament because that is what the law directs.
As Erskine May puts it, it forms part of the existing law, this is the law against which the provisions of Bill C-471 must be compared. To look at it another way, there would be no purpose for clause 3 of Bill C-471 but to change the law. It follows that in this instance it also changes the purposes and conditions for which the House has authorized expenditures. For that reason it requires a royal recommendation.
While Bill C-471 is a short bill, it has significant consequences and there are multiple reasons for which it requires a royal recommendation to be in order. I should also add that the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, the sponsor of Bill C-471, has said that he believes Bill C-471 would result in some additional unspecified costs for the government. In other words, the leader of the official opposition, who is the sponsor of this bill, agrees that his own bill requires a royal recommendation.