Mr. Speaker, on February 25, 2009, you made a statement with regard to the management of private members' business. In particular, you raised concerns about five bills which, in your view, appear to impinge on the financial prerogative of the Crown. One of the bills you mentioned was Bill C-241.
I am therefore rising on a point of order regarding Bill C-241, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (removal of waiting period). Without commenting on the merits of the bill, I submit that Bill C-241 contains provisions that would change the purposes of the Employment Insurance Act, which would require new spending and would therefore require a royal recommendation. Bill C-241 proposes to repeal the two-week waiting period before the start of employment insurance benefits following an interruption of earnings.
The removal of the waiting period would change the purposes of the Employment Insurance Act by creating an additional payment of two weeks for claimants who do not use the full entitlement. The Department of Human Resources and Social Development estimates that the removal of the waiting period could cost as much as $1 billion per year. Precedents clearly establish that bills that change the purposes of the Employment Insurance Act and require new or additional government spending for employment insurance benefits must be accompanied by a royal recommendation.
On December 8, 2004, the Speaker ruled in the case of Bill C-278, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (improvement of the employment insurance system) that:
Inasmuch as section 54 of the Constitution, 1867, and Standing Order 79 prohibit the adoption of any bill appropriating public revenues without a royal recommendation, the same must apply to bills authorizing increased spending of public revenues. Bills mandating new or additional public spending must be seen as the equivalent of bills effecting an appropriation.
The removal of the waiting period would require the expenditure of funds in a manner not authorized under the Employment Insurance Act. This is supported by the Speaker's ruling on November 6, 2006 on Bill C-269, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (improvement of the employment insurance system), which states:
—all of these elements would indeed require expenditures from the EI Account which are not currently authorized....
Such increased spending is not covered by the terms of any existing appropriation....New purposes must be accompanied by a new royal recommendation.
These precedents apply to Bill C-241 which would change the purposes of the Employment Insurance Act by requiring new spending. Therefore, Bill C-241 must, in our view, also be accompanied by a royal recommendation.