Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order concerning the report of the Standing Committee on Finance that was tabled just moments ago.
I submit that the report is out of order as it is beyond the mandate of the committee as set out in Standing Order 108.
On Tuesday of this week, a motion was moved at the finance committee regarding funding of the Library of Parliament. The chairman of the finance committee ruled the motion out of order on the grounds that it went beyond the mandate of the finance committee.
Standing Order 108(2), the standing order governing the committee's mandate, clearly states that the Standing Committee on Finance is
empowered to review and report on:
(a) the statute law relating to the department...;
(b) the program and policy objectives of the department and its effectiveness in the implementation of same;
(c) the immediate, medium and long-term expenditure plans and the effectiveness of implementation of same by the department;
(d) an analysis of the relative success of the department, as measured by the results obtained as compared with its stated objectives; and
(e) other matters, relating to the mandate, management, organization or operation of the department....
It is therefore clear that the allocation of operating funds to the parliamentary library, an organ of Parliament not of the Department of Finance, is a matter outside the purview of the standing committee's mandate.
Notwithstanding this fact, the opposition overturned the chairman's ruling that the committee's mandate must be respected.
As a consequence of the opposition setting aside the rules of the House, the House is now seized with an invalid report.
While the Speaker often declines to interfere with committee proceedings, he is obliged to intervene when these proceedings go beyond the powers conferred upon committees by the House.
At page 879 of Marleau and Montpetit, it states:
Committees are entitled to report to the House only with respect to matters within their mandate. When reporting to the House, committees must indicate the authority under which the study was done (i.e., the Standing Order or the order of reference). If the committee's report has exceeded or has been outside its order of reference, the Speaker has judged such a report, or the offending section, to be out of order.
Mr. Speaker, you made a ruling on March 14, 2008, regarding the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. You ruled at that time that the report was out of order because it clearly was not within the mandate of the committee as spelled out in Standing Order 108.
At that time, Mr. Speaker, you will remember, many committees were operating outside of the rules and often were overturning decisions of chairmen, as was done at the finance committee on Tuesday. As a result, you took it upon yourself to make a statement in this House. You expressed concerns about procedurally sound decisions by committee chairs being overturned by majorities of committees.
In your March 14, 2008, ruling, you stated:
appeals of decisions by chairs appear to have proliferated, with the result that having decided to ignore our usual procedure and practices, committees have found themselves in situations that verge on anarchy.
I refer to this particular ruling because of what took place in the last Parliament. In that Parliament, many committees of this House became dysfunctional. In fact, the opposition's illegal use of committees to smear the reputations of members and of the public was so widespread that it was one of the reasons the last Parliament was dissolved.
Given that we are in a minority situation again in this Parliament, we must learn from our mistakes of the past.
In a ruling on March 29, 2007, you made a statement in the context of a minority Parliament. You said:
...neither the political realities of the moment nor the sheer force of numbers should force us to set aside the values inherent in the parliamentary conventions and procedures by which we govern our deliberations.
That advice is as valid in this, the 40th Parliament, as it was in the 39th. You need to intervene in this matter because we risk returning to those dysfunctional days of the 39th Parliament. I think we can all agree that the public does not want us to do that.
Thank you for your attention to that, Mr. Speaker, and I would urge you to consider this matter very carefully and give us your considered opinion as soon as possible.