Mr. Speaker, on February 25, you made a statement with respect to the management of private members' business. In particular, you raised concerns about five bills, which, in your view, appeared to impinge on the financial prerogative of the Crown. One of the bills you mentioned was Bill C-279.
I am therefore rising, Mr. Speaker, on a point of order regarding Bill C-279, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (amounts not included in earnings).
Without commenting on the merits of the bill, I submit that Bill C-279 contains provisions that would change the purposes of the Employment Insurance Act that would result in new spending and therefore would require a royal recommendation.
Bill C-279 would remove pension benefits, vacation pay and severance payments from the amounts that may be deducted from benefits payable under the Employment Insurance Act. The changes would allow individuals to receive employment insurance benefits when they otherwise would not have been eligible because pension, vacation or severance pay would have reduced their benefits or made them ineligible to receive employment insurance benefits.
The Department of Human Resources and Social Development Canada estimates that the changes proposed in Bill C-279 could cost as much as $130 million per year.
Precedents demonstrate the new spending for employment insurance benefits not currently authorized under the Employment Insurance Act require a royal recommendation.
On November 6, 2006, the Speaker ruled in the case of Bill C-269, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (improvement of the employment insurance system), that:
Funds may only be appropriated by Parliament for purposes covered by a royal recommendation.... New purposes must be accompanied by a new royal recommendation.
On March 23, 2007, in the case of Bill C-265, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits), the Speaker ruled that the changes envisioned in this bill “would have the effect of authorizing increased expenditures...in a manner and for purposes not currently authorized”.
The Speaker goes on to state:
Therefore, it appears to the Chair that those provisions of the bill which relate to increasing employment insurance benefits and easing the qualifications required to obtain them would require a royal recommendation.
Mr. Speaker, I submit that these precedents apply equally to the provisions of Bill C-279 which would change the purposes of the Employment Insurance Act resulting in new spending and, therefore, must be accompanied by a royal recommendation.