Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a point of order regarding Bill C-574, An Act to promote and strengthen the Canadian retirement income system.
Bill C-574 proposes to create a new bill of rights for a retirement income system that would promote the goals of adequacy, transparency, affordability, equity, flexibility, security and accessibility for all Canadians.
Clause 13 of the bill would require the Minister of Justice to examine every bill and regulation to ascertain whether any of the provisions violate, among other things, an individual's right to accumulate sufficient pension income to provide for a lifestyle in retirement that the individual considers adequate, an individual's right to determine how and when to accumulate pension income, and an individual's entitlement to receive investment advice from an advisor free of conflict of interest.
Section 4.1 of the Department of Justice Act provides that the Minister of Justice must examine every bill and regulation in light of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Section 3 of the Canadian Bill of Rights states that the Minister of Justice shall examine every bill and regulation to ascertain whether any provisions thereof are inconsistent with this act.
Bill C-574 would impose an additional obligation on the Minister of Justice that is not currently authorized by statute. In particular, the new functions envisioned in clause 13 of the bill would require actuarial, financial and economic expertise well beyond the current mandate and activities of the Minister of Justice and the Department of Justice.
Precedents indicate that imposing new obligations not provided for in statute requires a new royal recommendation. On page 834 of the second edition of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice states:
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.
On October 20, 2006, the Speaker ruled, in the case of Bill C-286, An Act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act, that Bill C-286:
...extends the application of the program...that does not currently exist under the witness protection program. In doing so, the bill proposes to carry out an entirely new function. .... New functions or activities must be accompanied by a new royal recommendation.
On June 13, 2005, the Speaker ruled on Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act, that:
...clause 2 significantly alters the duties of the EI Commission to enable new or different spending of public funds by the commission for a new purpose....
On September 20, 2006, the Speaker ruled in the case of Bill C-257, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, that:
...the provisions in Bill C-257 which relate to the designation of investigators by the minister do not constitute an authorization for new spending for a distinct purpose. The functions which are already being performed by inspectors would appear to be reasonably similar to the functions envisaged by Bill C-257.
I submit that this last precedent does not apply to Bill C-574 as the functions set out in clause 13 of the bill would significantly alter the functions of the Minister of Justice and the Department of Justice. That is because the new functions in Bill C-574 would require actuarial, financial and economic expertise well beyond the mandate and current activities of the Minister of Justice and the Department of Justice.
In conclusion, the additional functions for the Minister of Justice and the Department of Justice proposed in clause 13 of Bill C-574 are not currently authorized in statute. The bill, therefore, should be accompanied by a royal recommendation.