Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order regarding Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, introduced by the member for Scarborough—Guildwood.
I recognize that my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader, rose on another point of order on this bill earlier this week. This also prompted submissions by members for Scarborough—Guildwood and Mississauga South.
I would like to submit my arguments as to why this bill would require a royal recommendation in order to proceed to third reading.
The member for Scarborough—Guildwood submitted that we have been at this bill now for some 13 or 14 months and here we are at the last minute raising the issue of royal recommendation. I would like to point out that it was not until the last possible opportunity that the member put forward amendments to his bill. None of these amendments address the need for royal recommendation so now we are faced with a bill that should not proceed.
Standing Order 79(1) reads as follows:
This House shall not adopt or pass any vote, resolution, address or bill for the appropriation of any part of the public revenue, or of any tax or impost, to any purpose that has not been first recommended to the House by a message from the Governor General in the session in which such vote, resolution, address or bill is proposed.
Mr. Speaker, as you are no doubt aware, as we see in the Journals from November 9, 1978, the imposition of new duties on an existing department or authority requires a royal recommendation. Bill C-300 clearly assigns new duties to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
On September 27, 2006, you ruled a particular bill acceptable because you could not speculate on the functions that the legislation would force the government to disburse. Fortunately, in this instance, you need not speculate. Section 4 starts by saying:
In carrying out their responsibilities and powers under this Act, the Ministers shall--
It is obvious and does not require speculation that this bill attempts to ascribe new responsibilities and powers to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
On November 9, 2006, Mr. Speaker, you ruled another bill needed a royal recommendation because it extended a program that would require funding. Bill C-300 required disbursement of funding in order for the ministers to carry out their duties ascribed to them.
I point out that I have information in hand that says that the World Bank's parallel investigations, for example, which is exactly what this bill is calling for, cost $3.3 million in 2009 to investigate 11 new complaints. Mr. Speaker, I submit that fact for your consideration as well.
We had the opportunity to hear expert testimony from our bureaucrats at DFAIT. Allow me to read into the record the testimony from the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development meeting of December 1, 2009:
[The member for Kootenay—Columbia]: I want to be careful that I'm not putting words in your mouth. I believe, in answer to a question of Mr. Patry, your response was that in your judgment it would require a new section or arm or department, which would require additional human resources or financial resources. Is that correct?
Mr. Grant Manuge: Yes, that is correct.
Further I asked:
Presuming that there is a finite amount of money in DFAIT's budget, which there is, where would you take those dollars from? What department or current function that DFAIT is doing would have to suffer? Or in fact would it be possible to do it without having to come to the Treasury Board for additional funds?
Mr. Grant Manuge representing DFAIT said:
Thank you for your question. In this case, at this stage in our analysis, we are indeed aware that additional resources would be required, not only human resources, financial resources, but also significant investment in training or in recruiting highly qualified individuals who provide the competencies that would be required to carry out that function.
At this point in our analysis, we would not be in a position to indicate whether that could be addressed through reallocations within our department, but our departmental resources are completely allocated, so this would be a decision that would have to be reviewed very carefully. As you say, there could potentially be impacts on the ability to carry out our mandate in other areas of the department.
Mr. Speaker, I recognize that you face a rather challenging situation in taking a look at the provisions relative to a royal recommendation, and that is it is not crystal clear that additional funds will be required. I am fully aware of that. If we take a look at the fact that we know from the World Bank that it cost $3.3 million last year to investigate 11 complaints, in the name of logic it is very obvious that additional funds will be required.
It is clear that this bill would directly affect the disbursement of public funds. It would assign new duties to an existing department where funds have already been allocated and functions have already been described for that department.
I realize there is often a good deal of discussion regarding royal recommendations. However, it is the Speaker who is duty-bound to protect the Constitution through the Standing Orders of the House and to assure that bills that should require royal recommendation do not proceed.
I would also like to quote from Hansard, June 1, 2006:
I am also aware that a bill may be repaired at committee or during report stage and also that a minister at any point in the legislative process can come forward. That is not a problem and I believe the member for Scarborough--Guildwood has a bill on international development which I think can be repaired in that fashion.
Clearly, the bill has not been repaired. Bill C-300 is the current version of the legislation to which I reference. The bill was recognized by the member for Mississauga South as needing a royal recommendation at that time.
The clauses in Bill C-300 still stand. The need for a royal recommendation still stands, even though the member for Mississauga South has apparently changed his mind. Fortunately, he is not the Speaker of the House.
It is clear that even at a time the Liberals realized this bill needed a royal recommendation or amendments to address the problem. That was a matter of a year ago.
The precedents are clear. The member for Mississauga South was clear in 2006. Without amendments addressing this issue, Bill C-300 does require a royal recommendation.