House of Commons Hansard #187 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was indian.


Experimental Lakes AreaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.


Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition signed by thousands of Canadians who wish to save the ELA, Canada's leading freshwater research station.

The ELA provides essential scientific knowledge for the development of national and international policies that ensure the future health of fresh waters and their associated aboriginal, commercial and recreational fisheries. The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to reverse the decision to close the ELA research station and to continue to staff and provide financial resources to the ELA at the current or higher level of commitment.

VolunteersPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.


Jean-François Larose NDP Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, my petition in support of my Bill C-399 has been signed by individuals, organizations and volunteers who recognize the importance of a tax credit that could help them.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan


Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Motion for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan


Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motion for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Motion for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Report Stage MotionsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order as to the fundamental nature of the way the House functions and the way that you, Mr. Speaker, allow that smooth processing function to go on. My point of order is specific to Bill C-45, which the House now has before it.

I am rising on a point of order that is indirectly related to Bill C-45 insofar as I am hoping to influence your decision-making on the so-called grouping of report stage motions, which the House will receive tomorrow morning as debate begins at that stage of the bill. I will be asking you to allow for a recorded division on each motion that you select for debate, rather than grouping many of them together and having a single vote applied to more than one distinct question moved by various members of the House. Essentially, I will be making the argument that it is not for the Speaker to limit the ability of MPs to make distinct choices on how to vote on distinct questions.

For Canadians watching at home who are not familiar with our somewhat antiquated and perhaps even arcane practices, it may seem odd that I even have to make this request. I suspect that most Canadians would intuitively think that the Speaker could not have the power, and should not have the power, to require MPs to choose a single vote on multiple distinct questions. I do not think so either and I am going to ask you, Mr. Speaker, to avoid doing so for the report stage of Bill C-45 as well as to set the precedent for how Speakers deal with this matter in the future.

As you well know, Mr. Speaker, you, like your predecessors, are in the habit of grouping motions in amendment at report stage for debate and voting when there is a large number of motions on the notice paper. That has often been the case with omnibus bills, such as C-45 and C-38, which the House studied last spring, by their very nature.

The government decided to put hundreds of clauses in a single bill, and the House and its members are being forced to study them as a single block. That is their choice, not ours, and I am sure it is not your choice either.

I will quote directly from your explanation, Mr. Speaker, of the report stage groupings of Bill C-38, which took place on June 11 of this year. Your explanation to the House was as follows:

—motions to delete clauses have always been found to be in order and it must also be noted have been selected at report stage. These motions are allowed at report stage because members may wish to express views on a clause without seeking to amend it. As is the case on such occasions, I have tried to minimize the amount of time spent in the House on this kind of motion by grouping them as tightly as possible and by applying the vote on one to as many others as possible.

While I am now raising an objection to this practice, Mr. Speaker, I know that you were simply following what has been done by the House and others on such occasions. However, when I looked into the written explanation for this practice, the practice that is written in our guidelines and practices for this place, I was somewhat surprised to find very little in the way of direct guidance for you as Speaker. In fact, what I found was very simply a passage in the Annotated Standing Orders of the House of Commons, on page 272 under Standing Order 76.1(5). To be clear, this is not the Standing Order itself, but rather, the explanation of it. All that is said is the following:

The Speaker determines the order in which the motions will be called and the effect of one vote on the others (for example, if the vote on one motion can be applied to another motion). The purpose of the voting scheme is to avoid the House having to vote twice on the same issue.

That is very clear. Even in this annotation to our Standing Orders, the intention of those groupings is to avoid having the House vote twice on the same issue.

There is also a similar explanation in the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, which I will, from this point on, refer to as O'Brien and Bosc. On page 784, it states:

—the Speaker...also decides on how they will be grouped for voting, that is, the Speaker determines the order in which the motions in amendment will be called and the effect of one vote on the others. The purpose of the voting scheme is to obviate any requirement for two or more votes on the same issue.

It is pretty clear in its intention and its practice. To avoid voting more than once on the same thing is essential for the House.

Here is the problem. The groupings that you, Mr. Speaker, created for the government's last large omnibus bill were not, in my view, limited to preventing multiple votes on the same issues. Groupings were made to have only one vote applied to completely different clauses in the bill, each of which constituted a separate and distinct issue for the House to address, which is in fact our guideline in our practices, not a suggestion but an actual strict rule and guideline.

It is the government, with the help of its lawyers in the Department of Justice, that has told the House that it deemed each of the clauses to be distinct issues, not us in the opposition. If they were the same issue, they would be in the same clause.

I submit that in the ongoing effort to review and improve the living tree of our procedures and practices, saving MPs from voting on the same issue is not what Speakers have been doing during the report stage groupings. It seems to me that they have been treating motions at report stage as a nuisance and one that should be severely limited, rather than as what they are, as was referenced in the practices before.

I find this somewhat disturbing. If these motions are legitimate questions that the House is meant to deal with at report stage, the final stage, surely MPs should have a choice on how to vote on them. As it stands, MPs are forced to make one single vote on a multitude, sometimes dozens, of individual questions, which are separate in their concepts and ideas.

A clear example of this practice comes again from your report stage ruling on Bill C-38 from June 11 of this year. Motion No. 143 is a motion I know you, Mr. Speaker, remember well. It read that Bill C-38 would be amended by defeating clause 68, good old clause 68. In your ruling, Mr. Speaker, MPs were told that with regard to Motion No. 143, the choice to vote yea or nay on that question would apply to 47 other individual questions, which MPs had moved and you, as Speaker, had selected for debate in the House.

Those questions were: clauses 144 to 146, 149, 151 to 153, 156, 158, 170, 172, 174, 175, 177, 179, 194, 208, 201, 211, 213, 215 and 217, 222 to 224, 226, and 228 to 230, and 232 to 249.

It is impossible for one person, even a person as wise as the Speaker of the House of Commons, to be sure that all MPs share the same opinion on each of these 48 motions. The Speaker may be reasonably sure with respect to the members who moved the motions, and perhaps, by extension, the other members of their party, but in the case of members of other parties or independent members, that assumption cannot be made with the same degree of certainty.

The people watching these debates at home or in the gallery may get the impression that we are entering a dark maze known to some as the Ottawa bubble. In the interest of clarity, I will refer to the example given previously and provide a useful example of the possible repercussions of vote grouping.

In your grouping, Mr. Speaker, Motion No. 143 moved to delete a clause that makes a correction to the simple heading in the French version of an existing law. That is all it did. It seems to me that some members may not want to oppose that change and would therefore tend to vote against the motion. However, that choice applies automatically to Motion No. 144, a completely different idea and concept. It asked to delete clause 69 of Bill C-38. Clause 69 changed the definition of a navigable water and penalty under the act in question, which the same member could easily wish to support.

Just to be clear, we voted once in the groupings that were made by your Chair. One motion on changing the heading in a French version of the bill was also connected to the very definition of a navigable water. It is clear and obvious that a member of Parliament may have two different opinions on those ideas, yet was only being permitted to vote once. That goes against the rules and practices of the House.

As a result of those groupings and nothing else, I am afraid to say, MPs were forced to make a single choice, yea or nay, despite the fact that they would be voting against their conscience no matter which way they voted. It puts members of Parliament who try to represent their constituents into an impossible bind. Whichever way they vote, they end up voting against their conscience. That is not and should not be permissible.

I believe, and I hope you will agree, Mr. Speaker, that the man or woman in your chair should not make a decision that puts any member in a position where they are forced to make such an impossible choice.

In that way, the question of MPs voting against their conscience is one that has been raised before. In fact, the House recently spent a day debating an opposition motion that reminded us all of what the current Prime Minister had to say on a similar matter when he was the one rallying against the anti-democratic agenda of the then Liberal Canadian government, rather than driving an agenda as he does today.

In the Prime Minister's point of order of March 25, 1994, and this quote has become quite familiar in this hall, he said:

—in the interest of democracy...How can members represent their constituents on these various [ideas] when they are forced to vote in a block on such legislation and on such concerns?...We can agree with some of the measures but oppose others.

The Prime Minister was right then. He is in fact wrong now to create these omnibus bills. However, you, as the Speaker, are obligated to maintain the ability of members to vote their conscience.

You will know, Mr. Speaker, that at the time the Prime Minister was objecting to the very existence of omnibus bills, an objection he no longer seems to hold because he has created many and some which are large.

Speaker Parent then ruled against the point of order, as many others have in similar circumstances, because the objection was being made to the vote at second reading or another vote on the general progress of the bill.

I will quote from Speaker Parent's ruling from April 11, 1994, which was in direct response to the current Prime Minister. He stated:

However, it is the view of the Chair that in the adoption of a second reading motion the House gives approval in principle to a bill...then moves on to the consideration of its specific provisions in subsequent stages.

This is the stage we are at right now.

He continues “Hence, while I cannot accept the hon. member's request to divide or set aside Bill C-17”, which was an omnibus bill by the Liberal government, “I can suggest to him and to other members that should they so wish they may propose amendments to the bill in committee or at report stage and in so doing have an opportunity to express their views and vote on the specific sections of the bill”.

Therefore, in Speaker Parent's ruling, when ruling against the current Prime Minister in his effort to throw out the omnibus bill altogether, because it represented an effort to have MPs vote at cross-purposes to their conscience, he said that there was an opportunity that would come later, at report stage, in which amendments could be moved with respect to those specific sections of the bill and then not be encumbered by it anymore.

This stiff rejection of our current Prime Minister's concern is explained in Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules & Forms, sixth edition, at page 194, citation 634, which states:

—the practice of using one bill to demand one decision on a number of quite different, although related subjects, while a matter of concern, is an issue on which the Speaker will not intervene....

That is correct. That is the ruling on omnibus bills and the nature of omnibus bills. We are talking about something quite different now and much more nefarious.

Mr. Speaker, at this point in my speech, I would like to emphasize a fact that may seem obvious to you. I am not arguing for or against the validity or even the value of omnibus bills. That is not my point.

You and your predecessors have clearly decided that we would have to deal with such bills, for better or worse. The issue I am raising today is simply the individual right of a member of Parliament to vote according to his or her conscience on issues before the House.

Given the Prime Minister's previous objection to a single vote on a bill that covers a number of issues, I hope that he will support my position on the fact that a single vote on several distinct elements of a bill forces members to vote against their conscience.

Even if the Prime Minister does not agree with my submission, and no longer agrees with himself on this point, there have been many rulings that point out the importance of the rights of members to vote on diverse components of a bill, which are its individual clauses at committee and now report stage.

In his ruling of May 11, 1977, Speaker Jerome stated:

I think that an hon. member of this House ought to have the right to compel the House to vote on each separate question.

He went on in the same ruling of that year to say:

—a member ought to be able, if he wishes to attempt through motions to delete under Standing Order 75(5) to isolate those sections which he feels ought not to be amended or that ought to be voted upon separately, without offending the principle of the bill.

That is exactly what will happen at report stage on this bill.

Finally, in that same ruling:

I think that would give the hon. member and other hon. members an opportunity that they should enjoy, to put their position on the record, which I think ought to be known, and also to require others in the House to vote in respect of that position....where a bill is presented...which contains amendments to several different areas of the law although all connected to criminal law, a member ought to be able to use some procedure at some stage of the bill to cause the House to make separate decisions on those very subject matters.

In his decision of June 8, 1988, Speaker Fraser stated that members have the ancient privilege of voting on each separate proposition before the House. It is indeed an ancient privilege and one that we, all the other members of this institution and myself, must jealously guard.

The problem is that the grouping of report stage motions presumes that one can predict the intentions of members with respect to specific matters that have already been identified as being legitimate and substantive. Perhaps this may seem intuitive, but I would like to say that only in exceptional and extraordinary circumstances should someone be authorized to presume how members will vote on a motion before the House.

Given that omnibus bills have been routinely introduced by this government, these are not exceptional circumstances.

Speaker Milliken, your predecessor, Mr. Speaker, made this point clear when he was addressing the use of Standing Order 56.1 to presume the outcome of a vote in the House, and he said:

The effect of the motion adopted pursuant to Standing Order 56.1 was to predetermine the results of all the votes following the first recorded division. It is clear to the Chair that this application of the standing order goes well beyond the original intent, that is, for the presentation of routine motions as defined in Standing Order 56.1.(1)(b).

The standing order has never been used as a substitute for decisions which the House ought itself to make on substantive matters.

It cannot be replaced. There is no rule in the House that allows us to circumvent the right of any hon. member to have a clear and concise vote on individual subject matters. I will continue with the quote:

In the meantime, based on close examination of past precedents and the most recent use of Standing Order 56.1 as a tool to bypass the decision making functions of the House, I must advise the House that the motion adopted on June 12, 2001, will not be regarded as a precedent. I would urge all hon. members to be vigilant about the use of this mechanism for the Chair certainly intends to be watchful.

The regrouping of report stage amendments for the purpose of voting presumes the very same thing: how MPs will wish to vote on a question before the House. This is a right that the Speaker made very clear should be protected with vigilance.

The introduction to chapter 12 of O'Brien and Bosc sums up very well the current reality of majority governments. On page 527, there is a quote from Parliaments in the Modern World, by parliamentary expert Philip Laundy: “The principle underlying parliamentary procedure is that the minority should have its say and the majority should have its way.”

In my opinion, this means that, in a majority Parliament, the government has the right to get through its legislative agenda, and the opposition has the right to slow passage of legislation in a reasonable manner.

Having a distinct vote on each question put forward by MPs that is clear, distinct and admissible, surely falls under the umbrella of what should be considered reasonable.

In fact, the truth is that the government is directly responsible for any delay that it perceives to be unnecessary in this regard. In this and all pieces of legislation, the government decides how many clauses it wishes to include. This was not a choice by the opposition. This was not a choice by the opposition. This was not a choice by you as Speaker.

The government drafted this massive bill with so many clauses contained. In all this, in all pieces of legislation, the government chose which to include. In Bill C-45 there are now 516 separate clauses, each of which contains a separate legislative change, either to amend or eliminate entirely an existing law or to create a new one. Each is a distinct issue that must be dealt with on a distinct and individual basis.

When MPs move to delete that clause, it is an altogether different question than moving to delete another clause entirely. If it were not, they would be the same clause in the first place.

For the record, I am in full support of the Speaker's right to not select particular motions for the House to deal with at report stage. Motions that are vexatious or clearly dilatory, such as moving to turn a comma into a semicolon, should not be selected because it is a waste of Parliament's time. However, deleting individual clauses of a bill is a right that MPs can, and must be able to, exercise. To speak plainly, they are not a waste of time. Casting a distinct vote on each one is an ancient right of which all MPs should be able to avail themselves and it must be protected by your office, Mr. Speaker.

Deleting a clause of the bill is debatable and therefore a substantive motion. O'Brien and Bosc remind us, on page 782:

Since motions in amendment at report stage are open to debate, they fall into the category of substantive motions...

There is no question there. The effort to delete a clause is a substantive motion. Surely, MPs should be making a decision on these substantive motions individually, rather than as a group.

In conclusion, I wish to present my arguments. Although I may be giving the impression of wanting to ascribe to you the responsibility for this very serious problem, I am keenly aware of the fact that you are following what has been done by previous speakers in such matters. I do not want Canadians who are watching to believe that this is a problem specific to your tenure as Speaker of the House of Commons.

In fact, I know that you believe that the Speaker should not influence the manner in which the House of Commons deals with an omnibus bill such as Bill C-45.

On June 11, in a ruling on a point of order questioning the legitimacy of this type of bill, Mr. Speaker, you cited Speaker Fraser's ruling of June 8, 1988, on page 16257 of Debates, saying:

Until the House adopts specific rules relating to omnibus Bills, the Chair's role is very limited and the Speaker should remain on the sidelines as debate proceeds and the House resolves the issue.

I submit that the practice of forcing MPs to make a single vote on multiple individual questions is not written in the rules of the House, by which you as Speaker are bound. Rather it is a practice followed simply because that is the way it has been done before. However, this clearly is not a justification for the ruling.

In my view, the government's use of omnibus bills, with many hundreds of clauses, sets the table for these groupings. However, given the government, and only the government is responsible, I believe that the Speaker should allow the omnibus nature of their initiative manifest itself in all aspects of the process, including the opposition's right to use the tools of the House to delay, however temporarily, the passage of the bill.

You, Mr. Speaker, have the power to right this wrong and to unburden members of this chamber from making a single choice on multiple questions. I am asking you to exercise that power when you rule on the process for the House to follow at report stage on Bill C-45.

Report Stage MotionsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario


Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the decision that you will have to make regarding the upcoming treatment of Bill C-45 at report stage is a particularly important one, because your determination will largely settle whether the opposition can effectively make a farce of the procedures of the House and shut down the legislative process, or whether you will give actual meaning to the intent of the Standing Orders and allow the business of the country to be done in a meaningful and democratic fashion.

I will refresh everyone's memory of what we are talking about. We are talking about the interpretation of Standing Order 76(5), which relates to amendments at report stage to any legislation. In particular, we are now talking about the budget implementation bill. This Standing Order sets out the Speaker's power to select and combine amendments at this stage. It states in part, “The Speaker shall have the power to select or combine amendments or clauses to be proposed at the report stage...”. The opposition House leader is advising you, Mr. Speaker, to amend unilaterally this Standing Order to render it ineffective. That should not be the case.

If there is any doubt as to how this should be interpreted, a note was added by previous governments, not a Conservative government but a Liberal government, that reads as follows:

The Speaker will not normally select for consideration any motion previously ruled out of order in committee.... The Speaker will normally only select motions that were not or could not be presented in committee. A motion, previously defeated in committee, will only be selected if the Speaker judges it to be of such exceptional significance as to warrant a further consideration at the report stage. The Speaker will not normally select for separate debate a repetitive series of motions which are interrelated and, in making the selection, shall consider whether individual Members will be able to express their concerns during the debate on another motion.

The most important recent addition states:

For greater clarity, the Speaker will not select for debate a motion or series of motions of a repetitive, frivolous or vexatious nature or of a nature that would serve merely to prolong unnecessarily proceedings at the report stage and, in exercising this power of selection, the Speaker shall be guided by the practice followed in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.

We recall that there was some public comment after the ruling earlier this spring and the number of amendments allowed. Here I refer to comment by the actual individuals who were involved in the preparation of that section and the changes that were proposed to the Standing Orders. They expressed some disappointment at the ruling that was made and thought that the powers were there for the Speaker to prevent the abuse that we saw earlier this spring, when the House was tied up for many hours by hundreds of votes, none of which changed a single comma, all of which were clearly and evidently an abuse of the process and a massive cost to Canadians in terms of the operation of the House and an inconvenience to members who had other business to do for the purposes of this country.

I will point out that the Standing Orders and the powers in them have a history to them; they do not exist separately and apart. If we review O'Brien and Bosc, there is some reflection on this history at page 777, which states:

In 1955, the House amended its Standing Orders to reflect this practice.

That referred to a previous practice of concurrence in amendments from committee. As O'Brien and Bosc note:

It was agreed that amendments had to be presented to the House and that the motion for concurrence in the amendments had to be disposed of forthwith before the bill was ordered for debate at third reading at the next sitting of the House. The effect of these amendments to the Standing Orders was to eliminate what then constituted the equivalent of report stage. In 1968, the House undertook a thorough revision of its legislative process with the result that all bills, except for those based on supply or ways and means motions, were thenceforth to be referred to standing or special committees, and would not be reconsidered by a Committee of the Whole House. In addition, the House restored report stage [that was the trade-off] and empowered the Speaker to select and group amendments.

That was the management aspect of it.

Therefore, in restoring report stage, effectively, it was not done carte blanche, so that everything had to be considered. There was a recognition that there were some risks. That is why the Speaker was given powers to allow the House to continue to function, powers to limit an abuse through procedural measures and unnecessary, frivolous, vexatious or duplicative amendments.

O'Brien and Bosc go on to state:

In recommending that report stage be restored, the 1968 Special Committee on Procedure believed that stage essential in order to provide all Members of the House, and not merely members of the committee, with an opportunity to express their views on bills under consideration and to propose amendments, where appropriate. For all that, the intent of the Committee was not for this stage to become a repetition of committee stage.

I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that with the amendments we have seen on notice so far, nothing could be closer to an effort to replicate exactly what happened at committee, or could have happened at committee. That was clearly not the intent of establishing report stage.

Report stage was to allow for that rare, unique and relatively uncommon circumstance where an idea had not occurred to someone at committee but that here in the House some felt that an amendment was appropriate, novel and different and sought to bring it forward. However, there is nothing novel in the amendments that we see on notice. There is nothing innovative. There is nothing significantly different from what has been proposed or could have been proposed earlier.

Finally, I will go to the most recent change.

Most recently, in 2001, an additional paragraph was added to the above-mentioned note. This occurred in response to the flooding of the notice paper with hundreds of amendments to certain controversial bills. The new text emphasized that the Speaker would not select motions that were “repetitive, frivolous, vexatious or serve only to prolong debate unnecessarily”. Those are overwhelmingly the amendments that we see on the order paper today. The new provision was designed to respond to the evil that was already occurring and undermining the process of the House.

When changes are made, they are generally responding to a problem that exists. Those new powers exist to deal with that. Mr. Speaker, I submit that they should be exercised by you.

When we reflect on what has happened already in the committee proceedings on the budgetary policy of the government, including ways and means Motion No. 7, the first budget implementation bill, Bill C-38, as well as the present legislation, there have already been almost 4,600 votes on the government's budgetary policy.

How much has changed as a result of all of those votes and amendments to what has been proposed by the government? Not one comma, not one word. That is the clearest evidence that the current amendments represent an abuse of process only designed to try to delay and be vexatious and prolong matters.

My submissions are centred on five points.

First, the clause deletion motions are a repetition of committee proceedings and merely seek to prolong report stage proceedings and, therefore, should not be selected.

Second, in the alternative, if the clause deletion motions are selected, they should be grouped in a manner that recognizes the anticipated will of the House.

Third, the other amendments from the New Democrats and Liberals should not be selected because they were presented at committee, or could have been presented at committee.

Fourth, some of the motions by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands should not be selected on the grounds that they were presented at committee or are similar to amendments dealt with at committee, or that they infringe on the financial prerogative of the Crown.

Fifth, the other report stage amendments from the independent members of Parliament must be grouped in a way that prevents the entire House from being detained in a marathon of votes originated at the whim of, effectively, a single member of Parliament.

Mr. Speaker, as with any bill pending at report stage, you are required to make certain decisions under, among other provisions, Standing Order 76.1(5). Again, this is the one I read earlier about your having the power to select or combine amendments or clauses to be proposed at report stage.

It is in this spirit that I do tender this advice given that the government is scheduling that report stage of Bill C-45 will start tomorrow. Mr. Speaker, I can appreciate that you have a lot to consider today and this evening. I hope you do not have any plans.

Given the duplicated notices from multiple members of each of the two recognized caucuses, for ease of reference, I will refer to those from the members for Winnipeg North, Westmount—Ville-Marie, and Kings—Hants as the Liberal motions, and those from the members for Parkdale—High Park, Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, Brossard—La Prairie and Hamilton East—Stoney Creek as the NDP motions.

I would say that the motions to delete clauses are not an effort to amend the bill, but merely repeat what we saw at committee stage. The effect of the adoption of all of the proposed motions to delete clauses would effectively be to eviscerate the bill.

On October 30, the House adopted Bill C-45 at second reading, thereby agreeing to its principle. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance reported the bill without amendment to the House on November 26, after consideration of each and every clause.

It may be justifiable in a minority Parliament for the Chair to accept any questions for the House to decide, because it is difficult to predict the intentions of the majority of members. This is not the case in a majority Parliament in general. There is no reason to substantiate an assumption that the House would use report stage to reverse itself in the decision it took at second reading of Bill C-45. In fact, the course of the almost 4,600 votes so far on the budgetary policy of the government established this quite clearly. I do not think anyone is in any suspense as to the outcome of the number of votes that we have. It is only a suspenseful question of how long the endurance test will be of the votes we will put to the House.

I submit that the report stage motions to delete the preponderance of the clauses in the bill effectively seek not only to reverse the outcome of the second reading vote on the bill, but also constitute a repetition of committee stage of the bill. As I said, that is particularly the case since each clause did carry separately in the clause-by-clause votes.

The second paragraph of the note that is in our Standing Orders accompanying Standing Order 76.1(5) with respect to the Speaker's power to select amendments states in part, “It is not meant to be a reconsideration of the committee stage of a bill”. I repeat that: report stage is not to be a repeat of the consideration that occurred at committee.

On February 27, 2001 the House added this paragraph to the note accompanying Standing Order 76.1(5):

For greater clarity, the Speaker will not select for debate a motion or series of motions of a repetitive, frivolous or vexatious nature or of a nature that would serve merely to prolong unnecessarily proceedings....

It then continues on about the British rules.

I read to the House the excerpt from O'Brien and Bosc about the circumstances where there was an abuse with the flooding of amendments. Therefore, we have seen it happen before. We have seen that Parliament has decided that the kind of abuse that occurred in the past should not be allowed to be repeated and, hence, it changed our Standing Orders to reflect that such abuse should not be permitted and that you, Mr. Speaker, have the power to prevent it and to prevent the undue delay.

In the present case we have again seen the notice paper flooded. Today's notice paper lists some 1,662 report stage motions respecting Bill C-45. I am not a betting man, but I am willing to bet anyone in the House that I do not foresee any of them passing.

We know that most of the motions have already been considered at committee. We know that the House has approved overwhelmingly the budget, the budgetary policy of the House and this particular legislation at second reading. By breaking these out into multiple deletion clauses and other frivolous and vexatious amendments, nothing is being achieved but a waste of time, resources and the discrediting of our parliamentary system.

I respectfully submit that the Liberal and NDP report stage motions taken as a whole simply constitute an attempt to reverse the decision of the House at second reading of the bill, but to do so in ultra-slow motion. These amendments would be a reconsideration of committee stage and are of a nature that will merely serve to prolong unnecessarily the proceedings at report stage. Ultimately, if a member seeks to oppose the entirety or the preponderance of a piece of legislation, that member's recourse should lie in voting against the motion on concurrence in the bill in report stage, not in detaining the House through round-the-clock voting.

While your ruling, Mr. Speaker, on June 11, 2012 on Bill C-38 held that clause deletion motions have always been found to be in order, and it must also be noted to have been selected at report stage, I argue that this case can be distinguished. In the present case we are dealing with a second bill to implement provisions of a budget tabled in Parliament. Therefore these clause deletion motions should not find favour under the vigorous exercise contemplated by Speaker Milliken.

I will point out that in the alternative, if selected, certainly these clause deletion motions need to be grouped in an efficient manner. Should you decline to accept my advice, Mr. Speaker, and choose to select those clause deletion motions, I would urge that you use your authority and combine and group them in a fashion that puts them to the House in a sensible and efficient fashion.

I propose that the clause deletions, should they be selected against my advice, be grouped for voting purposes into 10 subsets of economic policy. Under this approach the House would have 10 separate votes on the issue of whether to remove from Bill C-45 the government's proposals in these areas of economic policy:

First, taxation measures, those being any motions to delete clause 1 or clauses in part 1 of the bill.

Second, financial sector measures, those being any motions to delete clauses in divisions 1 and 3 of part 4.

Third, transportation and border measures, those being any motions to delete clauses in divisions 2, 5, 12, 16, 18 and 20 of part 4 of the bill.

Fourth, resource development provisions, those being any motions to delete clauses in divisions 4 and 21 of part 4.

Fifth, aboriginal land designation provisions, those being any motions to delete clauses in division 8 of part 4.

Sixth, labour items, those being any motions to delete clauses in divisions 10 and 11 of part 4.

Seventh, amendments to the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act, those being any motions to delete clauses in division 13 of part 4.

Eighth, measures related to employment insurance, those being any motions to delete clauses in divisions 15 and 22 of part 4.

Ninth, agricultural items, those being any motions to delete clauses in division 19 of part 4.

Tenth, public sector pension reforms, those being any motions to delete clauses in division 23 of part 4.

This would allow for a broad range of votes on a broad range of topics where the opposition, clearly, is seeking to delete the proposals of the government. It would do so in a fashion that would allow that expression to be made. It would allow them to state, for the record, that they disagree with these proposals by the government. At the same time, they would not be establishing an excessive number of votes to get that point across here in the House.

The committee is, in fact, really the best venue for other NDP and Liberal motions. I understand that each of the report stage motions by the New Democrats and Liberals, which propose to make amendments to the clauses of Bill C-45, were put before the finance committee.

As for the 1,000 report stage motions from the Liberals seeking to add bodies of water to schedule 2 of the bill, I would observe that the committee dealt with a similar number of amendments at the committee level.

Since these motions were first published only this morning, I have not yet had an opportunity to determine whether they are exactly the same bodies of water proposed for inclusion at committee. On this point, I will leave my argument that generally, these motions were either dealt with at committee or could have been proposed there, as they are very similar to what was proposed there.

One additional point I would make about any motions to amend schedule 2 of the bill is on NDP amendment 72, which the finance committee considered and defeated, which I believe answers any further reference to adding bodies of water. That amendment sought to add:

All navigable waters situated in Canada and included in the Atlantic Ocean drainage basin, the Hudson Bay drainage basin, the Arctic Ocean drainage basin, the Pacific Ocean drainage basin or the Gulf of Mexico drainage basin.

In short, any water body not already listed in the schedule would have been addressed by that amendment.

Turning to the Green Party leader, I would suggest that some of her amendments should not be selected. Several of the motions by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands are the same, either in whole or in part, as those presented at committee.

Therefore, I submit that the following report stage motions proposed by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands should not be selected: Motion No. 28, which is the same as Liberal amendment 23; Motion No. 29, which is the same as Liberal amendment 24; Motion No. 74, which is the same as Liberal amendment 64; Motions Nos. 411 to 413 and 424 to 432, which are collectively the same as Liberal amendment 243; Motion No. 434, which is the same as Liberal amendment 249; Motion No. 436, which is the same as Liberal amendment 250; Motions Nos. 439 to 442 and 445, collectively, which are the same, in part, as Liberal amendment 252; and finally, Motion No. 463, which is the same as Liberal amendment 263.

Others are similar in nature to amendments considered at committee. I would argue that the issue was generally considered by the committee. Therefore, report stage motions should not be selected. This would apply to Motion No. 389, which covered ground similar to NDP amendment 21; Motion No. 409, which covered ground similar to Liberal amendment 240 and NDP amendment 223; Motion No. 440, which covered ground similar to Liberal amendment 253; Motion No. 441, which covered ground similar to Liberal amendment 252 and NDP amendment 31; and Motion No. 458, which covered ground similar to Liberal amendment 257 and NDP amendment 32.

There is also an additional concern raised by some amendments that require a royal recommendation. I have been advised that officials in the Privy Council Office note that at least two of the motions by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands would require a royal recommendation.

Motion No. 381 would increase the government's liabilities in respect of refunds for employment insurance premiums to small business for 2012-13, which expands the provisions in the bill for such refunds for 2011. By adding two additional years, this motion alters the terms and conditions of the original royal recommendation attached to Bill C-45 respecting the provision for such refunds for 2011.

Motion No. 382 also increases spending in a manner that is not currently authorized. The royal recommendation attached to Bill C-45 respecting this provision provides a limit of $1,000 on the refund of premiums, which this motion is proposing to increase to $2,000.

As a result, this would go beyond the terms and conditions of the original royal recommendation. Therefore, a new royal recommendation would be required.

Officials are reviewing the newest amendments published in this morning's notice. If I obtain further information on items that I believe will require a royal recommendation, I will be sure to send those submissions or provide them to you, Mr. Speaker, through this House.

The independent member's motions are an interesting question. They require some attention, because the independent member does not sit on committee. However, they should not be dealt with in such a manner that they represent, effectively, a harassment of the balance of the House. Compared to the several hundred amendments proposed by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands in June, on Bill C-38, her proposals as of today's date are slightly less unreasonable. However, the fact remains that the rights of individual members of Parliament must be balanced with the ability of the majority of the House to dispatch its business with some reasonable, practical speed. Allowing a single member of Parliament to hold the House hostage in a voting marathon is simply not reasonable.

I propose the following arrangement, which could, in future, extend to other government bills.

Report stage motions submitted by a member of Parliament who is not part of a recognized party shall be selected in the manner provided for by our rules. The selected motions may be grouped for debate in the usual fashion. Subject to the next point, the voting patterns for the motions would be set in the usual manner, as required by the ordinary practices of considering legislative amendments. However, one amendment per independent member of Parliament would be chosen to be a test vote. The voting pattern for the rest of that independent member's motions would only be implemented if the test motion were adopted. A rejection of the test motion would be inferred as a rejection of all that member's proposals. Therefore, the balance of the independent member's motions would not be put to the House.

In summary, any ordinary person familiar with parliamentary process, in even a passing way, would agree that more than 1,600 amendments are an abuse of process. Most should not be selected. In summary, this member's proposals are collectively a repetition of the committee stage and only seek to prolong report stage proceedings unnecessarily, particularly through the round-the-clock voting that would result.

There is no evidence that the House would willingly agree to be subjected to this. In fact, the history of how our rules have changed and the Speaker's rulings since 1968 confirm this. The Speaker's power to select amendments is clearly designed to prevent that abuse from happening. Mr. Speaker, the note that accompanies Standing Order 76.1(5) is a further clear articulation and reinforcement of the notion that part of one's obligation as Speaker is to protect not just the rights of the minority or an individual member; it is also to protect the rights of all members of Parliament not to see this place brought to discredit through procedures that are entirely frivolous, vexatious, repetitious, designed to delay and certainly designed to inconvenience all members of Parliament to an extraordinary extent.

I submit that the report stage motions, taken as a whole, run counter both to the spirit and the letter of the rules that govern our proceedings. Therefore, I recommend that most of the report stage motions on notice should not be selected and that the balance should be grouped in the manner I have proposed.

Finally, I point out, Mr. Speaker, your ruling in the spring, even though it was not seen as sufficiently aggressive in some fashion and was not seen as efficient as some would have liked in terms of respecting the ability of this House to continue to function. You clearly said, with respect to the 871 motions placed on the notice paper, the following:

[I]t is clearly not intended, nor do our rules and practices lend themselves to the taking of 871 consecutive votes. With respect to the voting table, substantive amendments have been grouped so as to allow for a clear expression of opinion on each of the subject areas contained in the bill. Motions to delete have been dealt with in conformity with the grouping scheme you outlined....

Mr. Speaker, I have certainly given you a proposal that I think falls squarely within the context of what you established in your spring ruling. Here we see that the effort to be frivolous and vexatious has come close to, and has perhaps by now more than doubled, the effort to do so in the spring. The result, I am quite confident, will be the same in terms of the substantive outcome of those amendments. I invite you to ensure that the processes of this House are managed in such a fashion that our proceedings are not brought into discredit and are not made into a farce. Rather, they can operate in a fashion that allows views to be expressed but that also allows the nation's business to be done.

Report Stage MotionsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I understand the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley has a follow-up.

Report Stage MotionsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Yes, Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of important points that will bear upon your ruling. I hope you did not take that too personally from the government House leader. It was a little bit of a procedural smack-down of your previous ruling on Bill C-38. I know that it was not meant personally, but boy, he did not appreciate your ruling before.

In terms of the disrepute of the House and using procedural games to do it, this comes from a government that prorogued Parliament to avoid a confidence vote and then lectures the House on how it holds Parliament in high regard.

The selection for debate my hon. friend spent so much of his time on was not our point at all. The point we were making was that, of course, you have the selection as to which motions come. Our entire premise, if he had been listening, was on the idea of what gets grouped together. I raised a very specific point with the member, with you and with the House to say that in the groupings last spring, many votes were put together that caused the members of Parliament to vote singly on multiple issues on which they may have had multiple opinions.

The example I used in my speech, which I know my hon. colleague would understand and agree with, was that a single vote cast on changing the language in the French text in the bill was also connected and became the same vote as the definition of a navigable water. Any member of Parliament from the government or the opposition who may have agreed with the first part of the vote and disagreed with the second was allowed to vote only once.

The point of the groupings is to allow members to vote freely and fairly. I know the government House leader has been very helpful, in his own eyes, in now grouping all the different amendments for you, Mr. Speaker. I know that he is often inconvenienced by the cost and the burdensome nature of democracy. However, I will remind him that receiving only 39% of the vote does not give the government somehow the mandate to run roughshod over our Parliament and our parliamentary procedure.

The evil the member talked about and quoted often, and this is important as you seek to group amendments, with respect to vexatious amendments, were the 471 amendments moved by the Reform Party against the Nisga'a treaty. This is now coming from many members who were in that movement and in that party who did not like the treaty and moved commas and semicolons and periods around to try to delay the work of the House.

There are many things Canadians can contemplate. However, the outright hypocrisy coming from Conservatives and former Reform members in saying that they do not like the rules that they themselves applied so vexatiously in the House of Commons in trying to deny the first modern-day treaty in Canadian history is passing strange.

I will end on this. Democracy is from time to time a complicated and difficult process. It can be a difficult system. That is hard for the Conservative government to contemplate, but it is a much better system than the other options available for governing ourselves.

It seems to me that when we gave examples that the groupings are important to allow members to vote freely and fairly, the government House leader chose to ignore all of those things. It is the Speaker's choice as to which ones are vexatious and inconvenient. I said that in my comments to the House. If they are vexatious, they should not be chosen and selected for votes. What I did say was that in a grouping of these amendments, it is important that members are able to vote freely.

It seems to me that the government helped make our point about the amendments, none of which have been moved. Many are serious and substantive amendments to improve, in this case, a 450-page piece of legislation. In the previous bill of some 425 pages, the government adopted none. Conservatives did not change a comma, a period or a semicolon or a single word of text. Somehow the government was able to create perfectly more than 900 pages of legislation without a single error or omission. It got it all right. We know that not to be true, because for Bill C-38, the first omnibus bill, which was moved in the spring, Conservatives are now having to make corrections in Bill C-45, some months later, before they have even had a chance to enact the legislation. Therefore, were they perfect? No.

Maybe from time to time the government may learn that slow and steady slide from feeling that they are somehow ordained with this perfection crosses into arrogance and is ultimately an allergy to Canadians. They want a government that is humble. They want a government that from time to time listens and does not believe that in all cases every piece of legislation it has written is perfect. It has already shown time and again that it writes bad legislation. Conservatives should use this process to make better their imperfect attempts at reforming Canadian law.

Mr. Speaker, this is a question about grouping, not a question about which motions you choose to select, on which my hon. colleague spent much of his time. If he had listened and understood this point of order, he would also agree that while messy and while cumbersome, as democracy can be, we must abide by this principle, whatever our political orientation, because that is what Canadians expect at the least.

Report Stage MotionsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley and the hon. government House leader. Looking at the clock, it does seem like I have quite a little bit of reading to do, so I appreciate them letting me go back to that now.

The hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso has a point of order.

Bill C-377—Income Tax ActPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a different point of order. I want to recognize and commend my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley on a very well referenced and articulated point of order. I hope I can only match that. I assure the House I will surpass him on the aspect of brevity.

I rise on a point of order with respect to Bill C-377, an act to amend the income tax act (requirements for labour organizations). Although my colleagues from the NDP have also risen on this matter, I am not convinced the arguments they put forward have been complete in terms of substance. As such, I want to offer further points on this matter for your consideration, Mr. Speaker.

I submit that Bill C-377's provisions to provide for reporting and public disclosure of certain financial transactions and administrative practices of labour organizations envisages a new function and purpose within the Canada Revenue Agency, or CRA. As such, the terms and conditions of the royal recommendation that authorizes CRA's current spending are being altered so that a new and distinct authorization for spending is being permanently created, which will therefore require a royal recommendation.

Past Speakers have ruled that legislation imposing additional functions on bodies funded by public money, if the functions are substantially different from their existing functions, will require a royal recommendation.

I believe that Bill C-377 will require royal recommendation for two reasons. First, the bill creates a new purpose for CRA in terms of a public reporting function that has no obligatory ties to taxation under the Income Tax Act. The bill would follow up on this additional purpose by creating what the CRA characterizes as “a comprehensive system that includes electronic processing, validations, and automatic posting to the CRA Web site”.

The Income Tax Act is concerned with the taxation of individuals, organizations and businesses. Any reporting requirements imposed on individuals and organizations are directly tied to their tax obligation or the exemption of these obligations. For example, charities can only keep their tax exempt status and donors only receive a tax receipt if the charity meets reporting requirements.

The Canada Revenue Agency is responsible for applying and interpreting the Income Tax Act in this regard. The primary goal of the agency, as Canada's tax administrator, is to ensure that taxpayers comply with their tax obligations and that Canada's tax base is protected. I want to stress that again: tax obligation.

Bill C-377 is strictly a function of publicly reporting information on one specific group of individuals, in this case labour organizations and labour trusts, outside of any direct obligations that those organizations or their members must have under the Income Tax Act. Given that it would create an additional purpose and new program requirements that would amend the Income Tax Act and modify the purpose of the CRA, the result is a new expenditure. The bill should be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Mr. Speaker, I want to draw your attention to a Speaker's ruling in the other place on February 27, 1991 on pages 2262 through 2264 of the Journals regarding Bill S-18, an act to further the aspirations of the aboriginal peoples of Canada. The Speaker found that provisions imposing additional functions on bodies funded by public money, if the functions are substantially different from their existing functions, require royal recommendation.

The member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale and the government will no doubt argue that because labour organizations receive a public benefit, as charities do, they should be required to report as charities do.

The simple rebuttal to this argument is the fact that the reporting requirement for charities is based on a tax obligation. A charity must publicly report information in order to keep the tax exempt status it receives and the preferential tax treatment its donors enjoy. This will simply not be the case with labour organizations under Bill C-377.

To further disprove this counter-argument, I think we need to look no further than the first incarnation of Bill C-377, which was Bill C-317. The bill tied the reporting function of labour organizations to the enjoyment of the tax exempt status offered to them in paragraph (k) of subsection 149(1) of the Income Tax Act. Labour organizations not in compliance with the financial disclosure requirements outlined in Bill C-317 would lose their tax exempt status. Bill C-317 also sought to effect the tax treatment of union members if their union did not comply with its requirements by not allowing union dues to be tax deductible.

In your ruling, Mr. Speaker, on Bill C-317, which was delivered on my birthday of November 4, 2011, and found on pages 2984 to 2986 of the Debates, you said that Bill C-317 had not respected the rules of the Standing Orders because to remove a tax exemption was in effect to raise taxes, which would require a ways and means motion, which the bill did not have.

Your ruling, Mr. Speaker, disallowed that and forced the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale to remove the parts of the bill that tied the reporting requirements to the enjoyment of tax exempt status by labour organizations and tax deductibility of dues by their members. In doing so, there is no longer any direct tie or connection to taxation or benefits received by labour organizations or their members. Labour organizations or trusts who fail to comply with the requirements of Bill C-377 will not lose their tax exempt status and their members will not lose the tax deductibility of their dues.

Bill C-377 solely becomes a simple public reporting function, which is a new function of the Income Tax Act and a new purpose for the CRA in its capacity to administer the act. As such, it should require a royal recommendation.

The second issue I want to bring to your attention, Mr. Speaker, has to do with how Bill C-377 regulates the internal affairs of unions and their relationships with their members. In essence, this is a de facto labour relations function that is completely new for CRA and duplicates the function of the Canada Industrial Relations Board.

Bill C-377 is modelled on a United States reporting regulation for American unions that falls under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959. This act legislates labour relations. It promotes labour union and labour management transparency through reporting and disclosure requirements for labour unions and their officials. This act is administered by the Office of Labor-Management Standards within the United States Department of Labor, not the Internal Revenue Service.

The reporting requirements in Bill C-377 were copied from the reporting requirements of the most detailed and onerous reporting form from the Office of Labor-Management Standards, Form LM-2. Specifically, the bill copies the revisions to the reporting regulations that were introduced on January 21, 2009, by the U.S. Department of Labor and later rescinded on October 13, 2009.

Mr. Speaker, I will provide you with a copy of the final rule for both actions, which was posted on the U.S. Federal Register, so you can see how this legislation is a copy of the U.S. labour relations regulations.

The Disclosure Act of 1959 requires the public disclosure of union financial reports. In fact, the public disclosure is through an online, searchable database known as the electronic labor organization reporting system, the same type of electronic system proposed by the bill.

Bill C-377 is, in effect, a replication of U.S. labor relations law and regulations, specifically the department of labor regulations for the labor-management reporting and disclosure act of 1959.

The Canada Labour Code currently includes a section that deals with union financial transparency and accountability. It requires unions to disclose financial statements to members on request, or to the Industrial Relations Board to enable members to view that information. Part of their function is to regulate labour organizations.

The finance committee received a number of submissions on this bill. One submission was from Le Syndicat de professionnelles et professionnels du gouvernement du Québec. It included a legal opinion that argued that the bill was concerning labour relations. Although the argument was for an entirely different matter, I believe the substance concerning labour relations was sound, and it would be of assistance to you, Mr. Speaker, in your decision.

The predominant purpose of this bill, as promoted by the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, is to increase the transparency and accountability of labour organizations. During second reading, the member stated:

With the passage of the bill, the public would be empowered to gauge the effectiveness, financial integrity and health of any labour union.

The bill's summary states:

This enactment amends the Income Tax Act to require that labour organizations provide financial information to the Minister for public disclosure.

The degree of detailed information this bill requires is far broader in scope than any other requirement on any other entity that is publicly disclosed by the government. This is clearly an attempt to monitor and regulate the activities of labour organizations. This is especially clear when the bill requires the detailed time and expenditures that labour organizations spend on non-labour relations activities, such as political activities and lobbying.

Mr. Speaker, I want to draw your attention to a previous Speaker's ruling on October 20, 2006, and found on page 4039 of the Debates regarding Bill C-286, An Act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act (protection of spouses whose life is in danger) The bill proposed to expand the witness protection program to include persons whose lives were in danger because of acts committed against them by their spouses. The Speaker explained that the bill proposed:

...a protection that does not currently exist under the witness protection program. In doing so, the bill proposes to carry out an entirely new function.

As a new function, such an activity is not covered by the terms of any existing appropriation. ... New functions or activities must be accompanied by a new royal recommendation.

The government and the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale may argue that the function proposed by Bill C-377 is the same function the CRA performs with respect to Charities Directorate or other tax exempt organizations. Although it is true that the processes and infrastructure required may be similar, the function and purpose for those processes are very much different.

Mr. Speaker, I draw your attention to the Speaker's ruling on November 8, 2006, and found on pages 4905 and 4906 of the Debates regarding Bill C-279, An Act to amend the DNA Identification Act (establishment of indexes). I believe the particulars on this issue have a lot of similarities in the case at hand and would deny this counter-argument.

Bill C-279 would have created a new purpose for the DNA Identification Act and established new indices in the DNA data bank, similar in context to the new database that would be created under this bill for unions. The Speaker explained there was an addition of a new purpose to the DNA Identification Act which was to identify missing persons via their DNA profiles. Again, this is similar to Bill C-377 that wishes to impose reporting requirements on another tax exempt organization under section 114 of the Income Tax Act.

In that ruling, the Speaker stated, “Amending legislation that proposes a distinctly new purpose must be accompanied by a further royal recommendation”. The Speaker's ruling on Bill C-279 clearly shows that just because a process, in that case the collecting of the DNA, and the infrastructure needed, meaning a database, are the same as the current function of an act, it is still considered a new function and purpose that gives rise to the requirement of a royal recommendation.

Mr. Speaker, whether you look at the detailed requirements of the bill, its summary, the testimony of government witnesses who spoke about how this would regulate unions or just read the statements made by the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, clearly regulating labour relations is the dominant nature of this bill. No such labour relations function exists at the CRA currently. Therefore, this bill would create a new purpose, a new function and/or an activity at CRA that would require a royal recommendation.

Unlike its failed predecessor Bill C-317, the reporting requirements and the public disclosure imposed by Bill C-377 in no way is linked to the imposition or levitation of taxes, levies or tariffs. Instead, this bill seeks to use the powers of the Income Tax Act to solely provide public information that would constitute a new function or activity. In addition, the bill would clearly create a new labour relations function at the CRA that not only does not exist presently but duplicates this function that is already happening at the Canada Industrial Relations Board.

Because this bill would create a new function and purpose at the CRA, I respectfully submit that Bill C-377 should require a royal recommendation.

Bill C-377—Income Tax ActPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we hear from the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso, Employment Insurance.

Bill C-377—Income Tax ActPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan


Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the member's attempt at brevity but I must say that it reminded of that old classic movie, Airplane from 1980, penned by Jim Abrahams and David Zucker.

What I kept thinking of when I was listening to his brief presentation was those continuous scenes where Ted Striker, the ex-army pilot who was afraid to fly would continue to tell stories to the people in the seat next to him and they would end up attempting suicide. However, I do want to thank my friend for being at least a little more brief than the official opposition House leader. I will attempt to be even briefer than my friend from the Liberal Party.

I rise to respond to last Thursday's intervention by the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie and yesterday's intervention by the hon. member for Saint-Lambert concerning a royal recommendation for Bill C-377, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations).

Bill C-377 was introduced on December 5, 2011, by the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale and has since been read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance. The bill would amend the Income Tax Act to require labour organizations to provide financial information for public disclosure.

I would note that this bill was not identified by the Speaker as an item of concern with respect to the financial prerogative of the Crown, nor has it been the subject of an intervention by a minister of the Crown or a parliamentary secretary on behalf of one.

The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie argued that the provisions of the bill requiring labour organizations to submit financial information and the requirement for the Canada Revenue Agency to publish the information on a website with search tools somehow represent new and distinct charges on the treasury which are not currently authorized.

The hon. member for Saint-Lambert then added the information provided to the finance committee by the Canada Revenue Agency which provided estimates on the expected incremental costs associated with implementation.

There are procedural authorities and precedents for cases where a new royal recommendation was not required for incremental modifications to expand the operation of provisions already authorized by a royal recommendation. The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie cited page 833 of the second edition of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice. The most relevant portion pertaining to amending bills, such as Bill C-377, is that a royal recommendation is required for:

...bills which authorize new charges for purposes not anticipated in the estimates. The charge imposed by the legislation must be “new and distinct”; in other words, not covered elsewhere by some more general authorization.

Section 220 of the Income Tax Act provides the minister with the authority to administer and enforce the provisions of the act. Indeed, this authority was cited in the same materials provided to the finance committee which the member for Saint-Lambert cited yesterday.

In particular, subsection 220(2) provides broadly and generally that:

Such officers, clerks and employees as are necessary to administer and enforce this Act shall be appointed or employed in the manner authorized by law.

Clearly, the authority to retain any necessary staff has already been addressed by Parliament.

It may also be useful to add here that subsection 5(1) of the Canada Revenue Agency Act provides that:

The Agency is responsible for

(a) supporting the administration and enforcement of the program legislation....

Program legislation is, in turn, defined in section 2 of that act as:

....any other Act of Parliament....

(a) that the Governor in Council or Parliament authorizes the Minister, the Agency, the Commissioner or an employee of the Agency to administer or enforce, including the....the Income Tax Act....

Indeed, this broad mandate already enjoyed by the Canada Revenue Agency is addressed in response to the Liberal question 1(a) in the finance committee materials the hon. member for Saint-Lambert cited, which asked how Bill C-377 aligns with the Canada Revenue Agency's mandate.

The agency replied:

A measure introduced by Parliament that is incorporated into the Income Tax Act and falls under the responsibility of the Minister of National Revenue will be administered by the CRA. Parliament determines if a measure will be incorporated into the Income Tax Act.

In other words, the Canada Revenue Agency has already been given a broad, sweeping mandate to administer and enforce federal taxation laws. Meanwhile, other existing provisions of the Income Tax Act allow the minister to require certain persons or entities to file information for the purposes of taxation.

Specifically, for example, subsection 149(14) dealing with qualified donors provides a requirement for public foundations to

—file with the Minister both an information return and a public information return for the year in prescribed form and containing prescribed information.

In other words, the act already requires information to be submitted to the minister in a prescribed form and containing prescribed information. Therefore, this does not constitute a new function, mandate or duty for the minister or the agency.

The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie also argued that making the information public represented a new and distinct activity that was not currently authorized.

First, the agency has a comprehensive website which publishes lots of information and materials, so that would not be a new responsibility for the agency.

As for making information public, I would note that the Income Tax Act provides provisions now to that effect. Subsection 149(15) relates to information that may be communicated in respect of charitable organizations. It states:

—the information contained in a public information return...shall be communicated or otherwise made available to the public by the Minister in such manner as the Minister deems appropriate...the Minister may make available to the public in any manner that the Minister considers appropriate...

In other words, the act provides the minister with the authority to publish in any manner the minister considers appropriate the content of a public information return. That other information would fall within an existing mandate and duty does not, I submit, require a royal recommendation.

Turning to some precedents, on February 10, 1998, at page 3647 of the Debates, Bill S-3, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985 and the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Act, was found not to require a royal recommendation. In his ruling, Mr. Speaker Parent said, in a case where powers were expanded yet no royal recommendation was needed, that:

It seems fairly evident that the powers of the superintendent would be extended by Bill S-3. It may well be that additional expenditures would be incurred because of those enhanced powers of the superintendent. Should an increase in resources be necessary as a result of these new powers, the necessary allocation of money would have to be sought by means of an appropriation bill because I was unable to find any provision for money in Bill S-3.

The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie made mention of the additional tasks which would fall to the employees of the agency as well as training which might be required for the new filings. Your immediate predecessor's ruling, Mr. Speaker, at page 7261 of the Debates for February 23, 2007 on Bill C-327, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act answers this point, states:

Bill C-327 may or may not result in a greater workload for the CRTC, but the activities being proposed are within its mandate. If additional staff or resources are required to perform these activities then they would be brought forward in a separate appropriation bill for Parliament’s consideration.

More recent, on October 26, 2010, Mr. Speaker Milliken ruled concerning the need for a royal recommendation for Bill C-300, an act respecting corporate accountability for the activities of mining, oil or gas in developing countries. The bill, among other things, required the Minister of Foreign Affairs to establish a process for the examination of complaints concerning possible contraventions of the guidelines. The Speaker ruled then:

—the Chair is of the view that the examination of such complaints is not a departure from or expansion of the current ministerial mandate under the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act...Bill C-300 may put forth more stringent requirements, but it does not expand the mandate per se.

It may be that a reorganization of resources or even additional funds would be required, however, it appears these would be operational in nature.

I submit that Bill C-377 is consistent with the precedents cited in that it does not authorize a new expenditure of public funds. Rather it deals with the operation of provisions already authorized by Parliament which were accompanied by a royal recommendation at the time these provisions were enacted.

The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie mentioned that there was nothing set out in the recently tabled supplementary estimates (B) for this fiscal year. The hon. member for Saint-Lambert also claimed that this was confirmed in the agency's answers to finance committee.

Let us be clear. The usual practice we can expect to see unfold would be that the agency would account for its operations under Bill C-377, should it become law, in its estimates after the bill becomes law. That is a common practice with respect to any proposed legislation that has not yet been enacted. The supplementary estimates argument advanced by those hon. members is really a red herring in this entire debate.

Should Bill C-377 become law, the authority to spend for the purposes set out in the bill will be under the general authority of existing broader provisions of the Income Tax Act as well as the agency's general authorities under the Canada Revenue Agency Act. Should additional funds be required, the government would seek them from Parliament as part of the supply cycle through an appropriations bill in the ordinary manner for operating expenses.

I respectively submit that Bill C-377 does not require a royal recommendation and is properly before the House.

Bill C-377—Income Tax ActPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I thank the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso and the hon. parliamentary secretary to government House leader for their interventions on this matter. We will certainly get back to the House in due course as is necessary.

The House resumed from November 8 consideration of the motion that Bill C-28, An Act to amend the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada Act, be read the third time and passed.

Financial Literacy Leader ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the points of order we heard are very technical but yet very interesting.

First, with your permission, I would like to share my time with the hon. member for Pontiac. It is always an honour to speak in the House about bills, in this case, Bill C-28, the Financial Literacy Leader Act. The incumbent of this position would report to the Commissioner of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. Given that I already spoke about this bill at second reading, today, I am going to speak more specifically about the amendments that were tabled by my colleagues when this bill was examined by the Standing Committee on Finance.

I can only express my sincere disappointment that the Conservative members rejected the six amendments that were tabled by my NDP colleagues. It is always sad to see how little the Conservatives are willing to co-operate. Although all six amendments were relevant, two of them were particularly vital: the one pertaining to the bilingualism of the financial literacy leader and the one pertaining to the creation of an advisory council.

The following are comments by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance when my colleague from Sudbury tabled our three amendments during the committee hearing. The third amendment would ensure that the financial literacy leader would be bilingual.

In answer, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance said, “That's a huge priority for this government. This is why we continue to put forward policies that support that”. She also mentioned, “I would also say that in choosing a financial literacy leader, we do want to make sure there is merit that goes with any appointment”.

With both of those comments, there is a blatant contradiction between the fact that she acknowledged that the literacy leader should be bilingual, but on the other hand that the language skills were not mandatory for that position. We have seen that contradiction in many nominations by the Conservative government. It demonstrates that, for the government, language skills and namely the ability to speak French are not part of the merit that is required to get these positions.

For Quebec members of Parliament, this is a real problem because it gives us the impression that the government is always telling us the same thing about bilingualism—that it is going to appoint a person based on merit and then ask that person to learn French. This sends a message that linguistic ability is not among the prerequisites and skills required to be appointed to these positions. As a member of Parliament from Quebec, I find this to be a completely unacceptable message. That is what I had to say about the first amendment.

The second amendment that the hon. member for Sudbury proposed involved the creation of an advisory council in accordance with the second recommendation of the financial literacy task force. This was one of the 30 recommendations this task force made. We see that, in this bill, only one of those recommendations was taken into account, that of creating the position of financial literacy leader.

Once again, this bill leaves much to be desired. In fact, it is really just an empty shell, considering that, out of 30 recommendations, the government acted on only one: the creation of this position.

We often hear the government argue that this bill calls for the creation of a website. The government seems to think that websites have magical powers. That is the answer we always get any time we ask the ministers about the cuts made to public service positions responsible for answering questions from the public. We are often told that people can simply consult the website, because all of the information is there. That is more or less what we have heard from the government members who have spoken on this.

Furthermore, people have a tendency to forget that we can teach financial literacy to Canadians and enhance their knowledge, but there is no point in explaining how to manage their money if they have no money to manage. Sometimes they have no money because the banking system is sucking up such a huge amount of money.

I would like to give some of the figures from Canadian banks, which, as we know, have a virtual monopoly. Let us look at the banks' profits after taxes—not the total business but the profits. The profits of Canadian banks have increased from less than $10 billion—or to be more specific, $9.7 billion—in 2000 to over $25 billion in 2011.

Twenty-five billion dollars for a population of approximately 35 million represents $700 per person. In other words, on average, a family of four gives $3,000 to Canadian banks. I see that the members opposite find that completely acceptable. They would say that this is a sign that the banking system is well managed. However, for me, it is a sign that we are all being swindled by the banks since they are charging ridiculous interest rates in certain cases, particularly in the case of credit cards.

I would like to remind you of a proposal that was made and has been supported by the NDP for a number of years. We proposed that credit card interest rates be limited to 5% above the Bank of Canada's key lending rate, which has been at 1% since September 2010. Then, instead of having interest rates of 25% or 26% in some cases, an NDP government would legislate to have these rates limited to 6%.

This would allow credit companies to continue to be very profitable and make huge amounts of money while ensuring that people with the worst credit ratings, the most disadvantaged in our society, would not be charged exorbitant credit rates. These people have to borrow money through channels that give them the highest interest rates. Since they do not have a good credit rating, they cannot take out a line of credit, for example, which has a much lower interest rate.

In conclusion, since I have only 30 seconds left, I would like to say that it is with great disappointment that I am going to support this bill at third reading. The main reason for my support is that we cannot oppose the basic principle of at least creating the position of financial literacy leader. I think this bill is an incredible waste of time and energy for Parliament. The bill looks good but it does very little.

Financial Literacy Leader ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member's very interesting speech.

He obviously showed that there are a number of problems with financial literacy in Canada and that the measures proposed by the government do not fully address them.

My question for him is very simple: what could we have done to truly contribute to the financial health and literacy of Canadians?

Financial Literacy Leader ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I noted this regarding one of the amendments proposed by my colleague from Sudbury, who was sitting on the Standing Committee on Finance at the time. He proposed the creation of an advisory committee.

One of his recommendations called for this advisory committee to be made up of stakeholders from different backgrounds who were familiar with the population and who would be able to provide tools and suggestions and could also exercise oversight over the financial literacy leader.

This would allow for some oversight, instead of a single person being in charge of providing a better financial education for Canadians.

Financial Literacy Leader ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was interested in my colleague's comment that the NDP put forward six what he considered to be reasonable amendments at the committee and not a single one was favoured with a supportive vote by my colleagues in the ruling Conservative Party. In fact, not a single amendment has ever been allowed to any piece of legislation in the 41st Parliament. Even at times when the Conservatives know full well that the amendments have merit, they act and behave as if they have some kind of monopoly on all wisdom, all knowledge and all good ideas. At times the minister has had to get up at report stage and introduce the very same things that they voted down at the committee stage. They must find that embarrassing, to be hoisted with their own petard in that way.

I am interested in the quote by the member for Saint Boniface. Does it not seem to be contradictory that she spoke in favour of the same principle that my colleague put forward in the amendment? Does my colleague have any explanation for such contradictory behaviour by the parliamentary secretary?

Financial Literacy Leader ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, absolutely, this is a blatant contradiction. The parliamentary secretary said that it is a huge priority for the government to have bilingual appointments and a few minutes later the very same member voted against that amendment. It is a contradiction that I do not have an explanation for. The only suspicion I have is that Conservatives want the possibility to make appointments of people they know are not bilingual and who will only have to pretend that they will learn French in the future.

Financial Literacy Leader ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, we all know that Canadians' lack of savings and the Conservatives' increasing debt are symptoms of the disparity between the increase in the cost of living and the increase in salaries, rather than symptoms of financial illiteracy.

I would like my colleague to explain how a bill that would create this position will help Canadians if it does not take into consideration the 29 recommendations made by the task force.

Financial Literacy Leader ActGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2012 / 5:05 p.m.


Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert is absolutely right.

Furthermore, during the committee hearings, the following question was raised: could the agency commissioner appoint someone to carry out exactly the same duties without having the title? The departmental official responded yes, but that a legislative appointment carried more prestige and made the position more official.