Before delivering a ruling regarding the report stage of Bill C-45, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, the Chair would like to take a moment to respond briefly to certain arguments raised yesterday by the Honourable House Leaders of the Government and the Official Opposition. A more comprehensive ruling, dealing with their points in detail, will be delivered at a later date. Today I will limit my comments to only a few key points.
Yesterday, the hon. opposition House leader raised a point of order about the manner in which votes were applied in June of this year at the report stage of Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures. The expressed concern that, as a result of the grouping of votes at report stage, members may, in essence, have had to cast a single vote that would apply to several motions, some of which they supported and some of which they opposed.
Let me say at the outset that analyzing report stage motions for purposes of selection, grouping for debate and voting is never an easy task and represents a significant challenge for the Chair, particularly in cases like the present one where a very large number of motions have been placed on notice. As I stated in my ruling of June 11, 2012 in relation to Bill C-38:
In my selection of motions, in their grouping and in the organization of the votes, I have made every effort to respect both the wishes of the House and my responsibility to organize the consideration of report stage motions in a fair and balanced manner.
The Chair is being asked to consider the suggestion that every motion to delete a clause should be voted on separately. This would diverge from our practice where, for voting purposes where appropriate, a long series of motions to delete are grouped for a vote. Since the effect of deleting a clause at report stage is, for all practical purposes, the same as negativing a clause in committee, to change our practice to a one deletion, one vote approach could be seen as a repetition of the clause by clause consideration of the bill in committee, something which the House is specifically enjoined against in the notes to Standing Orders 76(5) and 76.1(5) which state that the report stage is not meant to be a reconsideration of the committee stage.
That said, though, it has been a long-standing practice for the Chair to select motions to delete clauses at report stage. I reminded the House of our practices in that regard in my ruling in relation to Bill C-38 when I stated, “motions to delete clauses have always been found to be in order and it must also be noted have been selected at report stage”.
To provide just two examples, I would refer members to a ruling by Speaker Milliken regarding the report stage of Bill C-50 on May 30, 2008, which can be found at page 6341 of the Debates of the House of Commons, as well as my own ruling regarding the report stage of Bill C-9, which can be found at page 2971 of the Debates for May 26, 2010.
In the absence of any specific guidance from the House with regard to motions to delete and other matters raised in the points of order, the Speaker cannot unilaterally modify the well-established current practice. Accordingly, with regard to the report stage of Bill C-45, the Chair will be guided by my past rulings and, in particular, by the ruling on Bill C-38.