Mr. Speaker, I rise today to follow up on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Carleton last Friday.
Because this is the very important provisions of the new Standing Order 69.1, it is imperative to stand and add to what the member for Carleton said last Friday. In this corner of the House, we believe that Bill C-63 is an omnibus bill as defined under the new Standing Order 69.1.
Unlike the member, we have been and remain concerned that omnibus bills continue in this place and their use boxes members of Parliament into positions where it becomes increasingly difficult to represent our constituents on various matters that various governments have lumped together.
Standing Order 69.1, which was passed in the House in June, states the following:
In the case where a government bill seeks to repeal, amend or enact more than one act, and where there is not a common element connecting the various provisions or where unrelated matters are linked, the Speaker shall have the power to divide the questions, for the purposes of voting, on the motion for second reading and reference to a committee and the motion for third reading and passage of the bill. The Speaker shall have the power to combine clauses of the bill thematically and to put the aforementioned questions on each of these groups of clauses separately, provided that there will be a single debate at each stage.
Standing Order 69.1 allows members of Parliament to represent their constituents on various specific issues and it grants the Speaker the power to group parts of legislation to allow for voting on separate items and protects all parliamentarians from the Hobbesian choice of having to choose how to vote on multiple questions, which can be contradictory.
The Standing Orders also allow for exceptions and allow for grouping in the second part of that Standing Order, which states under clause 2:
The present Standing Order shall not apply if the bill has as its main purpose the implementation of a budget and contains only provisions that were announced in the budget presentation or in the documents tabled during the budget presentation.
With respect to Bill C-63, the wording of that particular Standing Order states very clearly, I think, that a factual determination can be made. Do all of the initiatives presented in Bill C-63 also appear in the budget that was presented in March of this year?
If all of the initiatives “were announced in the budget presentation or in the documents tabled during the budget presentation” then the bill should not qualify for separate votes, pursuant to Standing Order 69.1.
If it is truly a budget bill, the Speaker should not “combine clauses of the bill thematically and...put the aforementioned questions on each of these groups of clauses separately” as called for by Standing Order 69.1.
I submit today that if Bill C-63 contains any initiative that was not included in the March budget, then the whole bill cannot be exempted under Standing Order 69.1(2), because the exemptions described in the Standing Order say that all measures must have been in the budget. I also submit that there are sections in Bill C-63 that were not in the March 2017 budget.
We found a couple more examples that the member for Carleton did not mention in his intervention last Friday.
According to the summary of Bill C-63, after the section that summarizes the changes to the Income Tax Act, the summary goes into a second list, saying, “implements other income tax measures by”, and then lists a number of measures, including, “(c) ensuring that qualifying farmers and fishers selling to agricultural and fisheries cooperatives are eligible for the small business deduction.” There is no mention in the budget speech or in the budget documents of such a plan. This, we assert, was not part of the March 2017 budget.
In the March budget, there were sections that allowed for insurance deductibility for farmers and fishers, but nothing that would change the small business deduction.
As well, the same section in Bill C-63 goes on to say, “Part 3 amends the Excise Act to ensure that beer made from concentrate on the premises where it is consumed is taxed in a manner that is consistent with other beer products.” This is reflected in part 3 of the bill, which introduces amendments to section 165 of the Excise Tax Act to change how tax on mostly homemade beer is calculated.
In the documents that accompanied the budget, only one section mentioned alcohol products, and that was to talk about potential changes to implement interprovincial agreements.
In the supplementary tax measures documents, there are changes to the tax on alcohol, but nothing specific to beer from concentrate.
While the government certainly has the right to ask for an increase to taxes on beer from concentrate, it did not do so in the last budget, and therefore this bill is not a true budget bill.
Given that those two measures appear in Bill C-63, but are not mentioned in either budget 2017 or in any of the additional documentation such as budget planning or supplementary information on tax measures, I believe that Bill C-63 should be treated in its entirety as an omnibus bill as defined in Standing Order 69.1.
Remember, the Standing Order says clearly that the exemptions are only available for legislation that has as a “main purpose the implementation of a budget and contains only provisions that were announced in the budget presentation or in the documents.“
By throwing in elements that were not in the March budget, I submit the bill should be treated as an omnibus bill.