I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Repentigny concerning an amendment presented in committee to Bill C-44, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017, and other measures.
The member raises two key points in this question of privilege: the first relates to the admissibility of the amendment she presented in committee, which she has resubmitted at report stage; the second issue she raised has to do with her status as a member from a non-represented caucus in committee proceedings. In so doing she is asking the Chair to select her report stage motion, Motion No. 87, for consideration during the report stage debate of Bill C-44.
The member argues that the chair of the Standing Committee on Finance wrongly ruled that her committee amendment was inadmissible because it required a royal recommendation. The member stated that her amendment altered the qualifying weeks needed to claim maternity leave benefits for newly or suddenly unemployed mothers of newborns. She maintained that it did not represent a new or extended charge against the consolidated revenue fund, which would require a royal recommendation. The member simultaneously argued that the employment insurance fund was separate, and that, therefore, additional payments from the EI fund could not be seen as a new charge against the CRF.
On that specific point, I would like to direct the House's attention to a ruling by Speaker Milliken on November 10, 2006, at page 5027 of the Debates. He said:
Although contributions to the employment insurance program are indeed made by employers and employees, appropriations for the program are taken from the consolidated revenue fund and any increase in such spending would require a royal recommendation.
Accordingly, I cannot agree with the member’s view that a royal recommendation is not required. The ruling by the chair of the Standing Committee on Finance was procedurally sound and appropriate. Without a royal recommendation forthcoming for Motion No. 87, I cannot acquiesce in her request that the motion be considered during the report stage of Bill C-44. The Assistant Deputy Speaker indicated on June 2, 2017, that the motion would not be selected as it required a royal recommendation, and I see no reason to go back on that finding.
The member also argued that, because of her status as a member of a non-represented caucus, she did not have the ability to appeal the decision of the chair with respect to the admissibility of the amendment she presented in committee, as permanent members of the committee could.
The member is correct in her assertion that she is not able to participate in precisely the same way as permanent committee members, specifically in this case because committees’ practice is clear that only permanent members can appeal the ruling of a chair. That is not to say, however, that the member for Repentigny has been excluded in all ways from participating in the proceedings on this bill.
My predecessor, in a ruling on a similar question of privilege on June 6, 2013, at pages 17795 to 17798 of the Debates stated:
Turning to the issue of the rights of independent members, the Chair can only observe that the decision of the finance committee permitted them to do something they could not do before: namely, to have their amendments considered in the committee and, indeed, to be granted, pursuant to Standing Order 119, an opportunity to speak in committee. This is something that was not open to them before. In that sense, they succeeded in obtaining a form of participation in committee proceedings, as imperfect as it may have been in their eyes.
In the matter currently before us today, the member may not have been able to participate exactly as other members, but the process did afford her the ability to participate. In fact, she has had the opportunity at report stage to present her case as to why her amendment should have been admissible and the Chair has delivered its findings on that matter. Based on the substance of the member’s complaint, I cannot conclude that she has been impeded in the performance of her duties nor can I find, accordingly, that the Standing Orders or practices of the House have been breached.
I would like to thank all hon. members for their attention on this matter.
It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Vancouver East, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship; the hon. member for Brandon—Souris, Taxation; and the hon. member for Montcalm, Air Transportation.