Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order in respect of the Chair's statement on May 9, 2017, concerning Bill C-343, an act to establish the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Criminal Acts and to amend certain acts, standing in the name of the hon. member for Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix.
Like you, I have spent all summer reflecting on the Speaker's comments at that point, and I am now prepared to offer comments on his provisions at that time.
The Chair drew the attention of the House to the presence of a provision in Bill C-343, namely clause 26 of the bill:
26(1) Subject to subsection (2), this Act comes into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.
(2) No order may be made under subsection (1) unless the appropriation of moneys for the purposes of this Act has been recommended by the Governor General and the moneys have been appropriated by Parliament.
At the heart of the Chair's concern is section 54 of the Constitution Act, 1867, formerly the British North America Act, 1867, which requires the Governor General's recommendation for appropriations.
That constitutional provision is given procedural effect, and thus, jurisdiction for the Speaker through Standing Order 79(1), which was quoted in the June 20, 2017, intervention by the hon. member for Guelph.
Indeed, as the English constitutional scholar Sir Ivor Jennings once wrote:
In approaching the subject of financial control exercised by the House of Commons, we reach the borders of the realm where law, parliamentary privilege, and parliamentary custom are almost inextricably intertwined.
Over the course of 150 years, a number of procedural precedents concerning the crown's financial prerogatives have been accumulated. This is one area where we can more easily look back over the array of accumulated jurisprudence, because that piece of constitutional law, and the associated procedural rules, have not substantively changed since Confederation.
I draw your attention to Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, 6th edition, at citation 611, which provides that:
A bill from the Senate, certain clauses of which would necessitate some public expenditure, is in order if it is provided by a clause of the said bill that no such expenditure shall be made unless previously sanctioned by Parliament.
Reference is then made to the ruling of Mr. Speaker Cockburn, on April 5, 1870. Page 155 of the Journals records the following:
The last Clause in the first section, provides that nothing in this Act shall give authority to the Minister to cause expenditure, until previously sanctioned by Parliament; and this overrides the eighth section referred to by the Honourable Member. No contract could therefore be entered into under that section, which could bind the Government, and necessitate an expenditure of public moneys, unless it had been previously sanctioned by Parliament. He could not therefore sustain the objection of the Honourable Member for Chateauguay.
To be clear, the statutory language referenced was the proviso in section 1 of An Act to amend the Act relating to Lighthouses, Buoys and Beacons, which was quoted by the hon. member for Guelph.
By its own terms, subclause 26(2) of Bill C-343 would not give the Governor in Council, in this case, the authority to pass an order in council to bring the act into force unless and until such authority for expenditure, an appropriation, has been given by Parliament.
Turning back to Beauchesne's, let me quote citation 613:
A bill, which does not involve a direct expenditure but merely confers upon the government a power for the exercise of which public money will have to be voted by Parliament, is not a money bill, and no Royal Recommendation is necessary as a condition precedent to its introduction.
No reference is noted, but looking back to the fourth edition of Beauchesne's, the citation, there numbered as 277(2), refers to a ruling on February 23, 1912, at page 240 of the Journals.
In responding to Sir Wilfrid Laurier's point of order, the prime minister, Mr. Borden, as he then was, forcefully observed:
It does not appropriate any part of the public revenue, it does not appropriate one dollar of the public revenue for any such purpose. It merely does this: It provides that if parliament shall at any future time appropriate a certain sum of money for that particular purpose, then that money shall be expended by the Governor General in Council under the provisions of this Bill, according to the method now laid down in the Bill before the House. The provisions of this Bill are perfectly simple and plain and not to be misunderstood....
Therefore, it is apparent that before one dollar of public money can be expended under the provisions of this Bill, a resolution must be brought down in parliament, assented to by His Royal Highness the Governor-General, considered in Committee of the Whole, and be the foundation of a Bill which will alone justify any expenditure under this Act.
Therefore, to suggest, as the right hon. gentleman has done, that this is a Bill for the appropriation of any part of the public revenues, seems to me to be entirely a misstatement of the case. The simple answer to it is, that without this Bill, if an appropriation were presented to this House, passed through Committee of the Whole and embodied in an Act of this parliament, the Governor General in Council would be left without any machinery whatever for the expenditure of that money. This Bill is solely designed to furnish machinery for the expenditure of a certain sum of money which may or may not be voted by parliament for that purpose. There is no question of the appropriation of one dollar of the public revenue of this country for this purpose until an appropriation Bill has been brought in founded upon a resolution which shall conform to section 54 of the British North America Act.
Mr. Speaker Sproule ruled in favour of Mr. Borden's argument. He stated:
My attention was drawn to the fact that when parliament could vote any money for that purpose, the resolution must pass through the usual course required for all money resolutions or Bills...That in my judgment seems to be ample guarantee for the House that it would have the full consideration that all money Bills have, and therefore I thought it unnecessary at the time that it should be introduced by a resolution. That was my opinion then, whether it was correct or not, and I still hold the same opinion.
One further passage from Beauchesne's sixth edition to offer, is citation 614, which reads:
A bill, designed to furnish machinery for the expenditure of a certain sum of public money, to be voted subsequently by Parliament, may be introduced in the House without the recommendation of the Crown.
That citation cross-references to Mr. Speaker Sproule's ruling on January 16, 1912, at page 118 of the Journals, based on an English precedent, which was described as “a motion for leave to bring in a Bill to enable the Government to acquire lands for public purposes, but not providing funds for the same. On objection being taken that the Bill "involved a charge upon the public," answer was made that the Bill only proposed to give the Government power to buy land, but for that power to be of any use an estimate must be voted in committee; that the Bill would not enable the Government to purchase any lands until the House, in Committee, had considered the Estimates and agreed to them; that the Bill did not authorize any public money although the expenditure was contemplated. The Speaker ruled that the object of the Bill was to take ground for certain purposes. It did not give them power to purchase the property.”
What Bill C-343 does is establish a machinery, though one might, more accurately, say that it merely confirms the existing machinery for the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, who currently works under the auspices of the Minister of Justice, whereby some future additional expenditure might, at a later date, be approved and undertaken to this end. The need for a later parliamentary appropriation to be separately enacted is clearly made out in subclause 26(2) of the bill.
Moreover, to safeguard the financial initiative of the crown, Bill C-343, if passed, will not become law until proclaimed by the Governor General in Council, and then only if the condition precedent of necessary appropriations being made is satisfied, which of course follows a recommendation by the same Governor General, acting on the advice of those same constitutional advisers.
As the Chair's statement noted, this condition precedent for a coming into force order is similar to provisions found in Bill S-205 and Bill S-229. Before the summer adjournment, the hon. member for Guelph tendered submissions on the latter bill.
Without commenting on the merits of those two bills, it does not appear, from a cursory search of Senate proceedings, that this coming into force clause is an entirely novel approach in that House, although it may be the first such provision to make its way to the House of Commons in recent years. To that end, it makes sense to explore how the other place has handled this issue.
Through its Rule 10-7, the Senate gives procedural footing to section 54 of the Constitution Act, 1867. That rule reads, “The Senate shall not proceed with a bill appropriating public money unless the appropriation has been recommended by the Governor General.”
That rule is more trite than our own Standing Order 79(1), but it still applies the same principle. Therefore, how does that rule-addressing the constitutional principle in section 54 intersect with provisions worded like clause 26 of Bill C-343?
Page 155 of Senate Procedure in Practice informs us that:
In addition to the factors outlined in the above quotation, rulings have noted that a bill that would otherwise require the Royal Recommendation can proceed if it clearly provides that it does not come into effect until funds have been separately appropriated by Parliament.
In support of that proposition, footnote 181 references citation 611 of Beauchesne's, which I earlier quoted, as well as two rulings of Mr. Speaker Kinsella. The first ruling, delivered on May 27, 2008, and recorded at page 1086 of the Senate Journals, lays out the Senate Speaker's logic in working through the question. The hon. member for Guelph quoted a portion of it. Allow me to quote further parts of that ruling, which state:
The key to this issue is, of course, clause 52(2). Under this clause, most of the Bill cannot come into force until funds have been recommended by the Governor General and appropriated by Parliament for the purposes of the Bill. No expenditure whatsoever would thus be incurred by the mere passage of Bill S-234...
When the term “appropriation” is used, it is often used quite loosely. It does, however, have a narrower meaning. An appropriation is a sum of money allocated by Parliament for a specific purpose. As seen with supply bills, appropriations quite often fund entities whose legal framework has been separately established.
One must, therefore, consider whether Bill S-234 actually “appropriates” money within this meaning. As already discussed, funds for the purposes of Bill S-234 will have to be separately appropriated or voted by Parliament, on the Governor General's recommendation, before the Bill can enter into force.
Here comes the kicker:
Bill S-234 thus appears to respect fully the financial initiative of the Crown, since no funds are being or must be appropriated.
Later, Speaker Kinsella said:
Bill S-234 respects the financial initiative of the Crown, while allowing Parliament the opportunity to consider a new proposal. The Bill in no way incurs actual expenditures, it merely sets the stage for such expenditures to be incurred, if the Crown chooses to recommend them, and if Parliament chooses to appropriate these funds.
The second ruling, on May 5, 2009, found at page 564 of the Senate Journals, recalls the analysis in the ruling I just quoted and concluded:
The ruling on Bill S-230 is the same. The bill does not require a Royal Recommendation, since nothing can happen following its adoption until and unless funds have been appropriated”.
This line of logic is also followed by former law clerk and parliamentary counsel, Rob Walsh, in his 1994 Canadian Parliamentary Review article entitled, “Some Thoughts on Section 54 and the Financial Initiative of the Crown”, where he quoted from a former chief legislative counsel of the Department of Justice. He stated:
Sometimes bills are passed during a session for which no appropriation is made. In those cases we will usually put an appropriation clause in the bill because there has been no appropriation. In other cases, we do not have to put appropriations in the bill; we presume that Parliament will appropriate the moneys. If they do not appropriate the moneys, effectively the law will not operate.
Finally, I want to address the 1978 ruling of Deputy Speaker Gérald Laniel, cited by the government House leader's parliamentary secretary in his submission and answered by the hon. member for Guelph. Mr. Walsh offered this critical perspective of the decision, in the article I just referenced. He stated:
It is difficult to see why this should be so when passage of the bill, with a non-appropriation clause, would clearly indicate that an expenditure of public funds under the bill is not authorized.
Later in the article, Mr. Walsh argued the following:
In respect of a private member's bill containing a non-appropriation clause, the Speaker need only ask two questions: (a) would the bill, in the absence of the non-appropriation clause, require a royal recommendation? and (b) if so, is the non-appropriation clause sufficient to dispense with requiring a royal recommendation? In respect of the latter, the test should be whether the non-appropriation clause clearly disclaims authorization by Parliament to expend public funds for purposes of the bill. In the absence of an authorization by Parliament, no public funds may be expended: section 26, Financial Administration Act.
Additionally, Mr. Walsh advanced this thought:
It is also argued that such bills constitute an indirect demand for supply and would, if passed, leave the Crown bound to make a demand for supply for purposes of the bill and the Crown ought not to be put in a position where its financial initiative is compromised. In this connection, it is pertinent to note that the Crown has been known to not proclaim...into force an Act that has been passed by Parliament. If the Crown is not obliged—and evidently does not feel itself obliged—to bring into force an Act that Parliament has seen fit to enact, how can it say that enactment of a private member's bill with a non-appropriation clause leaves it obliged to exercise its financial initiative and to make a demand for supply? In short, this argument lacks credibility.
In conclusion, the authorities are clear that the legislative language used by the hon. member for Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix is an acceptable manner in which to proceed. It recognizes the government's exclusive rights concerning financial initiatives, while offering something of a turnkey statutory structure for the government to bring into force at a time of its choosing and in a manner entirely respectful of our constitutional rules concerning financial bills.
I may add as a way to sum up, that this is an important bill and if we look at the human side of things, we are looking at an ombudsperson for victims of crime and we need to think of those victims at all times, think of the impact that the legislation like this would have.
I offer this submission to you, Mr. Speaker, to take under advisement when ruling on the royal recommendation of the bill.