Before we continue, I am prepared to rule on the point of order raised on September 28, 2020, by the hon. member for Banff—Airdrie concerning the applicability of Standing Order 69.1 to Bill C-4, an act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19. I would like to thank the hon. member for having raised this question, as well as the hon. parliamentary secretary to the Government House leader for his intervention.
The hon. member for Banff—Airdrie asked that the Chair use the authority granted under Standing Order 69.1 to divide the question on the motions for second and, if necessary, third reading of Bill C-4. He argued that the bill is an omnibus bill that contains an element that should be voted on separately. In particular, the member asked that part 3 of the bill, dealing with the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act, be the subject of a separate vote, as he contends that it is a distinct initiative unrelated to the rest of the bill.
The hon. parliamentary secretary argued that all elements of the bill are part of the government's response to the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and that this constitutes its unifying theme.
As members will recall, Standing Order 69.1 allows the Speaker to divide the question on a bill where there is not a common element connecting the various provisions or where unrelated matters are linked. The critical question for the Chair, then, is to determine to what extend the various elements of a bill are indeed linked.
Bill C-4 does contain different initiatives. Part 1 enacts the Canada recovery benefits act to authorize the payment of the Canada recovery benefit, the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit in response to COVID-19.
Part 2 amends the Canada Labour Code to, among other things, amend leave provisions related to COVID-19.
Finally, Part 3 amends the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act to limit, as of October 1, 2020, the payments that may be made out of the consolidated revenue fund under that act to those in respect of specified measures related to COVID-19, up to specified amounts. It also postpones the repeal of that act until December 31, 2020.
One could make the case, as the parliamentary secretary did, that there is indeed a common thread between these various initiatives in that they are all related in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In presenting his argument, the hon. member for Banff—Airdrie referred to the two rulings by my predecessor on Bill C-69 and Bill C-59, where he decided that the standing order could be applied to a bill that dealt with the same policy field as long as the initiatives were sufficiently distinct as to warrant a separate question. Each of those bills contained changes in the fields of environmental protection and national security, respectively.
The Chair is not convinced, however, that Bill C-4 is of the same nature. While each part of the bill is a distinct initiative, all three measures are in response to a specific public health situation, namely the COVID-19 pandemic. A close examination of the bill also shows that each part is designed to replace, supplement or extend measures enacted early this year that are expiring.
As my predecessor stated in his very first ruling relating to this Standing Order, on November 7, 2017, found at page 15095 of the Debates, and I quote:
Members will know that many bills contain a number of initiatives on a number of policy areas, some of which members support and some of which they might oppose.
The amending process affords members an opportunity to propose changes, including the opportunity to remove portions of a bill to which they object. The question for the Chair, in applying Standing Order 69.1, is whether the matters are so unrelated as to warrant a separate vote at second and third reading.
In this particular case, there is a government motion before the House that would limit the opportunity to amend the bill. Though the amendment proposed by the opposition House leader would provide such opportunities, the Chair cannot prejudge what the House may decide in this regard. The Speaker's duty is to determine whether the criteria in Standing Order 69.1 have been met.
In my view, all of the measures contained in Bill C-4 relate to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this constitutes a common element linking them together. Accordingly, there will be only one vote at second reading for this bill.
I thank the hon. members for their attention.