Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order.
The point of order concerns the report that was just tabled: the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage respecting Bill C-10. I would respectfully submit that several of the amendments contained in that fifth report must be struck out because the committee exceeded its authority.
Last Monday, June 7, the House adopted a time allocation motion limiting committee deliberations to only five further hours. The part of the House's order that is relevant to this point of order says, at pages 104.3 and 104.4 of the Journals:
That, at the expiry of the time provided in this order for the committee stage, any proceedings before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on the said bill shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.
At the committee's second meeting, on Thursday, June 10, those five hours had expired and the Canadian heritage committee proceeded to the disposal of the committee stage of the bill, in accordance with the House's order.
The chair of the committee, the hon. member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, informed the committee that, by the terms of the House's order, the amendments that had been placed on notice could not be moved and therefore could not be voted upon by the committee. The Liberal-Bloc-NDP majority on the committee, however, then overturned the chair's ruling, thereby forcing the committee to consider these amendments without any debate, without any opportunity to question expert witnesses from the department of Canadian Heritage and without any opportunity to hear the wording of the amendment read aloud.
Those events are recorded in the relevant minutes of proceedings for the committee's second meeting on June 10. The amendments subsequently considered by the committee are recorded in those minutes of proceedings, as well, for the committee's meeting on Friday, June 11. Both sets of minutes, as noted in the comment in the fifth report immediately preceding the chair's signature, have been laid upon the table, among others.
House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Third Edition says, at page 779:
Since a committee may appeal the decision of its Chair and reverse that decision, it may happen that a committee will report a bill with amendments that were initially ruled out of order by the Chair. The admissibility of those amendments, and of any other amendments made by a committee, may therefore be challenged on procedural grounds when the House resumes its consideration of the bill at report stage. The admissibility of the amendments is then determined by the Speaker of the House, whether in response to a point of order or on his or her own initiative.
That is why I am rising today on this point of order. In overturning the committee chair's ruling and forcing amendments that had not been properly moved to be voted upon, I respectfully submit that the committee exceeded its authority by contradicting the House's order, which required that “every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.”
To be clear, the questions necessary to dispose of the clause by clause consideration of the bill are questions on the clauses themselves, not amendments that have simply been placed on notice.
The Chair has previously considered a similar case, from which I believe in the current circumstances a distinction may be drawn.
On November 29, 2012, Mr. Speaker, one of your predecessors, the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, made a ruling at page 12,609 of the Debates, concerning the proceedings of the Standing Committee on Finance respecting Bill C-45, the Jobs and Growth Act, 2012. In that case, the committee had adopted a time-tabling motion concerning its study of the bil. It contained language that was similar to that which the House adopted last week in its time allocation motion concerning Bill C-10.
In the case of the finance committee, the chair made a similar ruling to the one made by the hon. member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame and, again, the committee had overturned that ruling.
Following a point of order in the House concerning the finance committee's report on the former Bill C-45, the former Speaker did not set aside the committee's report on the bill. The distinction between these two cases, I would argue, is that the finance committee was interpreting a motion that the committee itself had adopted. In the current case, seven members of the Canadian heritage committee substituted their own judgment for how an order of this House, voted upon by the entire House, should be interpreted.
We often refer to committees as masters of their own proceedings, but Bosc and Gagnon put that in a very important context at pages 1057 and 1058, which state:
The concept refers to the freedom committees normally have to organize their work as they see fit and the option they have of defining, on their own, certain rules of procedure that facilitate their proceedings.
These freedoms are not, however, total or absolute. First, it is useful to bear in mind that committees are creatures of the House. This means that they have no independent existence and are not permitted to take action unless they have been authorized or empowered to do so by the House.
While the case of former Bill C-45 was of a committee majority preferring its own interpretation of a committee motion, the current case of Bill C-10 is of a committee majority seeking to override the House's instruction. It was, to borrow the words of Bosc and Gagnon, taking an action that it was authorized or empowered by the House to do. Therefore, I would respectfully submit that the amendments made to clauses 8 through 47 of Bill C-10 must be ruled out of order and therefore struck from the fifth report.
I would further ask that the committee's consideration of amendments after the proceedings had been interrupted under the provisions of the time allocation order be disregarded by the Chair for the purposes of applying the note attached to Standing Order 76(1)(5) respecting the criteria considered by the Chair in the selection of motions at the report stage.
I do not make this point of order lightly. In fact, one of those amendments that I refer to was sponsored by my own party and several others were voted for by my colleagues, but that is beside the point. Our rules must be followed. Parliamentary procedure is not a body of play pretend rules that can just be set aside at the first moment of inconvenience. It does not matter whether these flawed decisions were taken by majority vote or even with unanimity because the rules of the House must be followed.
The hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, in a different ruling on May 1, 2014, at page 4787 of the Debates, concerning Bill C-30, the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act, found that amendments that were adopted by the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, without procedural objection and without dissent, had to be struck from the bill because the committee had acted outside of its authority in adopting them, commenting:
The Chair has no difficulty agreeing with the parliamentary secretary that the amendment is relevant to the subject matter of the bill. Indeed, as a fellow Saskatchewan MP who represents a large number of grain producers, I can certainly agree on the importance of this issue. As Speaker, however, not only can I not simply act according to my personal beliefs, I must respect House of Commons precedents which, in the case before us, are only too clear.
The correct place to put forward the amendments to clauses 8 through 47 of Bill C-10, in light of the proper application of a time allocation order, is at the report stage here on the floor of the House.
Additionally, and in the alternative to the matter I have already raised, I would also draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the amendment known as amendment LIB-9.1 that was made by the Canadian heritage committee to clause 23. The Chair ruled the particular amendment out of order for exceeding the scope of the bill and that it breached the so-called “parent act” rule, which is explained by Bosc and Gagnon at page 771, by proposing to amend a section of the Broadcasting Act which was not touched by the provisions of Bill C-10. The committee, however, voted to overturn the Chair's ruling in that regard as well.
In that particular case, the Chair may simply have to regard the fifth report and note that the amendment on its face does something which the committee was not permitted to do and therefore should be ruled out of order and struck from the fifth report.
The solution for the government here is, like the case of the former Bill C-30, to propose an amendment at third reading to recommit Bill C-10 to the Canadian heritage committee so it may, once properly instructed and empowered, make Liberal-9.1 amendment in the proper manner.