Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a point of order regarding government Bill C-27, an act to enact the consumer privacy protection act, the personal information and data protection tribunal act and the artificial intelligence and data act and to make consequential and related amendments to other acts.
Standing Order 69.1 states the following:
(1) 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.
You will find that, in the case of Bill C-27, the bill enacts three new laws and amends several other existing laws.
Bill C-27 enacts the consumer privacy protection act and the personal information and data protection tribunal act.
These two acts were at the core of the former Bill C-11 in the 43rd Parliament, a bill that was introduced in November 2020 and died on the Order Paper a year later, without ever having been voted on at second reading.
Here is the purpose of part 1 of Bill C-27, as described in the text of the bill:
The purpose of this Act is to establish — in an era in which data is constantly flowing across borders and geographical boundaries and significant economic activity relies on the analysis, circulation and exchange of personal information — rules to govern the protection of personal information in a manner that recognizes the right of privacy of individuals with respect to their personal information and the need of organizations to collect, use or disclose personal information for purposes that a reasonable person would consider appropriate in the circumstances.
Part 2 of the bill sets up the personal information and data protection tribunal, which would have jurisdiction with respect to appeals made under different sections of the consumer privacy protection act. The link between part 1 and part 2 of Bill C-27 is clear, and I am not putting it into question in this appeal at all.
Where we have an issue, however, is with the third part of the bill.
Bill C‑27 also enacts the artificial intelligence and data act, which was not part of Bill C‑11, the previous version of this bill.
The purpose of part 3 of Bill C‑27, which enacts the artificial intelligence and data act, is as follows:
The purposes of this Act are:
(a) to regulate international and interprovincial trade and commerce in artificial intelligence systems by establishing common requirements, applicable across Canada, for the design, development and use of those systems; and
(b) to prohibit certain conduct in relation to artificial intelligence systems that may result in serious harm to individuals or harm to their interests.
During his second reading speech on Bill C‑27, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry said that the new artificial intelligence act would “set a foundation for regulating the design, development, deployment and operations of AI systems”.
The development of artificial intelligence systems in the past decade has led to profound changes in the way we do things. Regulating AI systems is something we believe must be done. However, it seems odd to add these regulations to a bill that has to do with privacy protection and with the analysis, circulation and exchange of personal information. Artificial intelligence is its own beast in a way, and it should be studied and treated separately.
In a ruling by Speaker Regan on March 1, 2018, he said the following.
The principle or principles contained in a bill must not be confused with the field it concerns. To frame the concept of principle in that way would prevent the division of most bills, because they each apply to a specific field.
The House leader of the Bloc Québécois and member for La Prairie will remember this, since it is from page 400 of Parliamentary Procedure in Québec.
The Speaker continued as follows:
While their procedure for dividing bills is quite different from ours, the idea of distinguishing the principles of a bill from its field has stayed with me. While each bill is different and so too each case, I believe that Standing Order 69.1 can indeed be applied to a bill where all of the initiatives relate to a specific policy area, if those initiatives are sufficiently distinct to warrant a separate decision of the House.
We find ourselves in a similar situation here. While some of the measures in Bill C-27 relate to digital technology, part 1 and part 2 have nothing in common with part 3.
Therefore, it would certainly be appropriate to divide this bill for the vote. The Speaker has that authority, and that would make it possible for members to thoroughly study this legislative measure and better represent their constituents by voting separately on these bills, which are quite different from one another.