I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on November 3, by the hon. member for Carleton concerning the applicability of Standing Order 69.1 to Bill C-63, a second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures.
I would like to thank the hon. member for Carleton for raising this matter, as well as the hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby, the hon. member for Calgary Shepard, and the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader for their comments.
The hon. member for Carleton 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-63, as he argued the bill contained measures not announced in the budget of March 22, 2017.
He noted, for example, that the summary indicated that a measure in part 2 of the bill was implementing a change to the GST/HST rebate for public service bodies announced on September 8, 2017. He also argued that the measures concerning the taxation of agricultural and fisheries co-operatives in part 1, and those concerning beer made from concentrate in part 3, were not in the budget, nor were three measures from part 5, namely division 5 regarding the Bank of Canada, division 11 concerning judges, and division 13 regarding payments to discharge debt.
The hon. member also argued that the monies authorized in part 5, division 2, regarding the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, AllB, far exceeded what was announced in the budget.
In his budget speech, the Minister of Finance indicated that the government would be investing $256 million in the AllB over five years, while clause 176 of the bill authorizes the minister to spend $375 million U.S., or roughly $480 million Canadian.
While he indicated that he did not feel strongly about having a separate vote on each of the other measures, the hon. member for Carleton was particularly keen on having a separate vote on this measure. He thought the Standing Order provided the Speaker with such authority, given that the bill authorized quite a bit more spending than what was announced in the budget.
The hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby argued that the bill was in fact an omnibus bill, insofar as it contained measures not announced in the budget. He also noted that this was specifically the case in relation to the measures concerning agricultural and fisheries cooperatives and those concerning beer from concentrate. Furthermore, he argued that the inclusion of such measures meant that Bill C-63 could not qualify for the exemption provided in the Standing Orders for budget implementation bills and that therefore the entire bill should be treated as an omnibus bill.
The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader, in his intervention, sought to reassure the House that certain measures were indeed arising out of the budget. He pointed out that the plan for Canada to become a member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was indeed announced in the budget, and that the bill operationalizes that plan. He also argued that the amendments to the Judges Act in division 11 give effect to the intention announced in the budget to implement the recommendations of the 2015 Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission. The changes relating to the Bank of Canada in division 5, he contended, are part of the government's plan to bolster the tool kit for managing the resolution of Canada's largest banks, as announced in the budget.
Finally, he insisted that the Standing Order does not foresee the division of a bill for the purposes of debate or committee referral, but only for the purpose of voting at second and third reading.
The hon. member for Calgary Shepard argued that in coming to a decision, the Speaker should be inspired by the procedure in the Quebec National Assembly in relation to motions to divide bills. He argued that the Chair should not confuse the principles contained in a bill with the field of legislative action it addresses. While the measures in the bill all deal with economic policy, he did not think that the Speaker should conclude that they are all interrelated. He also raised a number of points that were less specifically about Bill C-63, but concerned the mechanics of implementing a decision to divide a question, which he argued are unaddressed by the Standing Orders. In particular, he raised issues relating to amendments to the second and third reading motions, referral to committee, report stage and consideration of Senate amendments.
Yesterday, in response to a point of order from the hon. opposition House leader, I delivered a first ruling concerning the new Standing Order 69.1 on omnibus bills. This Standing Order empowers the Speaker to divide the question on the motion for second and third reading of a bill in circumstances where the bill contains a number of unrelated provisions.
The matter before us today concerns paragraph (2) of that Standing Order, which makes an exception for budget implementation bills. That paragraph reads as follows:
69.1(2) The present Standing Order shall not apply if the bill has as its main purpose the implementation of a budget and contains only provisions that were announced in the budget presentation or in the documents tabled during the budget presentation.
The question for the Speaker, then, is whether or not the measures identified by the hon. member for Carleton and the hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby correspond to provisions announced in the budget.
Let me first say that establishing such a link is not always obvious. The budget document itself is almost 300 pages, while the supplementary tax information represents another 100 pages. The Chair has done its best to review the material in arriving at this decision.
Let me first deal with the measures in the bill relating to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The hon. member for Carleton acknowledged that these measures were indeed announced in the budget. The only issue is whether or not the variance in the amount invested is sufficient to sever this relationship.
In my view, the spirit of the Standing Order was to provide for a separate vote when new or unrelated matters were introduced in the budget implementation bill. The fact that the amounts are higher, though I admit the variance is considerable, does not, in my opinion, make the matter of the AllB markedly different from what was announced in the budget.
I believe it is understandable that, in between the time the budget is presented and the time the budget implementation bill is introduced, a change in circumstances could produce such a variation. I do not believe it is necessary to insist on an identical amount when the overall policy initiative is substantially the same. Therefore, I do not believe it would be appropriate to have a separate vote on this matter.
Let me turn now to the other issues raised by hon. members. I am willing to accept the arguments from the hon. parliamentary secretary that division 5 of part 5 regarding the Bank of Canada and division 11 of part 5 regarding judges’ compensation flow out of measures announced in the budget. Therefore, I believe it is appropriate that those measures be included in the general vote at second reading and, if necessary, at third reading.
However, in relation to the other matters raised by the hon. members for Carleton and New Westminster—Burnaby, I have been unable to find a link between them, and what is contained in the budget documents. The parliamentary secretary did not refute the contention that these matters were indeed new and unrelated to the budget.
Accordingly, I believe that I can and should exercise the powers granted to me in the Standing Order to divide the question at second reading and, if necessary, at third reading.
Having come to this conclusion, the question is, how to effect such a division? The hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby argues that the entire bill should be subject to division. Since it does not solely implement measures announced in the budget, he believes the exemption in Standing Order 69.1(2) no longer applies.
As I stated earlier, I believe the purpose of the Standing Order is to allow such a division in relation to those matters which are unrelated to the budget, accepting that the purpose of the remainder of the bill is to implement the budget.