Parliament Video: Jenny Kwan makes a Point of Order: Is the Budget an Omnibus Bill?

On April 10, 2019, Jenny rose in the House on a Point of Order, because I believe that Bill C-97 is an omnibus bill as defined under Standing Order 69.1:

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

"Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe that Bill C-97 is an omnibus bill as defined under Standing Order 69.1.

My NDP colleagues and I are deeply concerned at the current government's reliance on omnibus bills to ram its priorities through in this place and to attempt to conceal measures from Canadians. We firmly believe that this practice is inherently undemocratic. Therefore, we request that you intervene.

Standing Order 69.1 states:

(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.

Page 730 of the third edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice states:

In general, an omnibus bill seeks to amend, repeal or enact several Acts, and is characterized by the fact that it is made up of a number of related but separate initiatives.

To render an omnibus bill intelligible for parliamentary purposes, the Speakers have previously ruled that such a bill should have “one basic principle or purpose which ties together all the proposed enactments”.

Given this definition, it is plainly obvious to me that Bill C-97, with over 350 pages and several stand-alone pieces of legislation, is an omnibus bill. I strongly believe that Canadians at home would agree. I would imagine they would also like us, as their representatives in this place, to properly study and debate these separate pieces of legislation as such.

However, it is clear that the Liberals are once again using the loophole they added to the Standing Orders to include many unrelated measures. That would be Standing Order 69.1(2), which states:

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.

While we have had limited time to sort through this mess of a budget implementation act, we have already found several provisions contained in Bill C-97 that were not announced on March 19.

First, subdivision B of division 9 of part 4 amends the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act. Second, subdivision D of division 9 of part 4 amends the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act. Third, subdivision E of division 9 of part 4 amends the Precious Metals Making Act. Fourth, subdivision F of division 9 of part 4 amends the Textile Labelling Act. Fifth, subdivision G of division 9 of part 4 amends the Weights and Measures Act. Sixth, subdivision J of division 9 of part 4 amends the Pest Control Products Act. Seventh, subdivision K of division 9 of part 4 repeals provisions of the Quarantine Act. Eighth, subdivision L of division 9 of part 4 repeals provisions of the Human Pathogens and Toxins Act.

Additionally, I am simply disheartened by the Liberal government's attempt to hide within the budget bill implementation act two pieces of stand-alone legislation that will significantly transform the Canadian immigration system.

First, in part 4, division 15, sections 292 to 302 would create the college of immigration and citizenship consultants act. As you know, this issue was studied by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, which produced the only unanimously supported report in that committee of this Parliament. It called for urgent action and was concurred in on December 4, 2017, in this House.

The government response to that study was presented to the House in October 2017, wherein the minister stated, “The Government expects to be able to provide more information on the way forward next year.” The minister missed his own self-imposed deadline and is now forced to hide these changes within the budget implementation act. Given the significance of this stand-alone piece of legislation, my colleagues and I strongly believe that this 45-page act must be separated out of Bill C-97 so it can be debated, studied, amended and voted on as the separate legislation that it is.

Second, and even more alarming, is the Liberal government's attempt to hide its efforts to shut down the Canadian border to asylum seekers in the midst of a global refugee crisis. In part 4, division 16, clauses 302 to 311 would make dramatic changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. These changes would render ineligible potentially thousands of individuals seeking asylum from even having their claims heard by the Immigration and Refugee Board.

There is an ongoing court case challenging the constitutionality of the safe third country agreement and it appears that the government is looking to legislate around this lawsuit, expanding the agreement to include countries that Canada has an information sharing agreement with and codifying it into the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

I will quote a refugee lawyer who has contacted me already on these changes. He stated, “The substance here is disappointing, but the fact that such significant change is being introduced this way, without consultation, without notice, is what's even worse. At least Harper and Jason Kenney (and this is something straight out of their kitchen) would have had the courage to stand behind this.”

This would be a grave injustice to some of the most vulnerable groups in the world and an abdication of our duty under international law to simply slide this legislation through in Bill C-97. We, as parliamentarians, have a duty to separate out this piece of legislation from Bill C-97 so that its impacts can be truly examined and debated in this place. We must have the opportunity to debate in this place whether this is truly a direction the Canadian government wants to take.

By throwing in elements that were not announced in the budget presentation and by hiding significant stand-alone legislation that would have far-reaching impacts on Canada's immigration system, I submit that the bill meets the standards set out in the Standing Orders to be treated as an omnibus bill."

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