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Speaker's Ruling
Jeanne Sauvé

Amendments at report stage, Speaker Jeanne Sauvé, House of Commons, October 13,1983

The background: The rules of the House of Commons provide for bills to be given three readings: first (pro-forma – no debate); second (with debate on the principle of the Bill); third (with debate reviewing the Bill, as amended). Between second and third reading, Bills are usually given consideration in committee, which can make amendments. When a Committee reports a Bill, consideration at the report stage is undertaken at which time motions in amendments may be proposed. The Speaker is empowered to select report stage motions and group them for debate and voting and has the duty to consider the procedural acceptability of such motions.

Bill C-155 (the so-called Crow Bill proposed to alter the 86 year-old fixed rates of freight charged to grain producers for shipment of their product west through the Crows Nest Pass in British Columbia). When the consideration of the Bill at the report stage began there were a record 174 motions on the Notice Paper. On October 13, after first having made two preliminary statements and listened to procedural arguments, the Speaker ruled some 78 of the motions out of order.

The bill contained seven Parts and had two Schedules, of these Parts, two had definition clauses contained in them. These definitions were limited in effect to the Part in question, as well, the Bill had an interpretation clause which, of course, applied to the entire Bill.

There were a series of motions, by means of which members proposed to transfer definitions from the Parts of the Bill to the interpretation clause covering the whole bill. In making this novel approach the members proposed to add definitions to the interpretation clause. In many cases though by no means in all the definitions were identical in all respects to those which had been subsumed in the two Parts.

The following extract illustrates that report stage motions pose some of the most difficult and complex questions for the Chair and that deciding these questions can be among the most onerous tasks facing a Speaker.

The ruling: (Speaker Jeanne Sauvé): Last Thursday I expressed a number of reservations concerning certain motions in amendment to Bill C-155. I am now prepared to rule on the procedural acceptability of these motions.

Before doing so, may I take this opportunity to thank all Hon. Members who participated in the extensive procedural debate for their very valuable contributions. I must say that these contributions have facilitated the Chair's deeper understanding of a very complex and technical piece of legislation. I am grateful for the arguments they have set forth.

During the debate Hon. Members often referred to the desirability or merit of certain proposed motions. Of course, that puts the Chair in a rather awkward position. I must remind Hon. Members that unfortunately such remarks could not be taken into consideration by the Chair in reaching a decision since only the procedural acceptability of motions concern it.

When I made my preliminary remarks in relation to Motion No. 1, I indicated to the House that this was an attempt to place into the Bill a disguised preamble. Although the Hon. Member for Vegreville (Mr. Mazankowski) in presenting his argument used the term "statement of purpose and intent", I am not convinced that there is a substantial difference between such a statement and a preamble.

In his very valuable contribution to the procedural debate, the Hon. Member for Yukon (Mr. Nielsen) quoted Citation 779(3) of Beauchesne's Fifth Edition as follows: "Where the Bill, as introduced, does not contain a preamble, it is not competent for the committee to introduce one".

In my view, the effect of Motion No. I would be to introduce a preamble into the Bill. However desirable it may be to some Hon. Members and I understand that it is to many Hon. Members the introduction of such a preamble is contrary to our rules and practice. Therefore I have no alternative but to rule that Motion No.1 is not acceptable.

With reference to Motions Nos. 2 to 19 inclusive, 59, 64, 66, 67, 70, 129, 134 and 135 to which I referred in my statement to the House last Thursday as substantive amendments to an interpretation clause, I have not been convinced otherwise. Hon. Members argued that a great many of these motions attempted to move definitions from clauses later on in the Bill and place them in Clause 2, which is the general interpretation clause in the Bill. Of course, this is a novel approach.

In his presentation the Hon. Member for Hamilton Mountain (Mr. Deans) quoted from May's Nineteenth Edition that it was perfectly in order to move clauses from one part of a Bill to another part of a Bill. The Hon. Member is quite right in this regard. However, the motions in question do not attempt to move clauses but to move definitions into an interpretation clause which covers the whole Bill. This is the dilemma faced by the Chair. The fact that these motions, as argued by the Hon. Member for Hamilton Mountain, could be considered to be within the scope of the Bill and within the terms of the Royal Recommendation does not necessarily ensure that they are in order, and this is not the Chair's main concern. What concerns the Chair is that substantive amendments are being proposed to an interpretation clause.

In my preliminary statement I referred to a ruling of one of my predecessors in this regard. For the benefit of Hon. Members I would like to quote from Citation 773(10) of Beauchesne's Fifth Edition, which reads: A substantive amendment may not be introduced by way of a modification to the interpretation clause of a bill.

In my view to transfer definitions limited in scope to parts of a Bill to the general interpretation clause which applies to the whole Bill enlarges substantially the effect of the definitions, and this is not an acceptable procedure. Likewise, to modify existing definitions substantially or to add new definitions substantive in scope is not procedurally acceptable ... Therefore, with regret, I have no alternative but to rule Motions Nos. 2 to 19 inclusive, 59, 64, 66, 67, 70, 129, 134 and 135 out of order ...

Canadian Parliamentary Review Cover
Vol 6 no 4

Last Updated: 2020-03-03