I just stumbled upon something hilarious that combines my geeky interests in Star Wars and British parliamentarism.
In Commonwealth Realms, the government must approve of any and all money bills and confer upon it the Royal Recommendation before parliament can pass them into law. This measure preserves Responsible Government by ensuring that Ministers take responsibility for all spending that parliament grants, and it prevents pork-barrelling and log-rolling that has historically characterized the US Congress and, as Lord Durham noted in his report, the assemblies of the Canadas before the grant of Responsible Government. Currently, section 54 of the Constitution Act, 1867 codifies the Royal Recommendation as supreme law.
For several decades, the Standing Order of the British House of Commons that mandated that all money bills receive Royal Recommendation was Standing Order 66. Today, Standing Order 48 now contains the requirement for Royal Recommendation:
48. This House will receive no petition for any sum relating to public service or proceed upon any motion for a grant or charge upon the public revenue, whether payable out of the Consolidated Fund or the National Loans Fund or out of money to be provided by Parliament, or for releasing or compounding any sum of money owing to the Crown, unless recommended from the Crown.
So ministers could have stood up in the Commons and said, “Her Majesty’s Government has executed Order 66”, preferably in a raspy and creepy voice like that of Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine.
This matter of the Royal Prerogative / Executive Government control over Money & Tax Bills came up in Canada’s House of Commons back in 2008. An Opposition MP had tabled an amendment to a spending provision which I immediately knew was an unconstitutional violation of Section 54 of the British North America Act. However, the then Speaker Peter Milliken ruled the amendment valid under the Commons Rules, but there was no mention in the debate of Section 54. I sent the following E-Mail to the Speaker, and he subsequently assured me that certificates from the Governor General accompany Money & Tax Bills. However still, this didn’t change the fact that the Opposition amendment was still invalid under Section 54.
March 13th, 2008
The Honourable Peter Milliken, M.P.
Speaker of the House of Commons
House of Commons, Confederation Building
111 Wellington Street
Dear Speaker Milliken:
Re: Dan McTeague’s Education Savings Plan Bill passing.
As Speaker you of course have the responsibility to ensure that the House of Commons abides by our country’s Laws. Section 54 of the British North America Act states as follows:
“54. It shall not be lawful for the House of Commons to adopt or pass any Vote, Resolution, Address, or Bill for the Appropriation of any Part of the Public Revenue, or of any Tax or Impost, to any Purpose that has not been first recommended to that House by Message of the Governor General in the Session in which such Vote, Resolution, Address, or Bill is proposed.”
I have just a few questions to enquire of you: Have successive Governments been having the Governor General send such Messages to the House of Commons? Does the ‘Speech from the Throne’ qualify as such a Message required by Section 54?.
From what I understand, you ruled that McTeague’s Bill is valid under the Rules. Which Rule were you citing, and were you referring to Section 54? While the Speaker is the final arbiter of the Rules of the House, he is not the arbiter of Laws or the Constitution. If you ruled that McTeague’s Bill isn’t covered by Section 54, then I would have to respectfully disagree. While I am not opposed to this Bill, I certainly would not stand for the Constitution or any Law being violated by Parliament in order to pass it. I would thus recommend that you have the Clerk immediately file an Application, with either the Federal Court of Canada or the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, requesting the following Declaration to clarify this important point of constitutional law:
— A Declaration that the Votes in the House of Commons respecting Bill C-???, 3rd Session of the 39th Parliament of Canada, took place in accordance with Section 54 of the Constitution Act, 1867; and that those Votes are therefore intra vires and lawful.
The Government of Canada would be the Respondent to the Application. Please have your office respond to me as expeditiously as possible. As a responsible citizen I would be prepared to file my own Court Application in my local Court House, but this would mean that Government Lawyers would have to go to the trouble of travelling to my city of Welland. It would obviously be preferable for Parliament to file such an Application in Ottawa. The primary purpose of Section 54 is to ensure that the Cabinet has full control over all Budgetary matters. While I personally am not opposed to the content of this Education Bill, our Constitution must be obeyed.
Mr. Terry Mester
I believe its been renumbered to Standing Order 48 which makes the geek in me kinda sad.