Report of the committee
Thursday, April 6, 2017
The Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament has the honour to present its
Pursuant to its order of reference of February 16, 2017, your committee has considered practices relating to omnibus bills in the Senate. Your committee notes that there already exist processes allowing the Senate to initiate the division of bills, although they are rarely used. In the Senate there have been only two recent cases, in 1988 (Bill C-103) and 2002 (Bill C-10).
The process for dividing a bill may be summarized as follows:
1. The committee to which a bill will be or has been referred must be empowered by the Senate to divide the bill.
2. The committee reports how the bill should be divided, and returns part of it to the Senate.
3. The report is considered and adopted by the Senate, at which point there are, from the Senate’s perspective, more than one bill where there was previously one.
4. Once the report is agreed to, the part of the bill reported by the committee goes on to third reading.
5. If that part of the bill is adopted at third reading, a message is sent to the House of Commons requesting that it agree to the division of the bill and pass the part to which the Senate has agreed.
6. If the House of Commons agrees to the division, then both houses are in agreement about the separate existence of the bills.
7. Once the Senate and Commons are in agreement on one of the bills, it can go to Royal Assent. The other part(s) would follow once the houses agree on it or them.
In addition, your committee notes that the Senate has developed a practice whereby, in the case of complex bills, different committees may be authorized to pre-study specific parts of the bill, in addition to one committee being authorized to study the entire bill. This practice has been applied to budget implementation bills, as was noted in a Speaker’s ruling of February 3, 2015. In this way, committees can deal with specific parts of the bill relevant to their mandates, while one committee (up to early 2017, the National Finance Committee) retains a comprehensive view of the entire bill.
In light of the availability of a procedure for dividing any type of bill, as well as the other mechanisms available to facilitate the study of complex bills, your committee recommends that the Rules of the Senate not be amended at this time specifically in relation to omnibus bills. Your committee will, however, continue to monitor the issue as necessary, in case any adjustments may be appropriate in the future. Your committee also notes that the House of Commons will be considering the issue of omnibus bills.