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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Finance

Issue 14 - Seventeenth Report of the Committee

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance has the honour to present its


Your committee, to which was referred Bill C-50, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 26, 2008 and to enact provisions to preserve the fiscal plan set out in that budget, has, in obedience to the Order of Reference of Tuesday, June 10, 2008, examined the said Bill and now reports the same without amendment. Your committee appends to this report certain observations relating to the Bill.

Respectfully submitted,




(BILL C-50)

Non-budget items in budget bills

The majority of the Committee strongly objects to the practice of including legislative measures that have no direct relationship to budgetary matters in budget implementation bills. This practice has the effect of discouraging serious parliamentary scrutiny, and creates a situation in which parliamentarians are loath to conduct a proper examination of non budgetary measures for fear of delaying budgetary items that are more pressing. In the present bill, the government has included a large number of amendments to Acts of Parliament that are not related to fiscal management or economic policy. In particular, the majority of the Committee notes that major amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act properly belong in a stand-alone bill, which should also address the backlog of applications that is now approaching 1 million.


The majority of the Committee shares the concern expressed by some witnesses that only the financial assistance function of the sunsetting Millennium Scholarship Foundation was addressed by the measures announced in the budget. The government should take steps to ensure merit scholarship and the important research supported by the Millennium Scholarship Foundation will not be lost, but education will be continued either by a government department or by some other means.

EI Fund

The majority of the Committee agrees with several witnesses, including the Canadian Institute of Actuaries, who expressed concern that the $2 billion Employment Insurance EI fund reserve is woefully inadequate. A larger reserve in the range of $12 billion to $15 billion is needed, both to permit the Financing Board to avoid dramatic fluctuations in premium rates, and to ensure that the fund will be adequate to cover a sharp rise in benefit payments during any future economic downturn.


The majority of the Committee agrees with the many witnesses who regard the proposed changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act as an unnecessary and excessive expansion of the discretion of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration with regards to applications filed after February 27, 2008. The broad discretion provided for in the bill would authorize the Minister to engage in discriminatory and abusive selection practices. The majority of the Committee disagrees with the government's view that it needs authority to issue "instructions" under the Act without notice and without consultation, subject only to the requirement to publish instructions after the fact. Moreover, the excessive discretion provided by the bill could actually backfire if prospective immigrants fail to apply because they expect to be treated unfairly. Some witnesses noted that the Minister already has the authority to achieve the government's stated objectives, and that the legislative changes either implement a policy objective that the government has not revealed, or else they are redundant. Finally, the majority of the Committee is concerned that the Minister's power to prioritize certain applications could be exercised to the detriment of non-economic categories, such as family class immigrants and applications made on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

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