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Rathgeber's point of order pays off

House of Commons Speaker rules Rathgeber's procedural point correct

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Saturday, May 03, 2014 06:00 am

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An amendment to Bill C-30 was blocked when Speaker Andrew Scheer ruled Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber’s point of order raised in April was correct.

On Thursday, the Speaker ruled an amendment to Bill C-30 introduced at committee stage after second reading was inadmissible. The ruling came after Rathgeber raised the issue on April 10.

“I raised a point of order that this amendment at committee was out of order because it went outside the scope of the bill,” Rathgeber said.

Bill C-30 is an act which will amend the Canadian Grain Act and the Canadian Transportation Act, introduced to get the grain backlog moving. The amendment in question would have allowed the Canadian Transportation Agency to direct railways to pay compensation to the shippers in the case of delays caused by the railways.

Rathgeber was concerned with the amendment for two reasons: he thinks the Canadian Transportation Agency, as a regulator, is not the right organization to be awarding damages, and he is concerned that the compensation doesn’t go to the farmers.

“I think the hope is that if the shipper gets compensation from the railroad that will trickle down to the producer, but to a large extent that depends on the good will of the shipper,” he said.

“Those were sort of the merit deficiencies in the amendment that I saw, so I was able to raise the technical objection that it fell outside the four corners of the original bill,” he said.

“The bill debated by the House at second reading did not set up a compensatory scheme and it certainly didn’t empower the Canadian Transportation Agency to award compensation to shippers who might suffer financial losses if there’s non-compliance,” he said.

It is an important procedural point, the independent MP said – committees can make adjustments to the contents of a bill, but can’t make new additions.

“They can’t go off on a whole different stream of consciousness like setting up a compensatory scheme. So that’s why procedurally the speaker ruled in my favour today. He agreed with me the amendments of the committee fell way, way outside the original unamended bill and therefore were inadmissible and therefore out to be struck,” Rathgeber said.

Rathgeber, who supported the bill at second reading before the amendments, said attempting to give a regulator “powers of compensation” was a “very extraordinary” thing to do.

Jeff English, spokesperson for Gerry Ritz, the federal agriculture minister, went on Twitter and quoted Ritz as calling Rathgeber’s point of order “parliamentary games.”

In the Speaker’s ruling, Scheer said while he agrees the amendment in question was relevant to the bill, precedence made it clear the amendment, and two other associated amendments, were inadmissible.

“The story doesn’t end there,” Rathgeber said, noting the bill is now being sent back to the agriculture and agri-food committee for consideration of these matters, including assessing the merits of compensation.

That move is appropriate, he said.

“It’s an important victory for procedural fairness ... this is a problem with the government, the government tends to try and ram these things through parliament very, very quickly and without taking the time to really consider that it’s crossed all of its t’s and dotted all its i’s,” Rathgeber said.

“Ultimately I hope the committee comes back with a bill that applies itself to those important questions I’ve raised and that in the future the government takes more time and more care in how it drafts amendments to legislation to make sure they comply with the rules of Parliament.”


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