Budget Implementation Bill, 2017, No. 1—Motion to Instruct National Finance Committee to Divide Bill into Two BillsPublished on 15 June 2017 Hansard and Statements by Senator Joan Fraser (retired)
Hon. Joan Fraser:
I will try to be brief, colleagues, but I want to put it on the record before we rise for the night that my position on this matter is the mirror image, the opposite, of Senator Pratte’s. I say that with the greatest of respect for him and for the work that he has done and does in this place and will do.
Last night I spoke at some length against the point of order raised by Senator Harder, and this evening I voted not to uphold the Speaker’s ruling. I think it was the first time I have cast such a vote in my years here, and it was not an easy thing to do. I did it because I believed it was important to preserve the rights of the Senate to divide bills when it sees fit so to do. We did that at some personal cost for some of us. We did overturn the Speaker’s ruling, and I believe it was the right —
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Fraser, we are on debate on the —
Senator Fraser: I’m coming to that, your honour.
The Hon. the Speaker: We had the debates and the results of what you’re talking about, but we’re on Senator Pratte’s motion.
Senator Fraser: If you let me finish my sentence, you’ll find me doing a pivot to the motion, Your Honour.
We have done that. We have concluded that debate. Now we are discussing the decision that we should actually make, should we or should we not divide this bill? I have come to the conclusion that we should not.
Division of bills is something that we have done and in my view we should only do very rarely. I have not been dissuaded despite Senator Pratte’s eloquent and well researched interventions and Senator Carignan’s speech this evening. I have not been persuaded that it is necessary in this case.
We’ve had a pre-study of the bill. As Senator Pratte has reminded us, we’ve had interventions already from a number of very knowledgeable witnesses. I attended the meeting of the Finance Committee this afternoon when the minister was present, and as has been noted, stayed with us for an hour-and-a-half, which is more than you usually get from a minister. There were many questions about the infrastructure bank. Not everyone present may have been satisfied by his answers, but they were his answers. They were the answers he was going to give us and is going to give us. As Senator Moncion has reminded us, he indicated specific willingness to respond to other questions if we put them to him.
I do not believe that the normal reasons that might support the division of a bill apply in this case. I see no moral imperative to divide this bill. I see no tactical senatorial reason to delay it in order to gain some kind of political advantage further down the road.
On the contrary, I sense and have heard many colleagues say that they support this bill; they would just like to know more and maybe make some amendments. That can be done without dividing the bill. It is perfectly possible for the Finance Committee to do a very detailed study of that element of the bill without dividing it.
I would be prepared to support a motion for the Finance Committee to sit extended hours next week and the week after that. While I know that’s very easy for me to say because I’m not a member, but I would be prepared to put my presence where my mouth is and substitute for those who wished to have someone take their place on that committee for those extended hours. I’m not trying to load other people with work that I’m not prepared to do myself, but I believe that it is perfectly possible to do our work properly, thoroughly and appropriately as senators without dividing this bill. It is even possible to amend the bill without dividing it. Whether the Commons would accept our amendments remains to be seen, but that would be the case whether or not the bill is divided. That is not in itself an argument for dividing the bill.
So colleagues, despite the very great respect I have for Senator Pratte — he’s looking at me very skeptically, but it’s true, sir — I’m afraid I cannot support his motion.