Tax Bills and the Ways and Means Process

Tax Bills and the Ways and Means Process

The consideration by Parliament of the Crown’s requests for taxation is one of the cornerstones of our system of government. Although the rules of procedure are fairly straightforward for the introduction of a tax bill, there are many parliamentary issues which are brought into play and merit reflection. Among them are the amount of consideration and resources required for increasingly large and complex Budget Implementation Bills; the repetition found in some debates; the inclusion of non-budgetary matters in the Budget Implementation Bill; the implementation of tax initiatives before legislation is enacted; the effect of tax alleviations proposed by private Members on the government’s management of the fiscal plan; and the preclusion of any debate on private Members’ bills which propose tax increases. These and other issues related to ways and means are examined in the following article.

One of Parliament’s fundamental roles is to give consideration to the Crown’s requests for spending and taxation. The procedures in the House of Commons relating to spending protect the financial initiative of the Crown by requiring that a royal recommendation – solely obtained by a Minister – be attached to any item proposing an appropriation. The procedures relating to taxation are slightly different. Unless a change to a tax law is contemplated, tax provisions continue from year to year. Whenever the Crown wishes to propose a new tax, to continue an expiring tax, to increase an existing tax, or to extend a tax to a new class of taxpayers, it is accomplished through what is known as the “ways and means” process – a procedural term referring to the manner that revenues are raised to meet government expenditures. The rules of the House stipulate that the adoption of a ways and means motion (outlining any increase in the incidence of taxation) must precede first reading of a tax bill. As only a Minister may give notice of a ways and means motion, the financial initiative of the Crown is thus protected for tax purposes.1

Spending Proposals: When is a Royal Recommendation Needed?

Spending Proposals: When is a Royal Recommendation Needed?

In the Canadian parliamentary system of government, the Crown (i.e., the executive branch) is solely responsible for the management of public monies and only the Crown may initiate a request to the House of Commons for new or increased taxation or spending. This is known as the financial initiative of the Crown and is entrenched in section 54 of the Constitution Act 1867. The Act also states in section 53 that any legislation for the appropriation of public revenue or for the imposition of a tax must originate in the House of Commons. On the surface, it would seem a relatively straightforward matter to determine if spending or taxation is being contemplated. However, the House is often presented with many complex and creative manners in which an authorization for spending or taxation may be expressed. When a point of order is raised concerning an infringement of the financial initiative of the Crown, the Speaker must closely scrutinize the bill, or the amendment, and rule on its admissibility. This article examines about 80 rulings since 1969 which deal with spending initiatives and the need for a royal recommendation.