Legal and Social Affairs Division
When the finance minister delivers the government’s budget in the House of Commons, a complex approval process is just beginning. Budget measures do not take effect until Parliament adopts the necessary legislation.
Numerous measures contained in the most recent budget are implemented by Bill C-59, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 21, 2015 and other measures, which the government introduced on 7 May 2015.
The bill encompasses a wide variety of initiatives and amends numerous Acts of Parliament.
To help explain these measures, the Library of Parliament has prepared a Legislative Summary, which parliamentarians and their staff can obtain by submitting a request to the Library or contacting the Library.
Members of the public can obtain a copy by contacting the Information Service at the Library of Parliament.
This HillNote summarizes Bill C-59 and provides basic information on budget implementation bills.
A quick look at Bill C-59
Bill C-59 – whose short title is “Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1” – is the first implementation bill resulting from the April 2015 budget. It is divided into three parts:
- Part 1 implements income tax measures that were proposed or referenced in the budget.
- Part 2 implements various measures for families. For example, it amends the Income Tax Act to:
- increase the maximum annual amounts deductible for child care expenses;
- repeal the child tax credit; and
- introduce the family tax cut credit.
- Part 3 implements various measures. These include:
- enacting a new Federal Balanced Budget Act to create certain obligations for the minister of finance, meant to disfavour budgetary deficits;
- enacting a new Prevention of Terrorist Travel Act to expand the process concerning the cancellation, revocation and non-issuance of Canadian passports;
- amending the Parliament of Canada Act to create a new Parliamentary Protective Service;
- amending the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act to provide for an income tax exemption for new benefits for veterans;
- amending the Ending the Long-gun Registry Act regarding, among other things, access to information requests; and
- amending the Public Service Labour Relations Act regarding sick leave and disability programs for employees of the core public administration.
Parliamentary process for considering budget implementation bills
The government uses its budget to translate its economic priorities into decisions on how to raise public funds and how to spend them.
The Standing Orders of the House of Commons echo the Constitution in that they require money bills to originate in the House. By tradition, the Crown initiates taxation or expenditures on the advice of ministers responsible for the relevant portfolios. It is Parliament’s role to approve, modify or reject such proposed measures.
After the minister of finance tables the budget, MPs have four days to debate the merits of the budget initiatives. This stage is followed by a vote on the government’s budgetary policy, which is considered a matter of confidence.
If the House approves the budget, legislation in the form of a budget implementation bill must be introduced in order for certain of the taxation measures set out in the budget to become law.
Because budget implementation bills seek to raise revenue, procedure dictates that they be preceded by a “ways and means motion.” This motion presents the general proposals and scope of the budget implementation legislation. If the motion is adopted, the budget implementation bill is usually introduced the following day.
Once passed by the House of Commons, a budget implementation bill must also be passed by the Senate and receive Royal Assent to become law.
“Ways and means” process: Frequently asked-about procedural details
- A ways and means motion must precede a bill that creates a new tax, increases an existing tax, continues an expiring tax or extends an existing tax to a new class of taxpayer. Bills that reduce taxation or that change the use of funds that have already been paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund do not need to be preceded by a ways and means motion.
- Ways and means motions must be moved by a minister. This precludes bills that increase taxation being proceeded with under private members’ business, in which only MPs who are not ministers may participate.
- Taxation legislation that is preceded by a ways and means motion does not become law until it has received Royal Assent. However, by established practice, the notice of the ways and means motion provides provisional authority to the government to put the measures into effect as of the date of the notice of the ways and means motion.
- Concurrence in a ways and means motion amounts to an order to bring in government legislation at a later date, based on the motion’s general proposals and scope.
- Taxation legislation can be amended at committee stage, provided that the amendments do not exceed the scope of the ways and means motion adopted by the House. Only a minister can move an amendment that exceeds the scope, but since ministers do not sit as committee members, such motions are not made.
Lukyniuk, Michael. “Tax Bills and the Ways and Means Process.” Canadian Parliamentary Review, Summer 2011.
O’Brien, Audrey, and Marc Bosc. “Financial Procedures.” Chapter 18 in House of Commons Procedure and Practice. 2nd ed., 2009.
Smith, Alex. A Guide to the Estimates. Publication no. 09-25-E. Parliamentary Information and Research Service, Library of Parliament, Ottawa, 3 October 2012.
Smith, Alex, and John Bulmer. The Federal Budget and the Estimates: How They Compare. Publication no. 2012-13-E. Parliamentary Information and Research Service, Library of Parliament, Ottawa, 21 March 2013.