Money Bills and the Use of the Royal Recommendation in Canada: Practice Versus Principle?

Volume 27, No 1
Joan Small

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In current parliamentary practice, bills which require the royal recommendation are referred to as 'money bills'. The only bills guaranteed to the executive in the Constitution Act, 1867 are true appropriation bills, but the term 'money bill' has come to mean much more than that: it has been loosely used to cover a variety of meanings, depending on the context in which it is employed. The result is that an extensive definition of money bill has effectively restricted the powers of the Senate and of private members, in a manner which the Constitution itself does not prescribe. The definition of a 'money bill' has been perpetuated, in part, by the form in which the royal recommendation has taken in recent years, as well as the reliance in parliamentary practice, upon speakers' rulings, precedent and authorities which do not address the constitutional issue. The legal effect of this practice  is examined in this paper.

The powers  and privileges  of the Senate, private members and the House of Commons with   respect to financial legislation are circumscribed  by sections 53 and 54 of the Constitution Act, 1867, and by convention. The House of Commons asserts the same exclusive and extensive privileges with respect to financial legislation as does the British Commons. The Senate has not conceded that it is subject to the same disabilities as the Lords in England. The legality  of  this debate  is explored, and it is suggested that there are strong objections which can be raised as against a simple adoption ofthe practice andposition of the Houses in Britain.

It is suggested that the legislative process with respect to financial legislation is, quite arguably, open to constitutional challenge.

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