Increasingly activist Senate plans amendments to Liberal budget bill — again [Service Fees Act escalator clause?]

Will be interesting to see if the concern over automatic indexing of alcohol excise taxes is followed by the same concern for the automatic indexing of government service fees (Budget bill will increase service fees with less accountability, say critics):

At least two parts of Bill C-44, the omnibus legislation that implements the government’s budget priorities, are likely to see substantial amendments when the bill arrives in the chamber next week. It’s not yet certain they have enough votes to pass, but both have some support in all three groups of senators.

Under an amendment that will come from independent Sen. André Pratte, the section of the bill that creates the Canada Infrastructure Bank — a new agency that would use public funds to help attract private investment for infrastructure projects — would be separated out for further study in the fall.

Pratte said it’s highly unusual for a large financial agency to be created through omnibus legislation, and the Senate must take care to properly consider it.

“We simply lack time, because summer recess is approaching,” he said. “It’s a 3oo-page bill, and the infrastructure bank is a new, complex institution, and an important one. We need to study it in depth to make sure we get it right.”

Many senators also oppose a measure in the bill that creates an annual inflationary increase in the excise tax on alcohol. A special briefing for senators on that aspect of the bill took place on Thursday afternoon.

Sen. Claude Carignan, who sits on the Senate banking committee and was the Conservative caucus leader until recently, said Conservatives will look favourably on both potential amendments.

“If somebody moves a motion to split the bill (to take out the infrastructure bank)…probably, we will support this initiative,” he said.

The alcohol tax is also a concern, he added. “I can confirm that many senators on our side have a problem, first, with raised taxes, but also to do with an automatic system of inflation. We have concerns because it’s something where you raise taxes without Parliament authorization.”

If the whole Conservative caucus votes for the amendments, the support of just a dozen other senators would be needed for passage.

Source: Increasingly activist Senate plans amendments to Liberal budget bill — again | National Post

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Former MP and Minister Roy Cullen on the Service Fees Act (Budget 2017 Bill C-44)

Former Minister Cullen’s submission to the Finance Committee’s hearings on the omnibus Budget Bill C-44 and the User Fees Act/Service Fees Act:

It is disappointing and somewhat disconcerting that C 212, An Act respecting user fees, will be repealed and replaced by the Service Fees Act. It took me roughly two years to steer my Bill through Parliament where it received unanimous consent.

I am told that since C 212 received Royal Assent in March 2004, only roughly nine user fee proposals have followed the process outlined in that piece of legislation. For me it begs the question, did Departments/Agencies not believe their proposal would meet the criteria laid out in C-212, or were the user fee proposals not that important? Some parts of C 212 may be somewhat cumbersome and I support any streamlining that will improve the efficiency of the legislation.

With respect to performance standards, will the Treasury Board and TB Secretariat ensure that the performance standards that are proposed by Departments and Agencies are realistic stretch goals and not unambitious targets? Will these performance standards be benchmarked against jurisdictions with similar fees? While I appreciate that, consistent with C-212, consultations with interested persons and organizations are required (Art. 12) and that complaints will be reviewed by a panel (Art. 13), Bill C-212 calls for the department or agency to “establish standards which are comparable to those established by other countries with which a comparison is relevant and against which the performance of the regulating authority can be measured”. {Art. 4(1)(f)}.

Departments will be inclined to set performance standards that they can meet, and in many cases they will be inclined to argue that comparisons with other jurisdictions cannot be made.

Source: https://www.ourcommons.ca/Content/Committee/421/FINA/Brief/BR8953638/br-external/CullenRoy-e.pdf