Under the Canadian system of government, the Crown alone initiates any public expenditure, and Parliament may authorize only spending that has been recommended by the Governor General, the Crown’s representative. This prerogative, referred to as the “financial initiative of the Crown”, is essential to the system of responsible government and is signified by way of the “royal recommendation.” Bills that require a royal recommendation may be introduced only in the House of Commons.
There are two types of bills that confer parliamentary authority to spend and that require a royal recommendation:
The charge imposed by the legislation must be “new and distinct”; in other words, not covered elsewhere by some more general authorization.
The royal recommendation can be provided after a bill has been introduced in the House, as long as it is done before the bill is read a third time and passed. The royal recommendation accompanying a bill must be printed in the Notice Paper, printed in or annexed to the bill and recorded in the Journals.
An appropriation accompanied by a royal recommendation, though it can be reduced, cannot be increased or redirected without a new recommendation.
A royal recommendation fixes not only the allowable charge but also its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications. An amendment that purports either to increase the amount of an appropriation or to extend its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications is inadmissible on the grounds that it infringes on the Crown’s financial initiative.
A bill requiring both a royal recommendation and a ways and means motion must comply with the rules applying to both aspects of financial procedure.
The rules regarding the royal recommendation also apply to a bill sponsored by a private Member. Private Members’ bills involving the spending of public money are allowed to proceed through the legislative process, on the assumption that a royal recommendation will be submitted by a Minister of the Crown before the bill is read a third time and passed. If a royal recommendation is not produced by the time the House is ready to decide on the motion for third reading of the bill, the Speaker must stop the proceedings and rule the bill out of order.