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House of Commons Procedure and Practice

Second Edition, 2009

 
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20. Committees

Photo of high relief entitled “Bilingualism” from the British North America Act series of the Heritage Collection in the Chamber of the House of Commons.

Historical Perspective

 

*    British Precedents

*    Committees of the Assemblies of the Two Canadas and of the United Province of Canada

*    Development of the House of Commons Committee System

 

Types of Committees and Mandates

 

Figure 20.1    Committee System of the House of Commons

*    Standing Committees

Figure 20.2    List of Standing and Standing Joint Committees of the House of Commons

General Mandate

Specific Mandates

*    Standing Joint Committees

*    Legislative Committees

*    Special Committees

*    Special Joint Committees

*    Subcommittees

 

Committee Lifespans

 

*    Effect of Prorogation and Dissolution on Committees

*    Resuming Proceedings in a New Session

 

Committee Powers

 

*    Committee Powers by Committee Type

Standing Committees

*     To Examine and Enquire into All Such Matters as the House May Refer to Them

*     To Send for Persons

*     To Send for Papers and Records

*     To Sit While the House Is Sitting and When It Stands Adjourned

*     To Sit Jointly with Other Standing Committees

*     To Print from Day to Day Papers and Evidence as May Be Ordered by Them

*     To Report to the House from Time to Time

*     To Print a Brief Appendix to Any Report Containing Opinions or Recommendations Dissenting or Supplementary to It

*     To Delegate to Subcommittees All or Any of Their Powers

Standing Joint Committees

Legislative Committees

Special Committees

Special Joint Committees

Subcommittees

*    Obtaining Additional Powers

 

Studies Conducted by Committees

 

*    Authority to Conduct Studies: Orders of Reference and Instructions

*    Types of Studies Conducted

Legislative Measures

*     Bills

Committee Prepares and Brings a Bill

Bills Referred to Committee Before or After Second Reading

*      Order of Consideration

*      Reports to the House and Deadlines for Reporting

Referral of the Subject Matter of a Bill to a Committee

Recommital of a Bill

*     Consideration and Review of Existing Laws

*     Review for the Purpose of Approving or Rejecting/Revoking Delegated Legislation Emanating from an Existing Act

Subject Matter Studies

Estimates

*     Reference to Committee and Timeline for Reporting

*     Consideration in Committee

*     Initiatives Since 2000

Appointments

*     Order-in-Council Appointments

*     Officers of Parliament

Failure of the Government to Respond to Petitions or Written Questions

 

Committee Membership, Leadership and Staff

 

*    Membership

Members and Associate Members

*     Status of Members, Associate Members and Non-members

*     Establishing Committee Membership

Standing and Standing Joint Committees

Legislative Committees

Special Committees and Special Joint Committees

Subcommittees

*     Changes in Membership

Standing and Standing Joint Committees

Legislative Committees

Special and Special Joint Committees

Subcommittees

Substitutions

*     Status of Substitutes

*     Methods of Designating Substitutes

Standing and Standing Joint Committees

Legislative Committees

Special and Special Joint Committees

Subcommittees

Participation by Non-Parliamentarians

*    Chairs, Vice-Chairs and Acting Chairs

Roles of Chairs, Vice-Chairs and Acting Chairs

*     Role of Chairs

Procedural Responsibilities

Administrative Responsibilities

Representative Responsibilities

*     Role of Vice-Chairs

*     Role of Acting Chairs

Methods of Designation

Figure 20.3    Methods of Designating Chairs and Vice-Chairs by Type of Committee

*     Standing and Standing Joint Committees

*     Legislative Committees

*     Special and Special Joint Committees

*     Subcommittees

Vacancies

*    Committee Staff

Committee Clerk

Analysts

Legislative Clerks

Other Staff

 

Committee Proceedings

 

*    Procedural Framework for Committee Activities

Committee Procedure and Its Sources

*     Constitution and Acts of Parliament

*     Orders of Reference, Instructions and the Standing Orders of the House of Commons

*     Rulings by the Speaker of the House and Committee Chairs

*     Practice

Masters of Their Procedures and Proceedings: a Freedom with Boundaries

*    Committees and Questions of Procedure and Privilege

Disorder and Misconduct

Decisions of the Chair and Appeals

Points of Order

Questions of Privilege in Committee

*    Rules of Debate and the Decision-making Process

Rules of Debate

Decision-making Process

*     Notice

*     Moving Motions

*     Votes

Use of Unanimous Consent

*    Motions in Committee

Format and Admissibility

Types of Motions

Figure 20.4    Types of Motions in Committee

*     Substantive Motions

*     Subsidiary Motions

*     Privileged Motions

Amendments

Superseding Motions

*      Dilatory Motions

*      Motion for the Previous Question

*    Organization and Conduct of Business

Organization Meeting

*     Routine Motions

Analyst Services

Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure

Meeting Without a Quorum

Time for Opening Remarks and Questioning of Witnesses

Document Distribution

Working Meals

Travel, Accommodation and Living Expenses of Witnesses

Access to In Camera Meetings

Transcripts of In Camera Meetings

Notice of Motion

Determination of Studies and Preparation of Work Schedules and Lists of Witnesses

Figure 20.5    Usual Order of Business for Committee Study Leading to a Substantive Report

Briefings

Gathering Evidence and Soliciting Opinions

*     Evidence

Swearing-in of Witnesses

Figure 20.6    Swearing-in of Witnesses

Testimony

Briefs and Other Papers

Deliberations for the Production of a Report

Adoption of a Report by a Committee

Presentation to the House

Government Response

Concurrence in a Report by the House

*    Types of Meetings and Activities

Public Meetings

In Camera Meetings

Informal Meetings

Meetings or Activities Outside the Parliamentary Precinct

*    Physical Setting

Figure 20.7    Committee Room Configuration

Figure 20.8    Committee Room

*    Scheduling, Convening and Conduct of Meetings

Times of Meetings and Room Allocation

Convening a Meeting

*     By the Chair

*     At the Request of Four Committee Members

*     Cancelling a Meeting

Conduct of Meetings

*     Quorum and Call to Order / “Reduced Quorum”

*     Suspension

*     Adjournment

*    Funding of Activities

Key Authorities in the Financial Management of Committees

*     Board of Internal Economy

*     Liaison Committee and Subcommittee on Committee Budgets

*     Obtaining Funding for Committees

Basic Operational Budget or Interim Funding

Supplementary Budget for Project-related Activities or Travel

Figure 20.9    Approval Process for Operational and Travel Budgets for Standing Committees

Legislative and Special Committee Budgets

Supplementary Funding and Unused Funds

Figure 20.10  Approval Process for Special and Legislative Committee Budgets, Presented in Addition to Interim Funding

*     Financial Accountability

*    Reporting of Activities and Deliberations

A Single Window for Information: the Committees Web Site

Written Information

*     Notice of Meeting

*     Minutes of Proceedings

*     Evidence

*     Press Releases

*     Reports

Press Conferences

Electronic Information

*     Radio

*     Television

*     Webcasting

 

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Experience has shown that smaller and more flexible committees, when entrusted with interesting matters, can have a very positive impact on the development of our parliamentary system, upgrade the role of Members of Parliament, sharpen their interest and ultimately enable this institution to produce much more enlightened measures that better meet the wishes of the Canadian people.

Yvon Pinard, President of the Privy Council

(Debates, November 29, 1982, p. 21071)

As with many other legislative bodies, the House of Commons has a committee system. A parliamentary committee is a small group of Members created and empowered by the House to perform one or more specific tasks.[1] There are a number of different types of committees and they are formed on a temporary or permanent basis. They usually consist of Members drawn from all recognized parties in the House. Committee work, in fact, represents a substantial portion of the parliamentary activity of a Member of Parliament in Ottawa.[2] To enable them to perform their work effectively, the House generally delegates to its committees its powers of inquiry and the authority to compel the appearance of witnesses and the production of documents.

A deliberative assembly derives a number of advantages from the use of parliamentary committees. It is more efficient to perform in small groups work that would otherwise be difficult to accomplish in an assembly of more than 300 members. In essence, the responsibilities of parliamentary committees are to review in detail and improve bills and existing legislation, and to monitor the activities of the machinery of government and its executive branch: conducting reviews of and inquiries into government programs and policies, reviews of past and planned expenditures, and reviews of non-judicial appointments.

Parliamentary committees also offer a more informal setting, in which Members have the opportunity to develop close working relations with their colleagues. Moreover, if they remain members of the same committees for a sufficient length of time, they are able to develop or strengthen their expertise in specific fields. Through the public consultations they conduct, parliamentary committees represent the main avenue for elected Members of Parliament to enter into a direct dialogue with those in civil society, such as: individual citizens, non‑governmental experts, and representatives from the private sector. Through their work, committees can draw attention and raise the awareness of the government and the general public to specific issues.[3]

The process followed in the work of a parliamentary committee is essentially the same for all of them. It begins with the task entrusted to it by the House. The committee draws up a work plan and begins its study or inquiry. It may then hear witnesses and seek opinions. It concludes its study by recording its observations and making recommendations in the form of a report it presents to the House. In some cases, the committee may request that the government respond to its recommendations.

This chapter describes the procedure and practice of committees of the House of Commons. After a brief historical survey of the development of the committee system, the types of committee, their mandates, lifespan, powers and the types of studies they conduct are examined. This is followed by a discussion of their membership, leadership and staff, and their deliberations: the procedure that regulates them, how they are organized, the physical framework in which they do their work, how they are funded, and how their work is reported.



[1] Committees of the Whole are the exception; they are made up of all Members of the House of Commons. For further information, see Chapter 19, “Committees of the Whole House”. Senators may also sit as members of a parliamentary committee, as in the case of the joint committees of both Houses of Parliament. For further information, see the section in this chapter entitled “Types of Committees and Mandates”.

[2] In fiscal year 2007-08, for example, parliamentary committees held nearly 1,200 meetings, which represented nearly 1,700 hours of work. By comparison, the House of Commons held 113 sittings during the same period.

[3] For a critical examination of the committee system of the House of Commons, see Jackson, R.J. and Jackson, D., Politics in Canada: Culture, Institutions, Behaviour and Public Policy, 6th ed., Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006, pp. 323-5. For further information on the various functions and advantages for deliberative assemblies of a committee system, see National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, “Committees in Legislatures: A Division of Labour”, Legislative Research Series, No. 2, Washington, 1996.

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*   British Precedents

Committees of the British Parliament have existed in some form since the fourteenth century.[4] The precursors to the first parliamentary committees were the individuals selected as Triers and Examiners of Petitions,[5] and the earliest duty of committees, as we know them, was to draw up legislation to carry into effect those prayers or petitions to which the Crown had acceded. By the middle of the sixteenth century, committees formed part of the regular machinery of parliament, modifying or “improving” legislation to which the House of Commons had agreed in principle. Committees had their own meeting room in the Palace of Westminster and committee practice had acquired many of its modern characteristics, including the more relaxed rules governing debate, the right to appoint subcommittees and the right to summon witnesses. However, the House was always careful to exercise control over, and responsibility for, the matters it referred to committee.

At that time, there were two types of committees: large committees of 30 to 40 members, and small committees of up to 15 members. The large committees, often composed of different classes of Members (professional, regional, functional), were established to consider substantive matters. In the beginning, they were always classified as “special” committees, that is, bodies created for a particular purpose and disbanded as soon as that purpose was discharged. Over time, some of these large committees were given sessional orders of reference (or mandates) which remained in effect for the duration of a session. As “standing” committees, they were charged with an area of responsibility, such as the consideration of a class of bills or a particular department of House business.[6] By the middle of the seventeenth century, a fairly elaborate system of standing committees was in place, and that system remained virtually unchanged over the next two centuries.[7]

The smaller committees, composed of only those Members who had been specifically named by the House, became known as “select” committees. While any Member could attend select committee proceedings, only those specifically named to the committee by the House could participate in the deliberations.[8]

By contrast, it became common in the large committees to allow whoever attended to participate in the discussion. As the practice of allowing any Member to speak in a large committee evolved, they came to be known as the “general” or “grand” committees. Ultimately, the membership of these committees equalled that of the House itself and they were referred to as Committees of the Whole.[9] Grand committees became the preferred forum for the consideration of “bills of great concernment, and chiefly in bills to impose a tax, or raise money from the people … to the end there may be opportunity for fuller debates, for that at a committee the members have liberty to speak as often as they shall see cause, to one question”.[10]

Britain’s revolutionary Long Parliament (1640‑60),[11] which assumed all the powers of administration and government on behalf of the Commonwealth, effectively did away with grand committees and ruled by means of small committees. Committees of the Whole were seen to be “highly inconvenient”, affording as they did equal debating rights to the opposition.[12]

With the Restoration,[13] Parliament, in 1661, once again reverted to grand committees to consider its most significant orders of business and, by 1700, it had become common to examine bills in Committees of the Whole House following second reading.[14] Over the years, various committees on reform continued to suggest that legislation again be referred to the small committees, but the House continued to prefer the greater openness available in the larger forum.

*   Committees of the Assemblies of the Two Canadas and of the United Province of Canada

Contrary to the United Kingdom practice in the nineteenth century, where the majority of committee work was carried out in Committees of the Whole, the legislatures of Upper and Lower Canada regularly referred bills to select committees for consideration.[15] In fact, the standing committee system in the two Canadas, as it evolved, more closely resembled the committee structure of the American colonial legislatures and the United States Congress than that of the British Parliament.[16] A fairly sophisticated system of committees emerged during the 1830s.

In 1831, Lower Canada began appointing a number of standing committees—committees having an on‑going mandate—at the beginning of every session. Somewhat later, in 1836, the Assembly of Upper Canada appointed 12 select standing committees, touching virtually all matters of government business, a departure from its usual practice of nominating ad hoc or special committees as the need arose.[17]

Committees afforded Members of the Legislative Assemblies a degree of independence from the executive and reflected their desire to involve themselves more directly in government affairs. For this reason, the Executive Council of Upper Canada discontinued the practice of appointing standing committees following the 1837 rebellion.[18] Similarly, the government of the United Province of Canada (1841‑66) initially refused to institute a system of standing committees, contending this would compromise the principle of responsible government.[19]

*   Development of the House of Commons Committee System

The rules respecting committees of the House of Commons in the new Dominion of Canada were inherited from the Province of Canada, and were essentially the same as those used in the legislature of Lower Canada prior to the Union Act, 1840.[20] Efforts at reform, both before and since Confederation, have continued to reflect either the desire to improve the efficiency of the legislature, or the perpetual struggle to alter the balance of power between the legislature and the executive.

Of the original Standing Orders adopted in 1867, few were directly concerned with standing or special committees. The rules did not list which committees should be established, nor specify their powers, procedures or the authority of the Chair. They did, however, deny committee membership to any individual who had declared against the matter under consideration.[21] A feature of British parliamentary practice since at least the time of Queen Elizabeth I, this rule was not rescinded in Canada until 1955.[22]

From 1867 to 1906, the list of House standing committees[23] was established by way of a motion adopted during each session of each Parliament, usually in the first days following the Speech from the Throne.[24] In 1906, the House included in the Standing Orders, for the first time, a list of “standing” committees which the House had decided should be appointed in every session, although even these committees were active only when the House specifically ordered them to consider a particular matter.[25] Special and joint committees, whose number and mandate varied from one year to the next, were also established during the course of each session. Also in 1906, the House instituted a committee of selection charged with nominating the standing committee membership.[26]

Given the considerable size of most committees in the early years of Confederation (some had over 100 members), and the rule that a majority of the membership was needed for a quorum, the larger standing committees experienced considerable difficulty gathering together enough members, on a regular basis, to meet and transact business.[27] Consequently, over the years, despite some variations, the size of standing committees generally declined, with the result that during the Twenty-Sixth Parliament (1963‑65), the largest standing committee membership did not exceed 15, and during the Thirty-Ninth (2006-08), it did not exceed 12.[28] On the other hand, the number of House standing committees has varied substantially since Confederation, from 10 in 1867 to 25 in 1986, back to 17 during the Thirty-Sixth Parliament (1997‑2000), increasing again to 24 during the Thirty-Ninth Parliament (2006-08).[29]

Although a standing committee structure was established at Confederation, for the first hundred years most of the committees did not actually meet from one session to another and most House business was transacted on the floor of the Chamber, often in a Committee of the Whole.[30] The House repeatedly considered enhancing the role of standing committees, particularly in relation to the study of the estimates. On several occasions, Members expressed concern over the lack of detailed scrutiny the estimates received in the House and suggested they could be studied more effectively by first referring them to standing or special committees for consideration. A proposal to this effect was referred to a special committee in February 1925.[31] Although the proposal was not endorsed by the committee, the issue continued to be raised in the House. In July 1955, the House agreed to a motion providing for the withdrawal of the estimates from the Committee of Supply[32] and the referral of them to standing or special committees.[33] In 1958, the House added a Standing Committee on Estimates.[34] In 1964, a Special Committee on Procedure and Organization further proposed that, upon tabling, the main estimates be referred automatically to the standing committees.[35]

In 1965, the Standing Orders were modified, on a provisional basis, permitting standing committees to examine the estimates.[36] However, it was not until 1968 that the House agreed to a permanent restructuring and reorientation of the committee system. Under the new rules, the main estimates would be tabled and referred to the standing committees by March 1 of each year, to be reported back (or deemed reported back) to the House by May 31. As well, provision was made for standing committee consideration of all bills (other than those based on supply, and ways and means motions) after second reading.[37]

In 1982, the House again appointed a special committee to review the Standing Orders[38] and proceeded to implement several of its recommendations on a provisional basis. Among the most significant changes were those automatically referring the annual reports of departments, agencies and Crown corporations to standing committees and empowering the committees to initiate their own studies or inquiries based on the information in those reports.[39] Early in the subsequent Parliament (1984‑88), the House agreed to retain the provisional changes[40] and struck yet another special committee (the McGrath Committee) to inquire into the efficacy of all aspects of House procedure and administration.[41] This committee made recommendations to enlarge the scope of committee mandates to give standing committees “broad authority” to look into and report to the House on any matter which was relevant to the departments for which they were responsible; to create a committee structure which reflected, as much as practicable, the organization of government;[42] and to establish a Liaison Committee, consisting of the Chairs of all standing committees and appropriate Chairs or Vice-Chairs of joint committees, charged with the allocation of committee budgets.[43] Provisional changes to the Standing Orders, in 1986, incorporated the majority of the Committee’s recommendations relating to committees; these changes were made permanent the following year.[44]

There have been other significant changes to committees since the McGrath Committee reforms. In April 1991, the House agreed to allow committees to broadcast their proceedings within guidelines established by the Standing Committee on House Management.[45] In 1994, the rules were again amended to permit the House to instruct a committee to prepare and bring in a bill, and to refer bills to a committee before second reading.[46] The intent of these changes was to give Members an opportunity to participate in policy development before the government had committed itself to a particular legislative initiative.[47]

In 2002, the House established the new Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.[48] In so doing, it implemented some of the recommendations put forward in the report by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs entitled: “The Business of Supply: Completing the Circle of Control”.[49] It advocated the establishment of a committee to oversee and review the process whereby the estimates are considered by parliamentary committees. The Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates was given a broad mandate, including review of the effectiveness, administration and operations of government departments and central agencies.

Also in 2002, the Senate having notified the House that it would no longer participate in the Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages, the House established its own Standing Committee on Official Languages.[50] In addition, the procedure for designating the Chairs and Vice-Chairs of standing and special committees was changed: if there is more than one candidate for such positions, an election is held by secret ballot. Previously, unanimous consent of committee members had been required in order to proceed in this manner. At the same time, the House formalized the longstanding practice whereby, with some exceptions, the Chairs of standing committees are to be drawn from the ranks of the government party, and their first and second Vice-Chairs from the Official Opposition and another opposition party, respectively.[51]

In 2005, significant changes were made in the procedure for debate on motions for concurrence by the House in reports of standing and special committees, including limiting such debates to three hours.[52] In 2007, the House approved an entirely new Standing Order whereby committee deliberations are to be suspended when Members are summoned to the House for a recorded division.[53]

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[4] For a full description of the evolution of committees in the British Parliament, see Redlich, J., The Procedure of the House of Commons: A Study of its History and Present Form, Vol. II, translated by A.E. Steinthal, New York: AMS Press, 1969 (reprint of 1908 ed.), pp. 203‑14.

[5] For further information, see Chapter 22, “Public Petitions”.

[6] In 1571, for the first time, committees of this nature were appointed for “the subsidy”, grievances and petitions, religion and disputed elections. From 1592 onwards, elections and privileges were considered by a single sessional committee. In 1621, the House instituted a grand standing committee on trade and another on the administration of justice. These along with the committees on religion, grievances and the smaller, that is select, Privileges and Elections Committee, constituted the system of standing committees as it was to remain for two centuries (Redlich, pp. 206‑8).

[7] Redlich, p. 208.

[8] Redlich, p. 207.

[9] For further information on the development of Committees of the Whole, see Chapter 19, “Committees of the Whole House”. By 1628, all the standing committees, except that on Privileges, were made Committees of the Whole House. The Committee on Privileges remained a select committee (Redlich, p. 209).

[10] Scobell, quoted in Redlich, p. 208.

[11] The Long Parliament sat during the period of the Civil War and the Commonwealth in Great Britain. See Davies, G., The Oxford History of England: The Early Stuarts, 1603-1660, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1938 (reprint of 1937 ed.), pp. 97, 172.

[12] Redlich, p. 210.

[13] Charles II was restored to the Throne of Great Britain in 1660. See Davies, pp. 256‑8.

[14] Redlich, pp. 210‑1.

[15] For an expanded description of committees during this period, see O’Brien, G., “Pre‑Confederation Parliamentary Procedure: The Evolution of Legislative Practice in the Lower Houses of Central Canada, 1792-1866”, Ph.D. thesis, Carleton University, 1988, p. 103.

[16] O’Brien, p. 106.

[17] O’Brien, p. 105.

[18] O’Brien, pp. 107‑8.

[19] O’Brien, pp. 301‑2. For further information on the principle of responsible government, see Chapter 1, “Parliamentary Institutions”.

[20] The Union Act, 1840 joined Upper and Lower Canada into the single Province of Canada (R.S. 1985, Appendix II, No. 4).

[21] The Member had to have stated opposition to the principle of the matter, rather than dissatisfaction with particular aspects of it. See Redlich, p. 205.

[22] Journals, July 12, 1955, pp. 930‑1.

[23] Throughout this period, the inventory of standing committees remained virtually unchanged and consisted of the committees on Privileges and Elections, Expiring Laws, Railways, Canals and Telegraph Lines, Miscellaneous Private Bills, Standing Orders, Printing, Public Accounts, Banking and Commerce, and Immigration and Colonization (subsequently renamed Agriculture and Colonization). From 1867 to 1906 as well, the House consistently agreed, by separate motions, to Standing Joint Committees on the Library of Parliament and on the Printing of Parliament. See Journals, November 19, 1867, pp. 21‑2; December 4, 1867, p. 48; April 14, 1887, pp. 5‑6; March 14, 1906, p. 46.

[24] In 1867, 1883 and 1891, the Speech from the Throne occurred on the second sitting day (Journals, November 7, 1867, p. 5; February 9, 1883, p. 15; April 30, 1891, p. 5). In all other instances, committees were established on the first day of the new session.

[25] Legislation was dealt with in a Committee of the Whole at that time. For further information, see Chapter 19, “Committees of the Whole House”.

[26] Prior to this, the standing committee membership was drawn up and reported by a special committee “composed of leading men of the ministry and opposition …”. Members were generally given one or two days to examine the lists before concurring in the report; however, it was often necessary to ask for immediate concurrence so that the Standing Committee on Standing Orders could consider petitions for private bills. These were receivable only within a limited period after the commencement of the session. The membership list included those committees regularly established since Confederation, excepting the Committee on Expiring Laws, which was dropped, and committees on the Library of Parliament and on the Debates of the House, which were added (Bourinot, J.G., Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the Dominion of Canada, 2nd ed., rev. and enlarged, Montreal: Dawson Brothers, Publishers, 1892, pp. 493‑4. See, for example, Journals, January 21, 1884, p. 22; March 12, 1903, p. 22).

[27] In 1887, the Standing Committee on Railways, Canals and Telegraph Lines had a membership of 147 and thus a quorum, according to the Standing Order, of 74; the Standing Committee on Banking and Commerce had a membership of 104 and thus a quorum, by rule, of 53. The membership of the House in 1887 was 215 (Journals, April 18, 1887, pp. 17‑9).

[28] In 1927, the rules regarding committees were revised. The number of members on each standing committee was cut to roughly half, and the size of the membership was set down in the Standing Orders. Quorum for each committee was set individually. See, for example, Journals, March 22, 1927, pp. 320‑3. Further changes in December 1968 (Journals, December 20, 1968, pp. 554‑79) restricted committee membership to between 20 and 30 Members of Parliament, excepting the 12‑member Committee on Procedure. At the beginning of the Thirty‑Sixth Parliament (1997‑2000), the maximum number of members was set at 16 to 18, enabling committees to reflect the proportions of party representation in a five‑party House (Journals, September 23, 1997, pp. 12‑3; October 1, 1997, p. 56).

[29] Journals, November 7, 1867, p. 5; February 6, 1986, pp. 1656‑7; November 4, 1987, p. 1831; September 23, 1997, pp. 12‑3; April 5, 2006, pp. 19-21.

[30] Franks, C.E.S., The Parliament of Canada, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987, pp. 162‑3. See also Chapter 19, “Committees of the Whole House”.

[31] Journals, February 25, 1925, p. 66.

[32] From 1867 to 1968, the Committee of Supply was composed of the membership of the Whole House. The Committee debated every request for supply (interim, main estimates and supplementary estimates). For further information, see Chapter 18, “Financial Procedures”.

[33] Journals, July 12, 1955, pp. 881, 926‑7.

[34] Journals, May 30, 1958, p. 71.

[35] Journals, December 14, 1964, pp. 985‑96.

[36] Journals, June 11, 1965, pp. 229‑30.

[37] Journals, December 20, 1968, pp. 554‑79.

[38] The Special Committee on Standing Orders and Procedure (Journals, May 31, 1982, pp. 4892‑3). The Committee, chaired by Tom Lefebvre, is commonly referred to as the Lefebvre Committee.

[39] Third Report of the Special Committee on Standing Orders and Procedure (Parliamentary reform and changes to the Standing Orders), Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, November 4, 1982, Issue No. 7, pp. 3‑41; Journals, November 5, 1982, p. 5328; November 29, 1982, p. 5400.

[40] Journals, December 7, 1984, p. 164.

[41] The Special Committee on Reform of the House of Commons (Journals, December 5, 1984, pp. 153‑4). The Committee was chaired by James McGrath, from whom it derived its name.

[42] Third Report of the Special Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons, pp. 16‑27, presented to the House on June 18, 1985 (Journals, p. 839).

[43] Third Report of the Special Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons, pp. 22‑5, presented to the House on June 18, 1985 (Journals, p. 839).

[44] Journals, February 6, 1986, pp. 1644‑66; February 11, 1986, p. 1696; February 13, 1986, p. 1710; June 1, 1987, pp. 968‑80; June 2, 1987, pp. 984‑97; June 3, 1987, pp. 1002‑28.

[45] Journals, April 11, 1991, pp. 2905‑32, in particular p. 2929.

[46] Journals, February 7, 1994, pp. 112‑8; Standing Orders 68 and 73.

[47] Debates, February 7, 1994, pp. 957‑62. Prior to this time, there had been occasions where committees were empowered by their orders of reference to draft legislative proposals or to bring in a bill. See, for example, Special Joint Committee on Bill C‑43, Senate and House of Commons Conflict of Interest Act; Journals, November 22, 1991, pp. 717‑8.

[48] Journals, May 27, 2002, pp. 1431-2.

[49] Fifty-First Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House on December 10, 1998 (Journals, p. 1435). The House had earlier requested that the government make every effort to act on the report’s recommendations (Journals, March 12, 2002, pp. 1167-8).

[50] Journals, October 10, 2002, p. 59 (Message from the Senate); November 7, 2002, pp. 181‑2 (striking of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages).

[51] Journals, November 5, 2002, pp. 162-4. For further information, see “Methods of Designation” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Membership, Leadership and Staff”.

[52] This was originally included in various provisional amendments to the Standing Orders (Journals, February 18, 2005, pp. 451-5) that were subsequently made permanent (Seventeenth Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House on October 20, 2006 (Journals, p. 556) and concurred in on October 25, 2006 (Journals, pp. 577-9)).

[53] Forty-Eighth Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House and concurred in on May 9, 2007 (Journals, pp. 1376, 1378).

Move Up

 

The House of Commons has an extensive committee system. There are various types of committees: standing, standing joint, legislative, special, special joint and subcommittees.[54] They differ in their membership, the terms of reference they are given by the House, and their longevity. Figure 20.1 illustrates the various types of committees and their characteristics.

 

Committee System of the House of Commons

 

*   Standing Committees

Standing committees form a majority of the committees established by the House of Commons. Their authority flows from their large number (24) and the variety of studies entrusted to them, but also from the fact that they return session after session as their existence is entrenched in the Standing Orders.[55] Composed of 11 or 12 Members representing all recognized parties in the House, they play a crucial role in the improvement of legislation and the oversight of government activities.

As Figure 20.2 shows, their titles and mandates cover every main area of federal government activity, but for a few exceptions. However, they do not match its administrative structure exactly.[56] Standing committees fall into three broad categories: (1) those overseeing one or more federal departments or organizations, (2) those responsible for matters of House and committee administration and procedure, and (3) those with transverse responsibilities that deal with issues affecting the entire government apparatus.[57] The latter are likely to work with other committees in discharging their mandates.

 

*   Standing Committees

*      Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

*      Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics

*      Agriculture and Agri-Food

*      Canadian Heritage

*      Citizenship and Immigration

*      Environment and Sustainable Development

*      Finance

*      Fisheries and Oceans

*      Foreign Affairs and International Development

*      Government Operations and Estimates

*      Health

*      Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and
the Status of Persons with Disabilities

*      Industry, Science and Technology

*      International Trade

*      Justice and Human Rights

*      National Defence

*      Natural Resources

*      Official Languages

*      Procedure and House Affairs

*      Public Accounts

*      Public Safety and National Security

*      Status of Women

*      Transport, Infrastructure and Communities

*      Veterans Affairs

*   Standing Joint Committees

*      Library of Parliament

*      Scrutiny of Regulations

 

* As provided in the Standing Orders of the House of Commons

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General Mandate

The Standing Orders set out a general mandate for all standing and standing joint committees, with a few exceptions.[58] They are empowered to study and report to the House on all matters relating to the mandate, management, organization and operation of the departments assigned to them. More specifically, they can review:

*      the statute law relating to the departments assigned to them;

*      the program and policy objectives of those departments, and the effectiveness of their implementation thereof;

*      the immediate, medium and long-term expenditure plans of those departments and the effectiveness of the implementation thereof; and

*      an analysis of the relative success of those departments in meeting their objectives.

In addition to this general mandate, other matters are routinely referred by the House to its standing committees: bills, estimates, Order-in-Council appointments, documents tabled in the House pursuant to statute, and specific matters which the House wishes to have studied.[59] In each case, the House chooses the most appropriate committee on the basis of its mandate.

Specific Mandates

The Standing Orders set out specific mandates for some standing committees, on the basis of which they are to study and report to the House:

*      The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs deals with, among other matters, the election of Members; the administration of the House and the provision of services and facilities to Members; the effectiveness, management and operations of all operations which are under the joint administration and control of the two Houses, except with regard to the Library of Parliament; the review of the Standing Orders, procedure and practice in the House and its committees;[60] the consideration of business related to private bills; the review of the radio and television broadcasting of the proceedings of the House and its committees; the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons; and the review of the annual report of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner with respect to his or her responsibilities under the Parliament of Canada Act.[61] The Committee also acts as a striking committee, recommending the list of members of all standing and legislative committees, and the Members who represent the House on standing joint committees.[62] It also establishes priority of use of committee rooms,[63] and is involved in designating the items of Private Members’ Business as votable or non-votable.[64]

*      The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, among other matters, monitors the implementation of the principles of the federal multiculturalism policy throughout the Government of Canada.[65]

*      The Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates has a very broad mandate[66] that includes, among other matters, the review of the effectiveness, management and operation, together with the operational and expenditures plans of the central departments and agencies; the review of estimates for programs delivered by more than one department or agency; the review of the effectiveness, management and operation of activities related to the use of new and emerging information and communication technologies by the government; and the review of the process for consideration of estimates and supply by parliamentary committees.

*      The Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities is responsible for, among other matters, proposing, promoting, monitoring and assessing initiatives aimed at the social integration and equality of disabled persons.[67]

*      The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is responsible for, among other matters, the review of reports of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.[68]

*      The Standing Committee on Official Languages deals with, among other matters, official languages policies and programs, including reports of the Commissioner of Official Languages.[69] The Committee’s mandate is derived from a legislative provision requiring that a committee of either House or both Houses be specifically charged with review of the administration of the Official Languages Act and the implementation of certain reports presented pursuant to this statute.[70]

*      The Standing Committee on Public Accounts deals with, among other matters, the review of the Public Accounts of Canada and all reports of the Auditor General of Canada.[71]

*      The Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics reviews, among other matters, the effectiveness, management and operation together with the operational and expenditure plans relating to three Officers of Parliament: the Information Commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner and the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. It also reviews their reports, although in the case of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, the reports concerned relate to his or her responsibilities under the Parliament of Canada Act regarding public office holders and reports tabled pursuant to the Lobbyists Registration Act. In cooperation with other standing committees, the Committee also reviews any bill, federal regulation or Standing Order which impacts upon its main areas of responsibility: access to information, privacy and the ethical standards of public office holders. It may also propose initiatives in these areas and promote, monitor and assess such initiatives.[72]

*      The Standing Committee on Finance is empowered to review proposals relating to the government’s budgetary policy.[73]

*   Standing Joint Committees

In addition to the standing committees, there are two standing joint committees: one on the Library of Parliament and one on the Scrutiny of Regulations.[74] These are described as “joint” because their membership consists of Members of the House of Commons and Senators. In contrast to standing committees, moreover, the number of members can vary.[75] Struck for each session of Parliament, their status is formalized by statute and confirmed by the Standing Orders of the House of Commons and the Rules of the Senate.[76]

The Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament is charged with the review of the effectiveness, management and operation of the Library of Parliament, which serves both the House of Commons and the Senate.[77] The mandate of this Committee arises from a statutory provision giving direction and control of the Library to the Speakers of the Senate and the House, with the provision that they are to be assisted by a joint committee.[78] At the beginning of each session, the Committee usually seeks confirmation of its mandate by presenting a report for that purpose to each House, which is usually concurred in.[79]

The Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations[80] is mandated to review and scrutinize statutory instruments.[81] The Committee’s mandate is set out in part in the Standing Orders[82] and in part in the Statute Revision Act and the Statutory Instruments Act.[83] At the beginning of each session, the Committee presents a report relating to its review of the regulatory process, proposing a more detailed mandate. When the report is concurred in by the House of Commons and Senate, this proposed mandate then becomes an order of reference to the Committee for the remainder of the session.[84]

*   Legislative Committees

Legislative committees are created on an ad hoc basis by the House solely to draft or review proposed legislation.[85] They therefore do not return from one session to the next, as standing and standing joint committees do. They are established as needed when the House adopts a motion making a referral,[86] and cease to exist upon presentation of their report on the draft legislation to the House. They consist of a maximum of 15 Members drawn from all recognized political parties, plus the Chair.[87]

Their mandate is restricted to examining and inquiring into the bill referred to them by the House, and presenting a report on it with or without amendments.[88] They are not empowered to consider matters outside the provisions of the bill,[89] nor can they submit comments or recommendations in a substantive report to the House.[90] However, if the House has instructed a committee to prepare a bill, it is empowered under the Standing Orders to recommend in its report the principles, scope and general provisions of the bill and may include recommendations regarding legislative wording.[91]

*   Special Committees

As in the case of legislative committees, special committees are ad hoc bodies created as needed by the House. Unlike legislative committees, however, they are not usually charged with the study of a bill,[92] but rather with inquiring into a matter to which the House attaches particular importance.[93] Every special committee is established by an order of reference of the House. The motion usually defines its mandate and may include other provisions covering its powers, membership—the number of members varies—and the deadline for presentation of its final report to the House.[94] The content of the motion varies with the specific task entrusted to the committee. Special committees cease to exist upon presentation of their final report.[95]

*   Special Joint Committees

Special joint committees are created for the same purposes as special committees: to study matters of great importance. However, they are composed of Members of the House of Commons and Senators. They are established by order of reference from the House, and another from the Senate.

The House that wishes to initiate a special joint committee first adopts a motion to establish it and includes a provision inviting the other Chamber to participate in the proposed committee’s work.[96] The motion also includes any instruction to the committee, and sets out the powers delegated to it. It may also designate the members of the committee,[97] or specify how they are to be selected.

Decisions of one House concerning the membership, mandate and powers of a proposed joint committee are communicated to the other House by message. Both Houses must be in agreement about the mandate and powers of the committee in order for it to be able to undertake its work. Once a request to participate in a joint committee is received, the other House, if it so desires, adopts a motion to establish such a committee and includes a provision to be returned to the originating House, stating that it agrees to the request. Once the originating House has been informed of the agreement of the other Chamber, the committee can be organized. A special joint committee ceases to exist when it has presented its final report to both Houses.

The mandate of a special joint committee is set out in the order of reference by which it is established. In the past, special joint committees have been set up to inquire into such matters as child custody,[98] defence,[99] foreign policy,[100] a code of conduct for Members and Senators[101] and Senate reform.[102] Constitutional issues have often been referred to special joint committees.[103] From time to time, they have also been charged with review of legislation, either by being empowered to prepare a bill[104] or by the referral of a bill to the committee after second reading.[105]

*   Subcommittees

Subcommittees are working groups that report to existing committees. They are normally created by an order of reference adopted by the committee in question.[106] They may also be created directly by the House, but this is less common.[107] The establishment of subcommittees may also be provided for in the Standing Orders.[108]

The establishment of subcommittees is usually designed to relieve parliamentary committees of planning and administrative tasks, or to address important issues relating to their mandate.[109] A subcommittee is able to devote all the necessary attention to the mandate it is given, whereas the committee it reports to is likely to be dealing with a heavy agenda and conflicting priorities. Subcommittees generally have a lower level of activity than the committees they report to, but in some cases they may be just as busy. Apart from the cases in which they are created by the House or required pursuant to the Standing Orders, a parliamentary committee is under no obligation to strike subcommittees, the decision rests entirely with its members.[110]

Unless provision has already been made in the Standing Orders, it is up to the committee—or the House, as the case may be—that creates a subcommittee to establish its mandate in an order of reference, specifying its membership (the number of members varies), powers and any other conditions that are to govern its deliberations.[111] Depending on the circumstances and the type of mandate it is assigned, a subcommittee will exist as long as the main committee does, or will cease to exist when its task is completed.

Not every type of committee can create subcommittees. Under the Standing Orders, standing committees (including, where the House is concerned, standing joint committees) may do so.[112] In practice, most of them create a subcommittee on agenda and procedure, commonly referred to as a “steering committee”, to help them plan their work.[113] A steering committee is the only type of subcommittee a legislative committee is empowered to create under the Standing Orders.[114] Special committees may create subcommittees only if empowered to do so by the House (and by the Senate, in the case of a special joint committee).[115]

Once established, subcommittees carry out their own work within the mandate entrusted to them. They are free to adopt rules to govern their activities, provided these are consistent with the framework established by the main committee.[116] Subcommittees report to their main committee with respect to resolutions, motions or reports they wish the main committee to concur in.[117] Proposals by a steering committee as to how the main committee’s work is to be organized must be approved by the committee itself. In every case, this is achieved by having the subcommittee adopt a report for presentation to the main committee.[118] Unless the House or the committees decide otherwise, main committees may amend the reports of their subcommittees before concurring in them.[119]



[54] There is also a unique body, the Liaison Committee, responsible for apportioning funds authorized by the Board of Internal Economy to meet the expenses of committee activities. For further information, see “Funding of Activities” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[55] Standing Order 104(2).

[56] For example, the House has a Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, although no government department has such a name.

[57] The Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development is an example of the first category; the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs is an example of the second; and the Committee on Government Operations and Estimates is an example of the third.

[58] Standing Order 108(2). It specifically excludes the two standing joint committees, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics and the Standing Committee on Official Languages. Specific mandates are nevertheless provided for each of these committees (for further information, see the next section entitled “Specific Mandates”). For all other standing committees, any specific mandate is in addition to their general mandate.

[59] For further information, see the section in this chapter entitled “Studies Conducted by Committees”.

[60] Therefore, it is not unusual for the House to refer matters of privilege to the Committee for further study, if the Speaker has found prima facie grounds. For further information, see Chapter 3, “Privileges and Immunities”.

[61] Standing Order 108(3)(a).

[62] Standing Orders 104(1), 107(5) and 114(1). For further information, see the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Membership, Leadership and Staff”.

[63] Standing Order 115(4).

[64] Standing Orders 91.1 and 92. For further information, see Chapter 21, “Private Members’ Business”.

[65] Standing Order 108(3)(b).

[66] Standing Order 108(3)(c). Some 10 specific mandates are assigned to this committee alone.

[67] Standing Order 108(3)(d).

[68] Standing Order 108(3)(e).

[69] Standing Order 108(3)(f).

[70] R.S 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.), s. 88.

[71] Standing Order 108(3)(g).

[72] Standing Order 108(3)(h).

[73] Standing Order 83.1. This provision, added to the Standing Orders in 1994 (Journals, February 7, 1994, pp. 112‑20, in particular pp. 117, 119‑20), extends the Committee’s mandate to include, in the words used by the Government House Leader in proposing the new standing order, “an annual public consultation on what should be in the next budget” (Debates, February 7, 1994, p. 962).

[74] Standing Order 104(3). Since 1867, there have been three other standing joint committees: on Printing, on the Parliamentary Restaurant and on Official Languages. Reference to the first two is still found in Senate Rule 86(1). Reference to the Standing Joint Committee on Printing was dropped from the Standing Orders in 1986 (Journals, February 6, 1986, pp. 1644‑66, in particular p. 1657; February 13, 1986, p. 1710). While the Standing Orders have never contained a reference to the Standing Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Restaurant, the House began to name members to it in 1909 (Journals, February 10, 1909, p. 69). The last occasion on which members were named to this Committee was during the First Session of the Thirty‑Second Parliament (Journals, May 14, 1980, pp. 168‑70). The Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages ceased to exist at the beginning of the Second Session of the Thirty-Seventh Parliament, when the Senate sent a message announcing that it would no longer be participating in the Committee, and the House accordingly established its own Standing Committee on Official Languages (Journals, October 10, 2002, p. 59; November 7, 2002, pp. 181-2).

[75] For further information, see the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Membership, Leadership and Staff”.

[76] Standing Order 104(3) and Senate Rule 86(1)(a) and (d).

[77] Standing Order 108(4)(a).

[78] Parliament of Canada Act, R.S. 1985, c. P‑1, s. 74(1).

[79] See, for example, the First Report of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament, presented to the House on June 14, 2006 (Journals, p. 277) and concurred in on June 19, 2006 (Journals, p. 296).

[80] For further information on the nature and role of the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations, see Chapter 17, “Delegated Legislation”.

[81] A statutory instrument is a rule, order, regulation or other regulatory text as defined in s. 2(1) of the Statutory Instruments Act, R.S. 1985, c. S‑22.

[82] Standing Order 108(4)(b).

[83] R.S. 1985, c. S‑20, s. 19(3) and c. S‑22, s. 19.

[84] See, for example, Journals, November 21, 2007, pp. 186-7.

[85] They were established in 1985 by amendments to the Standing Orders giving effect to recommendations of the Lefebvre and McGrath committees. It was felt at the time that standing committees, because of their newly broadened powers to undertake inquiries on their own initiative, could not readily take on the review of bills. The proposed solution was the establishment of legislative committees appointed solely to study draft legislation (Journals, June 27, 1985, pp. 910‑9, in particular pp. 915‑6. See also the Sixth Report of the Special Committee on Standing Orders and Procedure, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, April 28, 1983, Issue No. 19, pp. 3‑11; First Report of the Special Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, December 19, 1984, Issue No. 2, pp. 3‑23, in particular pp. 7‑10). An amendment to the Standing Orders dated April 11, 1991 (Journals, pp. 2904‑32, in particular pp. 2926‑9) provided for a system of eight “standing legislative committees” divided equally among four of the five sectors into which the standing committees are grouped. Bills were referred to one of the two committees in the appropriate sector, and a separate Chair was appointed to lead the review of each bill. On January 25, 1994, the House amended its Standing Orders to eliminate the sector system and re-establish that of legislative committees, to be created as needed (Journals, pp. 58‑61, in particular pp. 60‑1).

[86] See, for example, Journals, February 13, 2008, pp. 434-6. An order of reference is a motion adopted by the House charging a committee with the review of a specific matter, or defining the scope of its deliberations. For further information, see the section in this chapter entitled “Studies Conducted by Committees”. Committees also adopt orders of reference for their subcommittees.

[87] For further information, see the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Membership, Leadership and Staff”.

[88] Standing Order 113(5).

[89] In 2006, the Chair of a legislative committee had ruled a motion inadmissible because it exceeded the committee’s mandate, which at the time was to review Bill C-2, An Act providing for Conflict of Interest Rules, Restrictions on Election Financing and Measures Respecting Administrative Transparency, Oversight and Accountability. The motion in question called upon the government to proclaim forthwith the coming into force of legislation passed by a previous Parliament (Legislative Committee on Bill C-2, Minutes of Proceedings, May 9, 2006, Meeting No. 4).

[90] For further information on what constitutes a substantive report, see “To Report to the House from Time to Time” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Powers”.

[91] Standing Order 68(5).

[92] Bills have been referred from time to time to special committees. See, for example, the case of the Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs in the Second Session of the Thirty-Seventh Parliament. Although the Committee had already presented its final report (Journals, December 12, 2002, p. 302), the House subsequently reactivated it to study Bill C‑38, An Act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (Journals, October 21, 2003, pp. 1140-1).

[93] See, for example, Journals, January 25, 1977, pp. 286‑7; March 30, 1993, pp. 2742‑3; April 8, 2008, pp. 665-7. Between 1979 and 1985, the House employed a variant of the special committee known as a “task force”; membership was limited, replacements were not permitted and a limited time was allowed for the group to complete its work. For a detailed analysis of the task force experience in the House of Commons, see O’Brien, A., “Parliamentary task forces in the Canadian House of Commons: A new approach to committee activity”, The Parliamentarian, Vol. LXVI, No. 1, January 1985, pp. 28‑32.

[94] Standing Order 105. The order of reference may also include provisions to regulate the work of the committee. See, for example, the 2001 Order of Reference establishing the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons (Journals, March 15, 2001, pp. 175-6; March 21, 2001, pp. 208-9). Under the terms of the motion, the Committee could not adopt a report for presentation to the House without the unanimous consent of its members.

[95] An amendment to the motion to approve the final report seeking to refer the report back to the committee may be proposed, without the need for a motion to reconstitute the committee. See Speaker Macnaughton’s Ruling, Journals, December 1, 1964, pp. 941‑7. However, a special committee created to examine a bill ceases to exist when it presents its report on the bill, with or without amendment. See, for example, the Second Report of the Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, presented to the House on November 6, 2003 (Journals, p. 1248).

[96] Typically, the motion ends with a request as follows: “That a message be sent to the Senate requesting that House to unite with this House for the above purpose”. See, for example, Journals, March 16, 1994, p. 263.

[97] Each House retains control over its own members on the committee.

[98] Journals, November 18, 1997, pp. 224‑5.

[99] Journals, February 23, 1994, pp. 186‑7.

[100] Journals, March 16, 1994, pp. 262‑5.

[101] Journals, March 12, 1996, pp. 83‑4.

[102] Journals, December 22, 1982, pp. 5493‑4.

[103] Journals, October 23, 1980, pp. 601‑3; June 16, 1987, pp. 1100‑2; December 17, 1990, pp. 2488‑90; May 17, 1991, p. 43; June 19, 1991, pp. 226‑7; October 1, 1997, pp. 59‑61; October 28, 1997, pp. 158‑61.

[104] See, for example, Journals, November 22, 1991, pp. 717‑8.

[105] See, for example, Journals, March 20, 1993, pp. 2742‑3.

[106] See, for example, Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, Minutes of Proceedings, May 29, 2006, Meeting No. 4.

[107] See, for example, Journals, May 28, 1984, pp. 665-6; October 9, 1986, p. 66; November 2, 2004, pp. 182-3.

[108] For example, under the Standing Orders, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs is required to constitute the Subcommittee on Private Members’ Business, to determine whether any of the items placed in the order of precedence are non-votable according to certain criteria. See Standing Order 91.1; Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings, April 6, 2006, Meeting No. 1.

[109] In the discharge of their mandate, some committees have chosen an arrangement other than subcommittees. These committees are divided into “groups”, each of which is assigned a portion of the committee’s mandate. For example, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade split into two groups to receive foreign delegations one by one (Minutes of Proceedings, Meeting No. 1, October 8, 1997); the Committee on Official Languages wanted to divide into two groups to travel across Canada (Minutes of Proceedings, February 8, 2005, Meeting No. 15).

[110] For example, during the Second Session of the Thirty-Ninth Parliament, the standing committees on Natural Resources, Canadian Heritage and the Status of Women had no subcommittees.

[111] See, for example, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Minutes of Proceedings, May 10, 2006, Meeting No. 2.

[112] Standing Order 108(1)(a).

[113] For further information on steering committees, see “Organization and Conduct of Business” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[114] Standing Order 113(6).

[115] See, for example, Journals, March 21, 2001, pp. 208-9.

[116] See, for example, Subcommittee on Bill C-28 of the Standing Committee on Finance, Minutes of Proceedings, December 4, 2007, Meeting No. 1.

[117] See, for example, Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Minutes of Proceedings, June 5, 2007, Meeting No. 21. Subcommittees are not empowered to present reports to the House. For further information, see the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Powers”.

[118] See, for example, Legislative Committee on Bill C-30, Minutes of Proceedings, February 6, 2007, Meeting No. 4. Under Standing Order 113(6), legislative committees retain the power to approve arrangements made by their steering committees.

[119] See, for example, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Minutes of Proceedings, June 6, 2002, Meeting No. 88. There is one exception to this rule: under Standing Order 91.1(2), the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs is deemed to have adopted the reports of its Subcommittee on Private Members’ Business recommending that the items listed therein, which it has determined should not be designated non-votable, be considered by the House.

Move Up

 

Each type of committee has its own lifespan. Standing and standing joint committees exist for the length of the parliamentary session, while legislative and special committees cease to exist in the course of a session once they complete the task that the House has entrusted to them. However, two events arising from the parliamentary cycle can interrupt the activities of parliamentary committees: the prorogation and the dissolution of Parliament.

*   Effect of Prorogation and Dissolution on Committees

Prorogation occurs when the Governor General, on the advice of the Prime Minister, issues a proclamation putting an end to a parliamentary session. Dissolution occurs when the Governor General, on the advice of the Prime Minister, issues a proclamation that he or she is putting an end to the current Parliament, which triggers a general election.[120]

In either case, Parliament ceases to sit until the date set for the opening of the next session. Members are thus released from their parliamentary functions. With certain exceptions,[121] uncompleted business from the previous session simply lapses.

Because committees are creations of the House of Commons and have no independent existence, they are directly affected by these parliamentary events. In practice, as soon as Parliament is either prorogued or dissolved, parliamentary committees (with certain exceptions[122]) lose their orders of reference, mandates, powers and members. Quite simply, they cease to exist. As a result, they can neither sit nor report to the House.

Future meetings that have been announced are cancelled. Studies and other activities undertaken by a committee or entrusted to it by the House—whether the consideration of a bill or estimates or the review of a government appointment—are halted. Committee orders, if any, for the appearance of witnesses or the production of papers become null and void. Motions before a committee on which debate has been adjourned lapse, as do all notices of motion received. Draft reports that have not been presented to the House are left in suspense. The only aspect of a committee’s work that survives prorogation is a request for a government response to a report already presented to the House by that committee.[123]

All budgets required for committee operations[124] are frozen once all financial obligations have been paid, and no new financial obligations may be undertaken. Service contracts with non-parliamentary personnel expire automatically, if necessary, five calendar days after prorogation or dissolution.[125]

Committee clerks, who are the administrative and procedural officers of the committees, prepare their committees’ archives for the parliamentary session that has just ended, incorporating into them such items as minutes of proceedings, correspondence and briefs received.

*   Resuming Proceedings in a New Session

Certain specific conditions must be met to continue with a study begun during a previous session or parliament. First, the committee concerned must be re-established. In the case of standing and standing joint committees, this poses no difficulty because their existence is automatically provided for under the Standing Orders. In the case of special[126] and legislative[127] committees, however, the House (with the Senate in the case of a special joint committee) must agree to re‑create them. The same applies to subcommittees: they must be re-established by the House or the main committee concerned.[128] Finally, committees must be constituted, that is, they must be assigned members and a Chair must be chosen.

Standing and standing joint committees that wish to resume a study they initiated themselves can do so by simply adopting a motion to this effect.[129] If the study originally arose from a matter referred to the committee by the House (e.g. a bill, estimates, an appointment), the committee will normally have to wait for the matter to be referred to it again. A legislative committee resumes consideration of a bill when the bill is referred to it once again. In the case of special joint committees and subcommittees, their studies are normally reinstated de facto in the motion that reconstitutes them.[130]

If occasion arises and they consider it appropriate, committees that have the power to do so may re-adopt orders for the appearance of witnesses or the production of papers, in order to reactivate those orders. It is quite common for the House or a committee to adopt an order stating that evidence heard and papers received in a preceding parliamentary session be taken into consideration in the new session.[131] This is normally done in order to complete studies that have not yet been reported on to the House.

During a new parliamentary session, committees can review draft substantive reports left in suspense at the end of the previous session. Some will decide to readopt substantive reports or portions of substantive reports that they presented to the House in a previous session.[132] This applies primarily in the case of standing committees that have been prevented by dissolution from obtaining the government response they had requested to their reports.



[120] For further information on prorogation and dissolution, see Chapter 8, “The Parliamentary Cycle”.

[121] For example, Standing Order 86.1 provides that all items of Private Members’ Business originating in the House of Commons can be continued from one session of a Parliament to the next, in other words, they are automatically returned to the stage they had completed at the time of prorogation. For further information, see Chapter 8, “The Parliamentary Cycle”, and Chapter 21, “Private Members’ Business”.

[122] Standing Order 104(1) provides that the membership of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which is determined at the start of the first session of any Parliament, shall continue from session to session. Nevertheless, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, like any other committee, has no power to sit while the House is prorogued or dissolved.

[123] See Speaker Bosley’s ruling (Debates, June 27, 1986, p. 14969). While a request for a government response to a committee report survives prorogation, it ceases to have effect upon dissolution. A government response is requested pursuant to Standing Order 109. For further information, see “Government Response” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[124] For further information on the various types of budgets that fund committee activities, see “Funding of Activities” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[125] For further information, see the Financial Management and Policy Guide for Committees, prepared by the House of Commons Finance Services.

[126] See, for example, Special Joint Committee on a Code of Conduct in the First Session (1994‑96) and Second Session (1996‑97) of the Thirty-Fifth Parliament (Journals, June 19, 1995, pp. 1801‑2; March 12, 1996, pp. 83‑4). The motion to reconstitute a committee can include budgetary provisions, allocating to the reconstituted committee its predecessor’s unspent balance. See, for example, Journals, May 17, 1991, p. 43.

[127] See, for example, Journals, October 3, 1986, p. 48.

[128] See, for example, Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Minutes of Proceedings, June 6, 2006, Meeting No. 7.

[129] See, for example, Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, Minutes of Proceedings, October 14, 2004, Meeting No. 2.

[130] See, for example, Journals, October 7, 2002, pp. 30‑1, 33‑5; Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Minutes of Proceedings, June 6, 2006, Meeting No. 7.

[131] See, for example, Journals, October 7, 2002, pp. 30‑1, 33‑5; Standing Committee on Finance, Minutes of Proceedings, November 13, 2007, Meeting No. 1 (orders adopted by committees often refer to specific studies).

[132] See, for example, Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, Minutes of Proceedings, May 30, 2006, Meeting No. 3. See also the decision by members of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women to concur in the recommendations of five reports by the Committee that had been presented to the House in the preceding session. They called on the Committee Chair to report these recommendations only (Standing Committee on the Status of Women, Minutes of Proceedings, May 16, 2006, Meeting No. 3).

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The House delegates certain powers to the committees it creates in order that they can carry out their duties and fulfill their mandates. Committees have no powers other than those delegated to them in this way, and cannot assume other powers on their own initiative.

The exercise of their powers is subject to three fundamental rules. First, they can be exercised only on the territory and within the areas of jurisdiction in which the Parliament of Canada is entitled to legislate.[133] Second, committees can invoke these powers only within and for the purposes of the mandate that the House (and the Senate, in the case of joint committees) has entrusted to them.[134] Finally, barring specific instructions from the House, committees are free to decide whether they will exercise the powers granted to them.

*   Committee Powers by Committee Type

Standing Committees

The Standing Orders set out the powers held by standing committees.[135] Each is given the power to examine and enquire into all such matters as the House may refer to it, to report from time to time and to print a brief appendix to any report, after the signature of the Chair, containing such opinions or recommendations, dissenting from the report or supplementary to it, as may be proposed by committee members. Except when the House orders otherwise, committees are also authorized to send for persons, papers and records, to meet either when the House is sitting or when it stands adjourned, to meet jointly with other standing committees, to print from day to day such papers and evidence as may be ordered by them, and to delegate powers to subcommittees (except the power to report directly to the House).

*   To Examine and Enquire into All Such Matters as the House May Refer to Them

The House gives its standing committees a general power to examine all matters that it may refer to them or that may fall within their mandate and thus stand permanently referred to them.[136] In the absence of specific instructions from the House, it is up to each committee to define the exact nature and scope of the studies it will undertake or that have been entrusted to it. In concrete terms, standing committees exercise this power when they adopt a motion to conduct a particular study[137] and when they meet for this purpose.

*   To Send for Persons

Standing committees often need the collaboration, expertise and knowledge of a variety of individuals to assist them in their studies and investigations. Usually these persons appear willingly before committees when invited to do so. But situations may arise where an individual does not agree to appear and give evidence. If the committee considers that this evidence is essential to its study, it has the power to summon such a person to appear.[138]

A committee exercises this power by adopting a motion to summon one or more individuals to appear before it at a set date, time and location.[139] The summons, signed by the Chair of the committee, is served on each of the individuals by a bailiff. It states the name of the committee concerned, the matter for which the appearance is required, the authority under which it is ordered, and the date and location of the appearance. It also orders the witness to be available from the time of the appearance until duly released by the committee.

The Standing Orders place no explicit limitation on this power. In theory, it applies to any person[140] on Canadian soil.[141] In the unusual case of a person in prison, a committee has presented a report to the House in which it recommended that the Speaker issue a warrant ordering the persons and institutions responsible for the inmate’s detention to bring him before the committee at a set date and time. Once the report had been concurred in by the House, the Speaker issued the warrant.[142]

In practice, certain limitations are recognized on the power to order individuals to appear. Because committee powers do not extend outside Canadian territory, a committee cannot summon a person who is in another country.[143] The Sovereign (whether in Canada or abroad), the Governor General and the provincial lieutenant-governors are also exempt from such a summons.[144]

This applies, as well, to parliamentarians belonging to other Canadian legislatures, because each of these assemblies, like the House of Commons, has the parliamentary privilege of controlling the attendance of its members and any matters affecting them. The same logic explains why a standing committee cannot order a Member of the House of Commons or a Senator to appear. At issue in all these examples is the power to order someone to appear; nothing prevents such individuals from appearing voluntarily before a committee following a simple invitation, apart from the obligation incumbent upon some of them to obtain leave from the House to which they belong.[145]

There is no specific rule governing voluntary appearances by Members of the House of Commons before parliamentary committees. They may appear before a committee if they wish and have been invited. If a Member of the House refuses an invitation to appear before a standing committee and the committee decides that such an appearance is necessary, it may so report to the House,[146] and it will be up to the House to decide what measures should be taken.

If a standing committee wants to request formally that a Senator appear before it, it must obtain the leave of the House of Commons.[147] If the House agrees with the committee, it sends the Senate a message requesting that the Senator appear before the committee.[148] Under the Rules of the Senate, however, even if the Upper House acquiesces to the request of a Commons’ committee to have a Senator appear before it, that Senator need not do so unless he or she thinks fit.[149] At all times, the Rules of the Senate allow Senators to appear of their own free will before committees of the House of Commons without any formal request being sent by the House.[150]

Although they can send for certain persons, standing committees do not have the power to punish a failure to comply with their orders in this regard. Only the House of Commons has the disciplinary powers needed to deal with this type of offence.[151] If a witness refuses to appear, or does not appear, as ordered, the committee’s recourse is to report the matter to the House.[152] Once seized with the matter, the House takes the measures that it considers appropriate.[153]

*   To Send for Papers and Records

The Standing Orders state that standing committees have the power to order the production of papers and records, another privilege rooted in the Constitution that is delegated by the House. In carrying out their responsibility to conduct studies and inquiries, standing committees often have to rely on a wide array of papers to aid them in their work. Such papers, understood to mean written material or items which serve as evidence, information or testimony, may include reports, briefs, notes, statistics, agreements, surveys, calendars, agendas, booklets, photographs, audio recordings[154] and audio-visual documents.

Committees usually obtain such papers simply by requesting them from their authors or owners. If a request is denied, however, and the standing committee believes that specific papers are essential to its work, it can use its power to order the production of papers by passing a motion to that effect. The motion usually orders the person to whom it is directed to provide the committee with the papers in question by a particular date or deadline.[155]

The Standing Orders do not delimit the power to order the production of papers and records. The result is a broad, absolute power that on the surface appears to be without restriction.[156] There is no limit on the types of papers likely to be requested; the only prerequisite is that the papers exist[157]—in hard copy or electronic format—and that they are located in Canada. They can be papers originating from or in the possession of governments, or papers the authors or owners of which are from the private sector or civil society (individuals, associations, organizations, et cetera).[158]

In practice, standing committees may encounter situations where the authors of or officials responsible for papers refuse to provide them or are willing to provide them only after certain parts have been removed. Public servants and Ministers may sometimes invoke their obligations under certain legislation[159] to justify their position.[160] Companies may be reluctant to release papers which could jeopardize their industrial security[161] or infringe upon their legal obligations, particularly with regard to the protection of personal information. Others have cited solicitor-client privilege in refusing to allow access to legal papers or notices.[162]

These types of situations have absolutely no bearing on the power of committees to order the production of papers and records. No statute or practice diminishes the fullness of that power rooted in House privileges unless there is an explicit legal provision to that effect,[163] or unless the House adopts a specific resolution limiting the power. The House has never set a limit on its power to order the production of papers and records. However, it may not be appropriate to insist on the production of papers and records in all cases.[164]

In cases where the author of or the authority responsible for a record refuses to comply with an order issued by a committee to produce documents, the committee essentially has three options.[165] The first is to accept the reasons and conditions put forward to justify the refusal; the committee members then concede that they will not have access to the record or accept the record with passages deleted. The second is to seek an acceptable compromise with the author or the authority responsible for access to the record.[166] Normally, this entails putting measures in place to ensure that the record is kept confidential while it is being consulted: in camera review, limited and numbered copies, arrangements for disposing of or destroying the copies after the committee meeting, et cetera.[167] The third option is to reject the reasons given for denying access to the record and uphold the order to produce the entire record.

Since committees do not have the disciplinary power to sanction failure to comply with their order to produce records, they can choose to report the situation to the House and request that appropriate measures be taken. Among the options available to the House is to endorse, with or without amendment, the committee’s order to produce records, thus making it a House order.[168] In the past, the House has sometimes found persons failing to comply with an order to produce records guilty of contempt of Parliament. On occasion, it has even exercised its disciplinary powers.[169]

*   To Sit While the House Is Sitting and When It Stands Adjourned

The Standing Orders give standing committees the power to meet when the House is sitting and when the House is adjourned. This allows committees to meet as they see fit during a session of Parliament.[170]

However, two provisions in the Standing Orders set limits on that freedom. First, a standing committee cannot sit at the same time as a legislative committee on a bill emanating from a department or agency whose activities the standing committee is responsible for overseeing.[171] Second, when the bells are sounded to call in the Members to a recorded division in the House, a standing committee must suspend its meeting unless there is unanimous consent of the members of the committee to continue to sit.[172]

In practical terms, committees meeting within the Parliamentary Precinct are limited by the availability of meeting rooms. Committees are given access to meeting rooms by order of priority based on criteria prescribed in the Standing Orders for periods when the House stands adjourned and when the House is sitting.[173] When committees are travelling in Canada, their power to meet is limited to the places and dates delineated in the special travel authorization granted by the House.

*   To Sit Jointly with Other Standing Committees

Standing committees have the power to meet jointly with other standing committees. The Standing Orders do not limit the number of standing committees that can meet together, but joint meetings usually involve only two parliamentary committees.

This power allows a standing committee to meet with another standing committee,[174] and, by extension, a subcommittee,[175] provided the subcommittee has been given this power by the committee under which it operates. It is also possible for two subcommittees in this situation to meet jointly.[176] The ability to meet jointly does not extend to meetings with legislative or special committees or with parliamentary committees of other chambers.[177]

Joint meetings are voluntary and normally deal with matters of interest to the committees involved. The committees should agree on the subject and the terms in advance of the meeting. All House committees are equal; none can compel another to participate in a joint meeting.[178]

Joint meetings usually take place following formal or informal discussions between the committees, and sometimes come about as a result of discussions or correspondence between committee Chairs, often at the direction of the respective committees.[179] On other occasions, a committee officially adopts a motion inviting another committee to a joint meeting for a specific purpose, or both committees adopt a motion to that effect.[180] Each committee is convened separately by its Chair.[181]

In joint meetings, each committee sits and exercises its powers separately from the other committee. The power given to standing committees is the power to meet jointly, not to form a new committee or a new joint entity. Consequently, if decisions are made, they are made by each committee and its members under its own rules. Each committee produces its own minutes of proceedings as if the meeting were a regular meeting. If a report is adopted during a joint meeting, each committee may present to the House a separate report, even though the two reports will be identical.[182]

*   To Print from Day to Day Papers and Evidence as May Be Ordered by Them

The Standing Orders authorize standing committees to publish from day to day such papers and evidence as they may order be printed.[183] It has become the practice to publish the Minutes of Proceedings, the Evidence and reports that committees present to the House from time to time. The publications provide a permanent record of evidence, decisions and conclusions of studies. Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of committee work and are produced and signed by the clerk of the committee. They are the equivalent of the Journals of the House. Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee by the members and by witnesses.[184] Reports to the House, meanwhile, may be short documents under one page in length or far more substantial and separately bound works. All committee publications are published in both official languages.

The Standing Order concerning the power to print reflects the earlier practice of making all these papers available in hard copy. In the past, committees produced a document called Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence that contained the material now provided in two publications: Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence. Reports to the House that were considered too short to merit separate publication used to be included in Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence. In 1994, the House began posting its publications on the Internet. Since September 1998, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence have been available in electronic form only; they are no longer printed. As with reports, they are now available in electronic format on the Parliament of Canada Web site.[185] Committees still have the option, however, of adopting a motion to print key reports which they present to the House.[186]

The power to print has gradually changed and is now, by and large, a power to publish. It has been ruled that the power of a committee to have papers printed also includes the power not to publish.[187]

*   To Report to the House from Time to Time

In order to carry out their roles effectively, committees must be able to convey their findings to the House. The Standing Orders provide standing committees with the power to report to the House from time to time,[188] which is generally interpreted as being as often as they wish. A standing committee exercises that prerogative when its members agree on the subject and wording of a report and it directs the Chair to report to the House, which the Chair then does.[189]

Like all other powers of standing committees, the power to report is limited to issues that fall within their mandate or that have been specifically assigned to them by the House. Every report must identify the authority under which it is presented. In the past, when a committee has gone beyond its order of reference or addressed issues not included in the order, the Speaker of the House has ruled the report or a specific part of the report to be out of order.[190]

There are three broad categories of reports likely to be presented by standing committees: administrative or procedural reports, reports based on an order of reference from the House and substantive reports. Depending on rules and practices, the form, the content and the timeframe for the presentation of reports can vary considerably from category to category.

Administrative and procedural reports are essentially reports in which standing committees ask the House for special permission or additional powers, or those that deal with a matter of privilege or procedure arising from committee proceedings.[191] Most of the time, the decision to report in these cases is made voluntarily and the committee reports at the time it deems fit, unless a deadline has been set by the House.[192]

Reports that are based on an order of reference from the House generally follow a set form depending on the type of study. Most reports in this category are very succinct. For example, reports on estimates simply state whether the committee adopted, reduced or negatived the votes.[193] Such reports must, however, be presented within the period prescribed by the Standing Orders, failing which the estimates are deemed to have been reported.[194] When standing committees study an appointment or proposed appointment, their reports on the matter usually indicate that they considered the appointment and briefly state their opinion on the candidate’s qualifications and abilities.[195] The Standing Orders do not set a deadline for presenting such reports, but they do prescribe a timeframe for committee consideration of appointments or proposed appointments. Reports on the study of bills can be very short or extremely lengthy. If the committee did not amend the bill in the course of its study, the report simply states that the committee studied the proposed legislation and is reporting it without amendment. However, if the committee adopted amendments to the bill, the report provides details of each amendment. The Standing Orders require committees to report any amendment to a public bill.[196] Committees are required to present a report on every private bill referred to them.[197] There is no requirement for standing committees to report on a private Member’s bill referred to them, but the Standing Orders provide that if no report is presented within a certain period, the bill is deemed to have been reported without amendment.[198]

Substantive reports are usually produced when a committee decides to undertake, on its own initiative, a study on an issue within its mandate.[199] From time to time, substantive reports are also produced by committees that wish to make further recommendations to the House on orders of reference (bills, estimates, appointments) in addition to presenting their usual reports.[200] Normally, exercising the power to report in the case of substantive reports is voluntary and done within the timeframe chosen by the committee. The content of substantive reports is determined entirely by the committee. Substantive reports can also be very short, presenting nothing more, for example, than resolutions adopted by the committee,[201] but are often long in cases where the committee has conducted a comprehensive study on a particular subject. A study may give rise to one or more reports, and interim reports may be presented prior to a final report.

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*   To Print a Brief Appendix to Any Report Containing Opinions or Recommendations Dissenting or Supplementary to It

A committee report reflects the opinion of the committee and not that of the individual members. Members of the committee who disagree with the decision of the majority may not present a separate report. There is no provision in the Standing Orders or the practices of the House for presenting minority reports.[202]

Where one or several members of a standing committee are not in agreement with the committee’s report or wish to make supplementary comments, the committee is authorized under the Standing Orders[203] to append such opinions to the report, following the signature of the committee Chair.[204] Committee members may exercise this power by adopting a motion to this effect. The wording of the Standing Orders does not limit the type of report to which such opinions may be appended. As a rule, however, committees authorize such appendices for substantive reports.

Dissenting or supplementary opinions may be presented by any member of a committee,[205] but committees have in some cases restricted this practice to specific Members or political parties.[206] Although committees have the power to append these opinions to their reports, they are not obliged to do so.[207]

In agreeing to append a dissenting or supplementary opinion, the committee will often specify the maximum length of the text (number of pages, font type and size, line spacing),[208] the deadline for submission to the committee clerk (date and time) and the format in which it is to be submitted (in one or both official languages, electronic format).[209]

Committees are not responsible for the content of these opinions. They are not, strictly speaking, part of the report. The authors of these opinions alone are responsible for their content. However, the Speaker has pointed out that, although the committees may have given them carte blanche, the authors must strictly adhere to parliamentary practice, in both the wording and format of supplementary or dissenting opinions.[210]

*   To Delegate to Subcommittees All or Any of Their Powers

The Standing Orders specifically authorize standing committees to delegate to subcommittees all or part of their powers, except for the power to report to the House.[211] There is no limit to the number of subcommittees that can be established by a committee. This power is exercised when a committee adopts a motion to create a subcommittee, giving it a mandate, direction and powers.[212]

Standing Joint Committees

Since a joint committee exists only by order of both Houses, the powers provided to it by the House of Commons can be exercised by the committee only if it is similarly empowered by the Senate.

There are, however, some differences in the powers conferred by the House on standing joint committees, which are the same as those of its standing committees,[213] and those conferred by the Senate. The Rules of the Senate prohibit committees from sitting during a sitting of the Senate and when the Upper House is adjourned for more than a week.[214] Moreover, unlike the House, the Senate does not give its committees the power to hold joint meetings with other standing committees.

Various other powers are, however, conferred by both the Senate and the House of Commons and may be fully exercised by standing joint committees: the power to examine and enquire,[215] the power to send for persons, papers and records, the power to print papers and evidence, the power to report[216] and the power to establish subcommittees.[217] Although the Rules of the Senate do not specifically provide for this, the Upper House does, in practice, allow its committees to append to their reports “comments” from some members.[218]

Legislative Committees

A legislative committee is empowered to examine and enquire into a bill[219] referred to it and to report the same with or without amendments. It is not empowered to present a substantive report concerning the bill,[220] although it may present administrative or procedural reports.[221] A legislative committee may also be created to prepare and bring in a bill.[222]

In examining a bill, a legislative committee may send for officials of government departments, agencies and Crown corporations and other persons whom the committee deems competent in technical matters.[223] It may also send for papers and records, sit while the House is sitting, sit while the House stands adjourned, and print papers and evidence.[224] A legislative committee may also delegate to a subcommittee on agenda and procedure the power to schedule meetings of the committee and to send for witnesses, papers and records, subject to approval by the full committee.[225] A legislative committee does not have the power to sit jointly with other parliamentary committees[226] or to append dissenting or supplementary opinions or recommendations to its reports.

Special Committees

Special committees possess only those powers that are provided to them by the House in the order of reference that establishes them[227] or by subsequent motion. Depending on whether its mandate concerns a particular subject matter or consideration of a bill, a special committee may be given the powers of a standing[228] or legislative[229] committee.

Special Joint Committees

Special joint committees possess only those powers that are provided to them by both Houses in the order of reference establishing them. As a general rule, special joint committees receive the powers of standing committees of the House,[230] but may sometimes receive more limited powers.[231]

Subcommittees

Subcommittees possess only those powers that are conferred on them by the main committees to which they report or by the House, if they are created directly by the House and it has stipulated their powers. For a subcommittee created by a committee or one created by the House for which the House has not identified powers, it is up to the main committee to specify the power(s) it wishes to delegate to the subcommittee. In all cases, the powers conferred on a subcommittee may not exceed those of the main committee that created it nor include powers that the main committee does not possess. Powers may be delegated at one time or at various times. Similarly, a committee may, if necessary, withdraw powers previously conferred on a subcommittee.

The powers that a committee may delegate to subcommittees may be limited by the Standing Orders or by orders of the House. Standing committees may not delegate their power to report to the House.[232] Special committees that have the power to create subcommittees may delegate all their powers, unless the order of reference establishing them includes a restriction in this regard.[233] A legislative committee may only delegate to a subcommittee on agenda and procedure its power to schedule meetings, and to send for witnesses, papers and records, subject to approval by the full committee.[234] It may not, for instance, delegate its power to study and examine the bill under consideration, or to report on it. Standing joint committees may delegate all their powers to subcommittees except the power to report to the House of Commons and the Senate.[235] Special joint committees empowered to create subcommittees may delegate all their powers to them, unless the order of reference establishing them contains restrictions in this regard. For the most part, they may not delegate their power to report to both Houses.[236]

*   Obtaining Additional Powers

If a standing, legislative or special committee requires additional powers, they may be conferred on the committee by an order of the House—by far the most common approach[237]—or by concurrence in a committee report requesting the conferring of those powers.[238] Standing joint and special joint committees may obtain additional powers in the same way, except that authorization must come from both the House and the Senate.[239]

When a subcommittee requires additional powers, it may request them through a report to the main committee.[240] If the powers requested exceed what the main committee may delegate, the main committee may request them through a report to the House or the House may adopt a motion to grant them directly.[241]



[133] In referring to the power to summon persons, papers and records, Bourinot states that the House of Commons and the Senate have such power and may use it “within the limits of their jurisdiction”. See Bourinot, Sir J.G., Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the Dominion of Canada, 4th ed., edited by T.B. Flint, Toronto: Canada Law Book Company, 1916, p. 70.

[134] In 2008, Speaker Milliken observed that “the House has taken great care to define and differentiate the responsibilities of its committees … Inherent in the power the House grants to its committees is the basic principle that each committee will respect its mandate” (Debates, March 14, 2008, p. 4182).

[135] Standing Order 108(1)(a) and (b). Formerly the Standing Orders contained no provisions on the powers of standing committees. Powers were granted in the motion establishing each committee (see, for example, Journals, November 7, 1867, p. 5; April 6, 1868, p. 184; January 12, 1905, p. 9) or, after a list of standing committees was added to the Standing Orders, by a separate motion. Among the powers usually granted were the power to examine any matter that the House might refer to them, the power to report from time to time, and the power to send for persons, papers and records. See, for example, Journals, November 28, 1910, p. 28. In 1965, the Standing Orders were amended to give powers to the standing committees on a permanent basis. In addition to the powers listed above, the power to print from day to day such papers and evidence as the committees might order was included at that time (Journals, June 11, 1965, p. 228). Subsequently the list was extended to include the power to sit while the House is sitting or stands adjourned, to delegate to subcommittees any of their powers except that of reporting directly to the House (Journals, December 20, 1968, pp. 562‑79, in particular p. 575), to sit jointly with other standing committees of the House and to append dissenting or supplementary opinions or recommendations to their reports (Journals, March 26, 1991, pp. 2801‑27, in particular pp. 2819‑20; April 11, 1991, p. 2904; May 23, 1991, pp. 61‑2).

[136] Regarding the power of standing committees to review all matters relating to their general mandate as set out in the Standing Orders, see also Standing Order 108(2).

[137] This may be a separate motion dealing specifically with the study or, for example, a motion to adopt the schedule of future committee business in which the study in question appears. See, for example, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, Minutes of Proceedings, May 11, 2006, Meeting No. 2.

[138] This power, delegated to standing committees by the House, is part of the privileges, rights and immunities which the House of Commons inherited when it was created. They were considered essential to its functions as a legislative body, so that it could investigate, debate and legislate, and are constitutional in origin. For further information, see “Procedural Framework for Committee Activities” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”, and Chapter 3, “Privileges and Immunities”.

[139] This is normally determined by the committee itself, but may be left to the discretion of the committee Chair and clerk. See, for example, Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings, June 13, 2002, Meeting No. 61. Summons may occasionally order a witness to appear no later than a certain date. Prior to the amendment of the Standing Orders in 1994, a certificate had to be filed with the Chair attesting that the evidence of a potential witness was material and important before a summons could be served. Since then, the certificate has no longer been required (Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, June 9, 1994, Issue 16, pp. 3, 7‑8, in particular p. 8; Journals, June 8, 1994, p. 545; June 10, 1994, p. 563).

[140] With respect to the appearance of officials or public servants from other levels of government, see the decision of the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island (AG Canada v. MacPhee et ors., 2003 PESCTD 06). In this decision, Mr. Justice Wayne D. Cheverie found no reason why two officials of the federal Canadian Food Inspection Agency should be exempt from an Order to appear before the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Forests and Environment of Prince Edward Island’s Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Assembly had mandated its Committee to study and investigate the potato wart crisis. As part of its study, the Committee wished to hear from representatives of the Agency.

[141] It is possible that the power of a standing committee could apply to a Canadian non‑resident temporarily in Canada. See May on the subject of foreign or Commonwealth nationals temporarily resident in the United Kingdom (May, T.E., Erskine May’s Treatise on The Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament, 23rd ed., edited by Sir W. McKay, London: LexisNexis UK, 2004, p. 764). See also Lee, D., The Power of Parliamentary Houses to Send for Persons, Papers & Records: A Sourcebook on the Law and Precedent of Parliamentary Subpoena Powers for Canadian and other Houses, Toronto: University of Toronto Press Incorporated, 1999, p. 171. In this sourcebook, Mr. Lee cites a case from the Senate of Canada. In 1904, the Upper House considered a motion to summon a citizen of the United States before the Bar of the Senate for refusing to answer questions before a Senate committee. The motion expressly mentioned the fact that the witness was then in Ottawa. The Speaker of the Senate ruled the motion in order, but it was amended so that the witness was not, in the end, summoned to appear. On occasion, witnesses who are not Canadian citizens, or who do not live in Canada, have appeared voluntarily before a standing committee. See, for example, the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, Minutes of Proceedings, March 1, 2000, Meeting No. 16.

[142] See the First Report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, presented to the House and concurred in on November 27, 2007 (Journals, p. 219). In this instance, the Committee recommended that the Speaker issue any necessary warrants for the appearance of businessman Karlheinz Schreiber, who was at that time in the custody of Ontario’s Correctional Services at the Toronto West Detention Centre. The day before his appearance, he was transferred to the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre. He appeared before the Committee on November 29, 2007 (Minutes of Proceedings, Meeting No. 5). Mr. Schreiber appeared before the Committee again on December 4 (Minutes of Proceedings, Meeting No. 6). While at this meeting, he heard that he had been granted bail. Subsequently, he appeared before the Committee on a number of occasions. The warrant issued by the Speaker for his initial appearance on November 29 called on the authorities to ensure that the witness would be available to appear before the Committee until such time as his presence was no longer required. It provided for Mr. Schreiber’s re-admission to the detention centre immediately after his appearance. See also May, 23rd ed., p. 759; Lee, p. 57; Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 72.

[143] See May, 23rd ed., p. 764.

[144] See Lee, pp. 1‑2. The author explains that the person of the Sovereign is inviolate and that the Sovereign therefore cannot be compelled to attend any court or tribunal in the Realm, including the “High Court of Parliament”.

[145] For an example of the voluntary appearance by parliamentarians belonging to a provincial legislature, see Subcommittee on Fiscal Imbalance of the Standing Committee on Finance, Minutes of Proceedings, March 21, 2005, Meeting No. 7.

[146] For an example of a standing committee reporting the non-appearance of a Member, see the Sixth Report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, presented to the House on March 10, 2008 (Journals, p. 550). The House did not act on the report. Also, in August 2008, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security adopted a resolution to the effect that Maxime Bernier (Beauce) had refused to testify before the Committee. The resolution recommended that the House order the Member to appear before the Committee at a date and time to be set by the Committee. Parliament was dissolved and this resolution could not be presented to the House in the form of a report (Minutes of Proceedings, August 25, 2008, Meeting No. 40).

[147] This can be done by the concurrence of the House in a committee report making such a request, or by special order of the House.

[148] See, for example, Journals, May 9, 1996, pp. 341‑2; Fifth Report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, presented to the House on October 31, 2006 (Journals, pp. 601‑2). In this case, the House did not act on the report and no message was sent to the Senate. For an example where a message was sent to the Senate and the Senate agreed to the request by the House, see Journals, April 9, 1877, pp. 234, 237.

[149] On the other hand, if the request involves a Senate officer, and the Upper House grants leave, the officer must appear before the Commons committee. See Senate Rule 124(2).

[150] Senate Rule 124(4); this rule has been in force since 1979 (Journals of the Senate, November 22, 1979, p. 178; December 4, 1979, p. 216). For an example of a voluntary appearance by a Senator without any message between the two Houses, see Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, Minutes of Proceedings, February 28, 2008, Meeting No. 15.

[151] The disciplinary powers of the House include the power to reprimand a person who is not a Member. They also include the power to suspend or expel Members from the House. For further information, see Chapter 3, “Privileges and Immunities”. For a critical discussion of these powers, see Robert, C. and Armitage, B., “Perjury, Contempt and Privilege: The Coercive Powers of Parliamentary Committees”, Canadian Parliamentary Review, Vol. 30, No. 4, Winter 2007, pp. 29‑36.

[152] See, for example, Journals, April 26, 1878, pp. 218‑20; August 27, 1891, p. 454; September 24, 1891, p. 531; June 7, 1894, p. 242.

[153] In 1891, the Public Accounts Committee reported that André Senécal, the government’s Superintendent of Printing, had disobeyed an order to appear before it. The House adopted a motion ordering him to appear at the Bar of the House. When Mr. Senécal failed to do so, the House ordered that he be taken into the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms. The Sergeant‑at‑Arms was however unable to find him. No other action was taken (Journals, August 27, 1891, p. 454; September 1, 1891, p. 467). In 1894, two witnesses, Mr. Provost and Mr. Larose, did not appear before the Committee on Privileges and Elections as ordered. The Committee reported this and the House adopted a motion ordering them to appear at the Bar of the House. In response to their refusal to obey this order, the House ordered that they be taken into the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms and brought before the Bar. This was done and the witnesses were subsequently released (Journals, June 7, 1894, p. 242; June 11, 1894, p. 289; June 13, 1894, pp. 299‑301).

[154] In 2005, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts ordered that a witness provide a copy of the answering machine tape that he referred to during his testimony. See Minutes of Proceedings, May 2, 2005, Meeting No. 32.

[155] See, for example, Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Minutes of Proceedings, March 20, 2007, Meeting No. 11. In 2003, during its study of Bill C-25, Public Service Labour Relations Act, the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates asked the Privy Council Office for copies of certain papers related to the bill. The Committee did not set a specific deadline for delivery of the papers, but decided to suspend its clause-by-clause consideration of the bill until it received them. See Minutes of Proceedings, April 8, 2003, Meeting No. 29; April 9, 2003, Meeting No. 30.

[156] See comments by the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections (Journals, May 29, 1991, p. 95).

[157] There have been occasions when committees asked organizations to provide, in list or table form, information they were likely to hold. See, for example, Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, January 21, 1987, Issue No. 3, pp. 3-4; Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings, February 19, 2004, Meeting No. 4. For further information on the compilation of information held by a person or organization, see Lee, p. 46.

[158] On the subject of papers from private bodies or individuals, May notes that there is no restriction on the power of committees in that regard provided such papers are relevant to the committee’s work as defined by its order of reference. See May, 23rd ed., p. 757.

[159] For example, federally, the Access to Information Act (R.S. 1985, c. A-1, ss. 13-26) and the Privacy Act (R.S. 1985, c. P-21, ss. 18-28) both contain provisions exempting certain types of records which the government can or must refuse to disclose. In the access to information system, records obtained in confidence from other governments; records which could be injurious to the defence of Canada or any state allied with Canada; records pertaining to industrial secrets; financial, trade and technical information belonging to the government; confidential Cabinet and Privy Council documents are all examples of records the disclosure of which to requestors may or must be denied. In 1973, the government communicated to the House of Commons (Journals, March 15, 1973, p. 187) its vision of the general principles applicable to papers likely to be tabled in the House in response to notices of motion for the production of papers. They were not formally approved by the House, but those principles have been observed ever since. For further information about the principles and exemptions, see Chapter 10, “The Daily Program”.

[160] See, for example, Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings, March 11, 2004, Meeting No. 9.

[161] For an example, see footnote No. 166 in this chapter.

[162] See, for example, Standing Committee on Miscellaneous Estimates, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, April 5, 1984, Issue No. 6, pp. 30-3; May 3, 1984, Issue No. 13, p. 6.

[163] See Lee, p. 185.

[164] In 1991, the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections pointed out, “The House of Commons recognizes that it should not require the production of documents in all cases; considerations of public policy, including national security, foreign relations, and so forth, enter into the decision as to when it is appropriate to order the production of such documents” (Journals, May 29, 1991, p. 95). The House of Commons took note of the Committee’s report and referred it to the Standing Committee on House Management for further study (Journals, June 18, 1991, pp. 216‑7).

[165] A committee can at any time use its power to call witnesses to have the individuals concerned appear before the committee to provide an explanation. See, for example, Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Minutes of Proceedings, March 20, 2007, Meeting No. 11; March 29, 2007, Meeting No. 13.

[166] In its attempt to obtain the financial statements of Canada’s five major meat packers in the course of its study on beef pricing, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri‑Food adopted a motion stating that the financial statements would not be copied for the Committee members, but would be provided to the Office of the Law Clerk and the analyst assigned to the committee by the Library of Parliament. The analyst would review the information and prepare a report to the Committee drafted in such a fashion as to protect specific sensitive business information that could disclose the identity of any person or corporation. The motion also provided for a mechanism for the retention and eventual destruction of the records (Minutes of Proceedings, April 21, 2004, Meeting No. 15). After presenting two reports in the House on the matter (Third Report presented to the House and concurred in on May 6, 2004 (Journals, p. 388); Fourth Report presented to the House on May 13, 2004 (Journals, p. 416)), the Committee reiterated its requests to the meat packers concerned in the new session of Parliament following the dissolution of Parliament which had occurred in the meantime. It then obtained the records requested (Minutes of Proceedings, October 14, 2004, Meeting No. 2).

[167] Following the refusal of the Solicitor General to provide two reports to the Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General, on the grounds of privacy, the Committee reported the matter to the House. Subsequently, a question of privilege was raised by Derek Lee (Scarborough–Rouge River) concerning the Minister’s refusal to provide the reports sought by the Committee. No ruling was delivered as to whether the matter constituted a prima facie breach of privilege, but the issue was referred to the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections. Parliament was prorogued before the Committee had completed its deliberations, but the reference was revived in the next session allowing the Committee to conclude its work. The Committee presented a report which concluded that the Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General had been within its rights to insist on the production of the two reports and recommended that the House order the Solicitor General to comply with the order for production. The House subsequently adopted a motion to that effect, with the proviso that the reports be presented at an in camera meeting of the Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General. See Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, May 29, 1990, Issue No. 39, p. 3; December 4, 1990, Issue No. 56, p. 3; December 18, 1990, Issue No. 57, pp. 4‑6; Journals, December 19, 1990, p. 2508; February 28, 1991, p. 2638, Debates, pp. 17745‑6; Journals, May 17, 1991, p. 42; May 29, 1991, pp. 92‑9; June 18, 1991, pp. 216‑7; Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, June 19, 1991, Issue No. 4, pp. 5‑6.

[168] Beauchesne states, “A committee cannot require an officer of a department of the Government to produce any paper which, according to the rules and practice of the House, it is not usual for the House itself to insist upon being laid before it” (Beauchesne, A., Beauchesne’s Rules & Forms of the House of Commons of Canada, 6th ed., edited by A. Fraser, W.F. Dawson and J.A. Holtby, Toronto: The Carswell Company Limited, 1989, p. 236). One way for a committee to determine whether the House would support it is through a report recommending that the order to produce be upheld. See, for example, the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, presented to the House and concurred in on May 6, 2004 (Journals, p. 388).

[169] In 1891, a witness was summoned to the Bar of the House for refusing to produce documents requested by the Committee on Privileges and Elections. He was questioned and ordered to produce the documents requested (Journals, June 5, 1891, p. 205; June 16, 1891, pp. 211-2). In 2003, three private companies were found guilty of contempt of Parliament for failing to comply with an Order to produce papers from the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food (Third Report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, presented to the House and concurred in on May 6, 2004 (Journals, p. 388)).

[170] For example, committees occasionally meet while the House is in summer recess. See, for example, Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Minutes of Proceedings, July 26, 2007, Meeting No. 61.

[171] Standing Order 115(1), which must be complied with even if a committee meets in a place other than a committee room within the Parliamentary Precinct.

[172] Standing Order 115(5).

[173] Standing Order 115(2), (3) and (4). For further information, see “Times of Meetings and Room Allocation” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[174] See, for example, the joint meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (Minutes of Proceedings, November 22, 2004, Meeting No. 10) with the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food (Minutes of Proceedings, November 22, 2004, Meeting No. 11).

[175] See, for example, the joint meeting between the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (Minutes of Proceedings, April 1, 2003, Meeting No. 27) and its Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Development (Minutes of Proceedings, April 1, 2003, Meeting No. 4).

[176] For example, during the First Session of the Thirty‑Seventh Parliament, the Subcommittee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities (Minutes of Proceedings, May 30, 2001, Meeting No. 6; June 5, 2001, Meeting No. 8; March 19, 2002, Meeting No. 18) and the Subcommittee on Children and Youth at Risk (Minutes of Proceedings, May 30, 2001, Meeting No. 6; June 5, 2001, Meeting No. 7; March 19, 2002, Meeting No. 20), both operating under the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, held three joint meetings.

[177] This has happened, however. See, for example, the joint meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (Minutes of Proceedings, May 8, 2001, Meeting No. 18) and the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. However, the House Committee’s Minutes of Proceedings referred to the meeting as “informal”.

[178] This is true unless the House orders otherwise or a standing committee directs one of its subcommittees to sit jointly with another committee. In 2001, for example, the House adopted an opposition motion ordering the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs “to sit frequently, including joint meetings with ministers and officials of the government and the military” (Journals, October 15, 2001, pp. 708-9). The motion was passed in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

[179] See, for example, the direction given to the Chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women (Minutes of Proceedings, October 26, 2005, Meeting No. 43) for a joint meeting with the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

[180] See, for example, Standing Committee on National Defence, Minutes of Proceedings, May 29, 2007, Meeting No. 55; Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Minutes of Proceedings, May 29, 2007, Meeting No. 58.

[181] See, for example, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Minutes of Proceedings, November 15, 2004, Meeting No. 8, and November 22, 2004, Meeting No. 10; Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, Minutes of Proceedings, November 16, 2004, Meeting No. 8, and November 22, 2004, Meeting No. 11.

[182] In one extraordinary case, two subcommittees of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities met jointly and concurred in a common draft report which they presented to the main committee. Both subcommittees were acting with the consent of the main committee. See the Fourth Report of the Standing Committee, presented to the House on June 12, 2001 (Journals, pp. 533-4).

[183] Standing Order 108(1)(a).

[184] Committees can also append to their Evidence papers which they feel are especially important: a brief to the committee, a preliminary statement from a witness who could not be heard in full, letters or briefing material, and so on. See, for example, Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Minutes of Proceedings, March 22, 2005, Meeting No. 25. For further information, see also “Reporting of Activities and Deliberations” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[185] See the Parliament of Canada Web site at www.parl.gc.ca.

[186] See, for example, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Minutes of Proceedings, February 26, 2008, Meeting No. 17.

[187] See, for example, Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Minutes of Proceedings, May 27, 1999, Meeting No. 146. In that instance, the Committee agreed, while studying a bill amending the provisions of the Criminal Code dealing with flight, to prohibit publication of the testimony given by two witnesses whose case was before the courts.

[188] Standing Order 108(1)(a).

[189] See, for example, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Minutes of Proceedings, February 26, 2008, Meeting No. 17; Journals, February 28, 2008, p. 484.

[190] See, for example, Debates, June 13, 1984, p. 4624; Journals, December 13, 1984, p. 188; December 14, 1984, p. 192, Debates, pp. 1242-3; Debates, February 28, 1985, pp. 2602-3; Journals, May 15, 2008, p. 827, Debates, pp. 5924-5. See also Speaker Milliken’s observations on the matter on March 14, 2008 (Debates, pp. 4181-3) and June 20, 2008 (Debates, pp. 7209-10).

[191] See, for example, the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, presented to the House on February 12, 2008 (Journals, p. 423), and the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, presented to the House on April 14, 2008 (Journals, p. 701).

[192] For example, a standing committee that would like to have more than 60 sitting days to study a private Member’s bill must present a report to that effect to the House within the 60 days, failing which the bill is deemed under the Standing Orders to have been reported without amendment. See Standing Order 97.1(1).

[193] See, for example, the Second Report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, presented to the House on December 3, 2007 (Journals, p. 250).

[194] Standing Order 81(4) and (5). For further information on this subject, see “Estimates” under the section in this chapter entitled “Studies Conducted by Committees”.

[195] Standing Orders 110 to 111.1. See, for example, the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, presented to the House on February 1, 2008 (Journals, p. 371).

[196] Standing Order 75(2).

[197] Standing Order 141(5).

[198] Standing Order 97.1(1).

[199] Substantive reports can also be produced when the House decides to have a committee study a specific subject through a special order of reference, but that is less common. See, for example, Journals, November 2, 2004, pp. 182-3, and the Thirteenth Report of the Standing Committee on Finance, presented to the House on June 9, 2005 (Journals, pp. 857-8).

[200] See, for example, the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, presented to the House on May 31, 2001 (Journals, p. 458). The report was titled “Beyond Bill C-2: A Review of Other Proposals to Reform Employment Insurance”. The report followed an initial report from the Committee on Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and the Employment Insurance (Fishing) Regulations that had been presented to the House on March 23, 2001 (Journals, p. 217).

[201] See, for example, the First Report of the Standing Committee on Finance, presented to the House on November 29, 2007 (Journals, pp. 234-5) and concurred in on February 5, 2008 (Journals, pp. 389-90).

[202] Speaker Parent pointed out in a 1994 ruling: “Regardless of how the media or Members themselves may label such dissent, the House has never recognized or permitted the tabling of minority reports. Speaker Lamoureux twice condemned the idea of minority reports, explaining to the House that what is presented to the House from a committee is a report from the committee, not a report from the majority” (Debates, November 24, 1994, p. 8252).

[203] Standing Order 108(1)(a). Prior to the addition of this provision to the Standing Orders in 1991, only the committee report could be presented to the House, and there was no provision for appending the opinions of those members who differed from the majority (Journals, April 11, 1991, pp. 2905‑32, in particular p. 2924). On occasion, the House did give consent for dissenting opinions to be presented (see, for example, Journals, June 16, 1993, p. 3318, Debates, p. 20921). Although the current wording of the Standing Order restricts its application to standing committees, Speaker Parent has ruled that, unless the House explicitly directs otherwise, the practice of allowing it to apply to special committees as well will be permitted to continue (Debates, November 24, 1994, p. 8252).

[204] On November 16, 1994, Michel Gauthier (Roberval) raised a point of order on the receivability of the report of the Special Joint Committee Reviewing Canada’s Foreign Policy. The dissenting opinions to the report had been printed in a separate volume, and therefore did not immediately follow the Chair’s signature. The Member argued that, in the absence of a decision by the Committee, there was no authority to print the report in that format. Speaker Parent ruled that the report’s format did not contravene the spirit of the Standing Order, but expressed the view that committees should, in future, “ensure by means of explicit and carefully worded motions in keeping with the terms of Standing Order 108(1)(a) that their members are perfectly clear as to the format in which these reports will be presented to the House” (Debates, November 16, 1994, pp. 7859‑62; November 24, 1994, pp. 8252‑3).

[205] Dissenting or supplementary opinions have been presented by government Members and opposition Members alike. See, for example, the Fifth Report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, presented to the House on April 2, 2008 (Journals, p. 630). Dissenting opinions have also been presented by committee Chairs and parliamentary secretaries. See, for example, the Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, presented to the House on April 2, 1998 (Journals, p. 664), and the First Report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, presented to the House on March 23, 1998 (Journals, p. 608).

[206] See, for example, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, Minutes of Proceedings, November 24, 2005, Meeting No. 50. When a committee concurs in a report, the Chair may ask if any members wish to present a dissenting or supplementary opinion. On occasion, the Members or parties that expressed an interest are authorized to submit such opinions. In 2003, a Member raised a question of privilege in the House because the committee of which he was a member had not allowed his supplementary opinion to be appended to a report. The Chair ruled that this was not a prima facie question of privilege, mentioning that committees are the masters of their own proceedings (Debates, June 5, 2003, pp. 6906-7).

[207] Committees have negatived motions to append dissenting opinions. See, for example, Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings, November 25, 1997, Meeting No. 7.

[208] Such opinions are traditionally much shorter than the reports to which they are appended. There have, however, been cases where the opinions were longer than the reports themselves. See, for example, the Fourth Report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, presented to the House on June 22, 2006 (Journals, p. 345) and concurred in on June 6, 2007 (Journals, pp. 1483-5).

[209] See, for example, Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, Minutes of Proceedings, March 13, 2008, Meeting No. 19.

[210] Debates, April 16, 2002, pp. 10462-3.

[211] Standing Order 108(1)(a).

[212] See, for example, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Minutes of Proceedings, November 13, 2007, Meeting No. 1.

[213] Standing Order 108(1)(a). No distinction is made between standing committees of the House and standing joint committees.

[214] Senate Rule 95(2) and (4). In their first report to both Houses, the two standing joint committees usually work around this by recommending that these committees may sit when the Senate is sitting and adjourned. This permission is granted when the Senate concurs in the report. See, for example, the First Report of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament, presented to the Senate on December 4, 2007 (Journals of the Senate, p. 215) and concurred in on December 6, 2007 (Journals of the Senate, p. 243).

[215] Unlike the standing committees of the House of Commons, the majority of Senate committees may not undertake a study of any kind without being specifically mandated by the Senate to do so. In the case of standing joint committees, this authorization to examine and enquire is given when the Senate approves the first report of these committees, which usually pertains to their mandate. The Senate occasionally adopts orders of reference concerning standing joint committees to give them additional mandates, for instance, to examine estimates set out in the votes. See, for example, Journals of the Senate, February 28, 2008, p. 607. Such orders are usually communicated by a message to the House of Commons. See, for example, Journals, February 28, 2008, pp. 489-90.

[216] Senate Rule 90.

[217] Senate Rule 96(4). Logically, these subcommittees may only receive powers that are duly held by standing joint committees.

[218] See the decision of the Speaker of the Senate, Journals of the Senate, December 11, 2002, pp. 412-3; see, for example, the Second Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, presented to the Senate on June 21, 2006 (Journals of the Senate, p. 255).

[219] Usually, only one bill is referred to a given legislative committee. On four occasions, either two related bills were referred to a single legislative committee at once, or a second related bill was referred to a legislative committee already in existence (Journals, September 23, 1985, p. 1015; May 26, 1986, p. 2208; November 25, 1987, p. 1882; May 17, 1990, pp. 1715‑6).

[220] See Speaker Lamoureux’s ruling regarding the reporting of bills, Journals, December 20, 1973, pp. 774‑5.

[221] A legislative committee has reported to the House seeking permission to travel; however, the House did not take action on the report (Journals, February 3, 1988, p. 2130).

[222] Standing Order 68(4) and (5).

[223] Since an amendment to the Standing Orders in 1991, legislative committees are restricted to calling only technical witnesses (Journals, April 11, 1991, pp. 2904‑32, in particular p. 2927). The Standing Orders do not define, however, what constitutes a technical witness. The debates in the House at the time the Standing Orders were amended provide some insight into the rationale for this amendment. At that time, the Government House Leader stated, “When legislation passes at second reading in this House, it has received approval in principle—the principle is approved. The role of the [Legislative] Committee is not to debate again whether the legislation is appropriate in principle, by touring the country and hearing from groups about the principle, but rather to look at all the details” (Debates, April 8, 1991, pp. 19137‑8). The Parliamentary Secretary to the Government Leader also stated, in reference to legislative committees: “Legislative committees will be legislative committees. They will not try to act as standing committees. They will not try to be something they were not designed to be. They will look at technical witnesses and they will meet with them. Technical witnesses may include members of a department, people who work for a department, lawyers who are familiar with the subject area, or interest groups that have a technical response to a bill” (Debates, April 9, 1991, p. 19195). In 2005, the Chair of a legislative committee made a decision on a point of order raised regarding the witnesses the committee may invite to appear. Referring to decisions by the Speaker of the House that confirmed his reluctance to interfere with the proceedings of a legislative committee (see, for example, Debates, March 16, 1993, pp. 17072-3), the Chair ruled that the committee may decide who qualifies as a technical witness able to provide assistance in the consideration of a bill (Legislative Committee on Bill C-38, Evidence, May 30, 2005, Meeting No. 7, p. 1).

[224] Standing Order 113(5).

[225] Standing Order 113(6). Legislative committees were not empowered to create subcommittees when the Standing Orders concerning them were first adopted. The power to create a subcommittee on agenda and procedure was added to the Standing Orders in 1986 (Journals, February 6, 1986, pp. 1644‑66, in particular p. 1659; February 13, 1986, p. 1710).

[226] See, for example, Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Minutes of Proceedings, May 8, 2006, Meeting No. 3.

[227] See, for example, Journals, November 28, 2002, p. 236.

[228] See, for example, Journals, April 8, 2008, pp. 665-7.

[229] See, for example, Journals, October 10, 1990, p. 2094. Special committees mandated to examine bills do not always have the same powers as legislative committees. For example, during the Second Session of the Thirty-Seventh Parliament, the Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs received all the powers conferred on standing committees (Journals, October 7, 2003, pp. 1104-5) in preparation for its consideration of a government bill (Journals, October 21, 2003, pp. 1140-1). This allowed the Committee to present a substantive report before it presented its report on the bill itself. See the Committee’s First and Second Reports, presented to the House on November 6, 2003 (Journals, p. 1248).

[230] See, for example, Journals, November 22, 1991, p. 717.

[231] See, for example, Journals, October 1, 1997, pp. 59-61.

[232] Standing Order 108(1)(a). For an example of partial delegation of powers, see Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Minutes of Proceedings, November 13, 2007, Meeting No. 1. For an example of full delegation (excluding the power to report directly to the House), see Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Minutes of Proceedings, June 6, 2006, Meeting No. 7. The House has on occasion given a subcommittee the power to report directly. See, for example, Journals, April 19, 1993, p. 2796.

[233] When special committees have the same powers as standing committees, they may not delegate to their subcommittees their power to report directly to the House.

[234] Standing Order 113(6).

[235] Standing Order 108(1) and Senate Rule 96(4).

[236] See, for example, Journals, November 18, 1997, pp. 224-6; Journals of the Senate, October 28, 1997, pp. 123-5.

[237] Such orders are often adopted by unanimous consent of the House following negotiation among the parties. For standing committees, see, for example, Journals, March 5, 2008, pp. 513-4. For legislative committees, see, for example, Journals, February 10, 1988, p. 2166. For special committees, see, for example, Journals, April 6, 1990, p. 1511; November 19, 2002, p. 203.

[238] For standing committees, see, for example, Journals, April 24, 1985, p. 506; May 10, 1985, p. 602. For special committees, see, for example, Journals, February 27, 2003, p. 482.

[239] See, for example, Journals, February 25, 1994, p. 206; March 7, 1994, p. 214. Approval may only be required by one House if the other House has already conferred the powers in question. See, for example, Journals of the Senate, February 11, 1992, p. 507, where the Senate authorized television and radio broadcasting of the proceedings of the Special Joint Committee on Conflicts of Interest. The House of Commons, through Standing Order 119.1, had already approved this television and radio broadcasting.

[240] See, for example, Subcommittee on Public Safety and National Security of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Minutes of Proceedings, February 22, 2005, Meeting No. 6; Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Minutes of Proceedings, February 24, 2005, Meeting No. 23.

[241] See, for example, Journals, April 24, 1985, p. 506; May 10, 1985, p. 602; December 5, 1995, p. 2208; June 12, 2003, p. 915.

Move Up

*   Authority to Conduct Studies: Orders of Reference and Instructions

With a few exceptions, all studies conducted by committees are based on an order of reference or instruction from the House of Commons (and the Senate in the case of joint committees).[242] The order of reference is the formal means by which the House mandates a committee to consider a matter or defines the scope of its proceedings. Committees receive orders of reference when they are established and may receive others from time to time. An order of reference may also be given to a subcommittee by its main committee.

The Standing Orders provide orders of reference to standing committees that set out departmental and policy-area responsibilities.[243] The Standing Orders also provide that a certain number of other matters must be referred to committees on a regular basis, namely: reports and other documents tabled in the House pursuant to statute,[244] the estimates,[245] Order-in-Council appointments for non-judicial positions or Officers of Parliament,[246] and bills.[247] In addition to the orders of reference mentioned in the Standing Orders, the House reserves the right to refer other matters to its committees as it deems appropriate.[248]

Depending on the type of business to be referred, the designation of the appropriate parliamentary committee to which the referral is made may be subject to a motion voted on in the House (e.g., referral of a bill) or may simply be stipulated when the item is tabled in the House (e.g., referral of the main estimates, Order-in-Council appointments, documents, and so on).

Once a committee has begun a study, the House may also give it additional direction, known as “instructions”. They are sometimes mandatory, but are usually permissive. A mandatory instruction orders a committee to consider a specific matter or to conduct its study in a particular way.[249] A permissive instruction gives the committee the power to do something that it could not otherwise do, but does not require it to exercise that power. Committees may, if they wish, request an instruction from the House by presenting a report to it.

Committees are bound by their orders of reference or instructions and may not undertake studies or present recommendations to the House that exceed the limits established by the House.[250]

*   Types of Studies Conducted

Legislative Measures

Committees play a central role in the legislative process. On occasion, they can be the driving force behind new legislation when they are mandated to prepare a bill on a specific subject. Moreover, the vast majority of bills that are made into law in Canada are referred to committee for thorough review and possible improvement. Finally, a number of laws stipulate that committees must review them or their application once they have come into force.

*   Bills
Committee Prepares and Brings a Bill

A Minister may present a motion to establish a new committee or to mandate a standing, special or legislative committee to prepare a bill.[251] Such a motion must be considered during Government Orders. If adopted, it becomes an order of reference to the committee. In its report, the committee must recommend the principles, scope and general provisions of the bill. The committee may also, if it deems it appropriate, make specific recommendations regarding the wording of the bill.[252]

Once the committee reports to the House, a Minister may move a motion to concur in the report. The concurrence in the committee report constitutes an order from the House to bring in a bill based on the recommendations of the committee.[253]

A committee has also, on its own initiative, considered a draft bill introduced in the House by the government and reported its observations and comments on it.[254]

Bills Referred to Committee Before or After Second Reading

Pursuant to the Standing Orders, all bills must be considered in committee. The referral of public bills to committee may take place after second reading or before second reading,[255] and the committee in question may be a legislative, standing or special[256] committee. Bills may also be referred to a Committee of the Whole after second reading.[257] On rare occasions, the House has referred bills to joint committees.[258] Private bills must be referred to legislative committees.[259]

When a bill is referred to a committee, the bill itself constitutes the order of reference. Speaker Fraser has ruled on the meaning and scope of that order:

When a bill is referred to a standing or legislative committee of the House, that committee is only empowered to adopt, amend or negative the clauses found in that piece of legislation and to report the bill to the House with or without amendments.[260]

It may happen that the House provides additional instructions following this order of reference, such as, for instance, the instruction to divide the bill.[261]

The committee stage consists primarily of the clause-by-clause, and if necessary, line-by-line and word-by-word, consideration of the bill. It is at this point that Members have the first opportunity to propose amendments to the bill.[262]

Committees that adopt amendments that are procedurally inadmissible risk having these amendments declared null and void by the Speaker of the House at report stage.[263]

*    Order of Consideration

The committee decides when and how it will consider each bill that is referred to it. It also decides when the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill will begin. Before proceeding with this consideration, the Chair of the committee usually calls clause 1 (or clause 2, if clause 1 contains the short title). This allows committee members to hold a general debate, hear witnesses, and question them. Usually, in the case of a government bill, the committee first hears testimony from the Minister responsible for the legislation, or from his or her Parliamentary Secretary. The Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary, often accompanied by the responsible public servants, then explains the provisions of the bill[264] to the members. In the case of a private Member’s bill, the Member who sponsored the bill will usually be the committee’s first witness. If they wish, the members of the committee then hear comments from groups or individuals interested in the bill. Some committees ask the Minister responsible (or the Parliamentary Secretary) or the Member sponsoring the legislation to come back and testify at the end of the committee’s hearings.

The period of time devoted to the consideration of the bill is determined by the committee but it can be circumscribed or restricted by various factors: the obligation to report the bill within a prescribed time, pursuant to a special order of the House or to a time allocation motion, or due to limits the committee has placed upon itself by adopting motions to that effect.[265] In the latter case, it may be a question of limiting the overall time the committee will spend on the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, the time allocated for debate on each clause and amendment, the time allocated for each intervention by members on the matters broached by the committee, or a combination of any of these.[266]

Normally, there is no requirement to give notice of amendments moved at committee stage.[267] However, to ensure an orderly and comprehensive consideration of a bill, a committee may adopt a motion requiring that Members submit their amendments to the committee clerk before the beginning of the clause-by-clause consideration; such a motion does not prevent the tabling of amendments once clause-by-clause consideration has begun, unless the committee decides otherwise.[268] The legislative clerk arranges the amendments in a package in the order in which they appear in the bill. When there is sufficient time, and if the committee agrees, the package can be circulated in advance of the clause-by-clause consideration meeting, ensuring that all members of the committee may see the amendments that their colleagues wish to make to the bill.

When a committee studies a bill, the Standing Orders state that consideration of the preamble of the bill, if any, is postponed to the very end of the process, as is consideration of the first clause if it contains only the short title.[269] The rest of the clauses will be considered one by one in the order they appear in the bill. Some clauses may be “stood”, which means that the committee has decided, for specific reasons, to postpone consideration of these clauses until later in the process.[270] Clause-by-clause consideration of the bill is carried out in the following order:

*      clauses;

*      clauses allowed to stand (if any);

*      schedules;

*      clause 1 (short title, if any);

*      preamble (if any); and

*      title of the bill.

Amendments to the bill, if they are moved and deemed admissible by the Chair of the committee, are studied in the order of the lines of the bill they are to modify.[271] They may be submitted in either official language, and must be submitted in writing. The committee may only consider one amendment at a time. Each amendment is debated and voted on by the committee.[272] The committee then votes on the clause be it as amended, or not. It then moves on to the next clause and to the amendments that have been moved to it until all of the clauses of the bill have been considered. Subamendments, subject to debate, may be moved to the amendments.[273] The committee may only consider one subamendment at a time and that subamendment cannot be amended in turn. When a subamendment is moved to an amendment, it is put to a vote first. Another subamendment may then be moved, or the committee may debate the main amendment and vote on it. Moreover, a committee may decide to group a certain number of clauses and vote on them together, such as those that were not the subject of any amendments.[274]

During the clause-by-clause consideration of a government bill, officials from the departments concerned normally remain before a committee as witnesses in order to provide technical explanations of the effect of individual clauses of the bill and the technical implications of proposed amendments.[275] If the committee so decides, they may also be asked to appear during clause-by-clause consideration of a private Member’s bill to provide, insofar as possible, the same type of technical expertise as in the case of government bills. For private Members’ bills, some committees find it useful to request the presence of the bill’s sponsor as an additional witness during clause-by-clause consideration.

*    Reports to the House and Deadlines for Reporting

Once a committee has concluded its consideration of the clauses of a bill, a motion proposing its adoption either as such, or as amended, is proposed. The committee then moves a motion ordering its Chair to report the bill to the House. If the committee has substantially amended the bill, it usually orders that the bill be reprinted for the use of the House at report stage.[276]

The committee must report the bill as a whole. It cannot report sections of the bill separately without having been instructed to do so by the House. The report must not contain any remarks nor recommendations whatsoever,[277] other than the amendments the committee made to the bill.[278] Committees that have the power and the mandate to do so may sometimes decide to present, in addition to the official report on the bill, administrative and procedural reports or substantive reports on matters related to the bill under consideration.[279]

In addition, there are no specific time periods provided in the Standing Orders for the consideration in committee of government bills or private bills. However, the House may, by way of a special order, set a deadline for the presentation of the report.[280] In the case of public bills, the House may also invoke the Standing Orders provisions concerning time allocation.[281]

With regard to private Members’ bills, the Standing Orders provide that the committees to which they are referred have 60 sitting days from the date of the order of reference either to conclude their consideration of the bill and report the bill to the House, with or without amendments; present a report recommending not to proceed further with the bill;[282] or present a report requesting a 30 sitting day extension to conclude the consideration of the bill (only one such extension may be requested).[283] In the latter two cases, the committee must also set out in its report the reasons for its recommendation or request. If the committee does not present its report within the 60 sitting day period, the bill is automatically deemed to have been reported without amendment.[284]

Referral of the Subject Matter of a Bill to a Committee

In the House, the motion for second reading of a bill may be amended so that the bill is not given second reading, but rather that its subject matter is referred to a committee for consideration.[285] The order for second reading of the bill is then discharged, the bill is withdrawn from the Order Paper, and a committee is mandated to study and investigate the subject matter of the bill. By proceeding in this manner, the House signals that it is not ready to legislate on the matter, but considers nonetheless that it should be the subject of consideration by one of its committees. The House may sometimes impose a deadline for the committee’s report.[286] This type of study usually leads to the presentation of substantive reports.[287]

Recommital of a Bill

In the House, the motion for third reading and adoption of a bill may be amended so that the bill in question is referred anew to committee for reconsideration or for the amendment of certain clauses for a specific reason.[288] This can be an opportunity for the committee to add a new clause, or to reconsider clauses or previous amendments. Such a referral is not generally accompanied by mandatory[289] instructions, with the exception of a timeframe for the study and report of the bill. The committee must, however, limit its reconsideration to the parts of the bill specified in the new order of reference, if any.

*   Consideration and Review of Existing Laws

A number of Canadian statutes contain provisions that require their review by a committee once they have come into effect. This review may cover all of the provisions of an act, only some of them, and/or their implementation. Depending on the legislation in question, such a review must normally be done by a committee of the House of Commons or of the Senate, or by a joint committee.[290] It is up to the Houses of Parliament to choose the appropriate committee to carry out the review. It may be an existing committee, or it may be a special committee created for that purpose.

Certain acts require that the review be done continuously as soon as the act is given Royal Assent, or when the whole of the act or some of its parts come into force.[291] Other legislation prescribes that this review must be conducted after a certain period of time following Royal Assent or the coming into force of the act, or at the latest at a specific time, or at set intervals.[292]

The legislation generally provides that the committees charged with such reviews must report their conclusions and recommendations[293] to Parliament. Normally, no other instructions are set out in the legislation, with the exception of a time limit for the report. The legislation normally allows Parliament to extend that deadline or set another one. Committees that believe that they will not be able to meet these deadlines may request an extension by presenting a report to that effect to the House, and the report must then be adopted by the House. They may also obtain this authorization directly through a special order of the House.[294]

In the case of legislation that requires continuous review, the House usually includes this task in the mandates of certain standing committees, which are set out in the Standing Orders.[295] As for laws that require periodic review or review at a specific time, the House entrusts this work to the appropriate committee through an order of reference.[296]

*   Review for the Purpose of Approving or Rejecting/Revoking Delegated Legislation Emanating from an Existing Act

Certain acts adopted by Parliament entrust committees of the House with a role in the review, approval or rejection/revocation of delegated legislation made pursuant to Canadian laws. This delegated legislation may consist of regulations, decrees, various administrative rules and regulations which can be made by Ministers, departments, boards, commissions or other organizations.

For instance, the Statutory Instruments Act mandates a parliamentary committee to review statutory instruments made after December 31, 1971.[297] In concrete terms, this role is played by the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations. The Act states that this Committee may present a report to the Senate and the House of Commons containing a resolution to revoke all or a portion of a statutory instrument, which is done when the Committee considers that it does not comply with the intent of the act pursuant to which it was enacted. The resolution contained in the report is deemed to have been moved and carried at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment on the 15th sitting day following the presentation of the report, unless a Minister has in the meantime submitted a notice of motion to the effect that the resolution not be adopted. In that case, the Minister’s motion is debated and a decision is made by the House.[298]

For its part, the User Fees Act obliges any regulatory organization that wishes to set or increase its user fees, or broaden or extend the period of their application, to table a proposal to that effect before each House of Parliament.[299] When the proposal is tabled, it is deemed referred to the appropriate standing committee in one or the other House of Parliament,[300] which may then review it.[301] The Act provides that the committee in question may present a report setting out its recommendations as to the appropriate fees. This report must be presented within the 20 sitting days following the tabling of the proposal, failing which a report recommending the approval of the proposed user fees is deemed to have been presented by the committee at the end of the period.[302] If the committee does present a report, the Act provides that the House of Parliament concerned may approve, reject or amend its recommendations.[303]

Subject Matter Studies

From time to time the House refers to its committees the consideration of specific matters for more in-depth study.[304] These orders of reference may include an obligation to report and the imposition of time limits within which the committees must complete the study and/or report.

The standing committees may themselves initiate, without first obtaining the prior approval of the House, any study they feel it advisable to undertake,[305] insofar as it falls within the mandate provided to them by the Standing Orders.[306] The committees then undertake to define the nature and scope of the study, to determine how much time they will devote to it and whether or not they will report their observations and recommendations to the House. These studies represent a large part of the work done by committees and the reports they present to the House.[307]

Moreover, on an almost daily basis, the House refers to its committees a large number of reports and documents that are tabled in the House of Commons.[308] These are tabled by Ministers of the Crown or the Speaker of the House pursuant to the laws of Canada and are, pursuant to the Standing Orders, referred “on a permanent basis” to the relevant standing committees.[309] These can be, for instance, the annual reports of departments and federal government organizations on access to information and privacy protection, reports on the implementation of a given law, or draft regulations or instructions from the Governor in Council.[310] The committees are free to decide whether or not to examine these documents or to initiate a study based on the information they contain.

Estimates

The main estimates are the government’s projected spending for the coming fiscal year, broken down by department and program.[311] The estimates are presented as a series of numbered budgetary items or “votes”, each of which indicates the amount of money required by the government for a program or activity. Normally, a single vote in the main estimates covers a total spending category, such as departmental operations or capital costs, and summarizes all the planned activity or program expenditures for the department or agency in that category. Where additional funds are required, or where the reallocation of already appropriated funds is necessary, during a fiscal year, the government tables supplementary estimates.[312]

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*   Reference to Committee and Timeline for Reporting

The Standing Orders provide for detailed consideration of the estimates, both main and supplementary, by standing committees.[313] When the estimates are tabled in the House, each standing committee receives an order of reference for those departmental and agency votes which relate to its mandate.[314] The orders of reference are recorded in the Journals of the House.

The main estimates for the coming fiscal year are required to be tabled in the House and referred to standing committees by no later than March 1 of each year.[315] The Standing Orders do not oblige committees to consider the main estimates. When a committee chooses to study and report on the estimates, however, it must report them no later than May 31 of the fiscal year to which they apply. If a committee has not reported the estimates by that date, it is deemed to have done so, whether it has actually considered them or not.[316]

The Leader of the Opposition may, not later than the third sitting day prior to May 31, give notice of motion to extend the reporting deadline respecting committee consideration of the main estimates of a named department or agency.[317] The motion is deemed adopted when the House considers items under “Motions” during Routine Proceedings on the last sitting day before May 31. A committee studying the main estimates of the department or agency affected by the extension must report, or will be deemed to have reported, no later than the ordinary hour of daily adjournment, on the earlier of either 10 sitting days after the adoption of the extension motion or the sitting day prior to the final allotted day in that supply period.[318]

The Standing Orders further provide that the Leader of the Opposition may, not later than May 1, in consultation with the leaders of the other opposition parties, give notice of a motion to refer consideration of the main estimates of no more than two named departments or agencies to a Committee of the Whole. The motion is deemed to be adopted on the expiry of the 48-hour notice period. When the motion is adopted, the estimates in question are deemed withdrawn from the standing committees to which they had initially been referred when the main estimates were tabled.[319] This applies even if the committees had already begun their consideration of the estimates in question.[320]

While considering the main estimates, committees are also empowered to consider expenditure plans and priorities in future years for the departments and agencies.[321] The plans and priorities are set out in reports published each year at the end of February or in March, after the main estimates are tabled. They are tabled in the House of Commons by the President of the Treasury Board, on behalf of the Ministers responsible for the departments and agencies concerned.[322] The reports on plans and priorities essentially set out the future objectives of the department or agency and its plan for achieving them. The Standing Orders provide that if a standing committee wishes to present a report dealing with those plans and priorities, it must do so no later than the final sitting day in June.[323]

In their analysis of the estimates, committees may also refer to departmental performance reports, which are published in November each year and tabled in the House by the President of the Treasury Board.[324] These reports set out the objectives for a specific department or agency and the progress made on achieving those objectives.

A committee to which supplementary estimates are referred during a fiscal year may decide whether or not to consider them. The Standing Orders provide that if the committee decides to consider the estimates and report on them, the report must be presented not later than the third sitting day before the earlier of the final sitting day or the final allotted day in the current supply period. As with the main estimates, if a committee has not reported within the prescribed time, it is deemed to have reported.[325]

*   Consideration in Committee

When a standing committee examines estimates, it is free to arrange its own proceedings. Ordinarily, committees find it convenient to examine the votes assigned to them in groups, which will usually consist of a number of votes under one heading in the main or supplementary estimates. Committees generally begin their examination of the estimates by hearing from the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the activities and programs dealt with in the votes, who is usually accompanied by senior departmental officials.[326] The questions and discussions at these meetings are generally wide-ranging, although the rule of relevance does apply. If committees hold more than one meeting on the estimates, the senior departmental officials normally attend the subsequent meetings. Committees are free to invite the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary to appear again if they judge it necessary.

When the committee has completed its consideration of a vote or group of votes, the committee Chair puts the question on each one separately, in the order in which the votes appear in the main or supplementary estimates. For each vote, the Chair puts the question: “Shall vote [number] carry?”. If it is a vote in the main estimates and interim supply[327] that has previously been voted by the House, the question put is instead: “Shall vote [number] in the amount of $[amount], less the amount of $[amount] granted in interim supply, carry?”.

Each motion may be debated and amended. Amendments may be presented to reduce the amount of an item.[328] An amendment may not increase the amount of a vote because this would infringe the financial prerogative of the Crown.[329] An amendment may also not reduce the amount of a vote to zero, as the proper course is to vote against the motion “Shall the vote carry?”. An amendment that does not relate to the vote under consideration or that attaches a condition or an expression of opinion is also not permitted. It is not permitted to attempt to change the way in which funds are allocated by transferring money from one item to another,[330] or to change the purpose of a grant or the conditions on which it is made. In addition, dollar items and statutory items may not be amended by the committee.[331] When committees have dealt with amendments, they concur in the votes, whether or not they have been reduced, or defeat the motion(s) to concur in the votes.

When this work is completed, the committee adopts a motion instructing the committee Chair to report the votes to the House.[332] The report states that the committee has considered certain votes and is reporting them to the House. If the committee has reduced any of the votes, the report sets out the reductions made.[333] The Speaker of the House has ruled that reports on the estimates may not contain substantive recommendations.[334] Any such recommendations must be made in a report presented separately under the powers and mandate assigned to the committee by the Standing Orders.[335]

*   Initiatives Since 2000

In recent years, a number of committees have presented reports to the House dealing with the need for a more stringent review of the estimates.[336] Initiatives were acted on during these years including the creation, in 2002, of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

This Committee was assigned a mandate that includes the review of the process for considering the estimates and supply and the review of the format and content of estimates documents produced by the government.[337] The Standing Orders also empower the Committee to amend certain votes that have been referred to other standing committees, in coordination with those committees.[338] The votes in question relate to central departments and agencies, the use of new information and communications technologies by the government and operational items across all departments and agencies.

Appointments

The Standing Orders provide for committees to play a role in considering two types of appointments: Order-in-Council appointments by the Governor in Council to non-judicial offices, and appointments of Officers of Parliament. Appointments of Officers of Parliament are generally made by the Governor in Council after ratification by each of the Houses of Parliament.

*   Order-in-Council Appointments

The Standing Orders require that the government table in the House certified copies of all Order-in-Council appointments to non-judicial posts, not later than five sitting days after they have been published in the Canada Gazette.[339] Appointments are effective on the day they are announced by the government, not on the date the Orders in Council are published or tabled in the House. The Standing Orders provide that the certified copies be automatically referred to the standing committee specified at the time of tabling, normally the committee charged with overseeing the organization to which the individual has been appointed.[340] These references are recorded in the Journals of the House.

A Minister may also table a certificate of nomination to a non-judicial post in the House.[341] A certificate is used when an appointment is proposed. Unlike an appointment that is duly made and published in the Canada Gazette, tabling of a certificate in the House is voluntary. Such notices are also referred to the standing committees specified at the time of tabling.

In the case of both an appointment and a proposed appointment, the standing committees to which they are referred have 30 sitting days, following the day of tabling in the House, in which to take up the order of reference.[342] During that period, the committee may call the appointee or nominee to appear before it, for a period not to exceed 10 sitting days.[343] The Standing Orders provide that the committee has 10 sitting days from the sitting day on which the person in question appears before the committee to complete its examination of the appointee or nominee.[344] At the end of the earlier of that period or of the 30‑sitting day period, the committee has no further authority to meet under the order of reference.

On the order of the committee that has received such an order of reference, the clerk requests that the Minister’s office provide the curriculum vitae of the appointee or nominee.[345]

The committees in question have a number of options:

*      To do nothing;[346]

*      To examine and inquire, which may include calling individuals:[347] for example, the appointee or nominee and/or individuals who have held the office in the past and/or individuals who may be able to inform the committee about the requirements of the office;

*      To report to the House.[348]

If the committee decides to call the appointee or nominee to appear, it is limited by the Standing Orders to examining the individual’s qualifications and competence to perform the duties of the office sought.[349] Questioning by members of the committee may be interrupted by the Chair, if they attempt to deal with matters considered irrelevant to the committee’s inquiry. Among the areas usually considered to be outside the scope of the committee’s study are the political affiliation of the appointee or nominee, his or her contributions to political parties, and the nature of the nomination process itself.[350] Any question may be permitted if it can be shown that it relates directly to the appointee’s or nominee’s ability to perform the duties of the office.

If the committee decides to present a report to the House, the report will ordinarily state that the committee has reviewed the appointment or nomination. It will then state whether or not the committee finds the person qualified and competent to perform the duties of the office.[351]

When a committee examines and inquires into an appointment or nomination pursuant to an order of reference by the House, it has no power to revoke the appointment or nomination.[352] The Speaker of the House has ruled that Order-in-Council appointments are the prerogative of the Crown. In 2005, the Speaker ruled:

While the government can be guided by recommendations of a standing committee on the appointment or nomination of an individual, the Speaker cannot compel the government to abide by the committee’s recommendation nor by the House’s decision on these matters.[353]

*   Officers of Parliament

The Standing Orders provide that where the government intends to appoint an Officer of Parliament,[354] the Clerk of the House of Commons, the Parliamentary Librarian or the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, the name of the proposed appointee shall be deemed referred to the appropriate standing committee for consideration.[355] A large majority of these persons are appointed by the Governor in Council after a favourable resolution is adopted by the House of Commons and, in most cases, the Senate.

As in the case of the procedure for appointments by Order in Council and certificates of nomination, a committee that receives an order of reference in relation to the proposed appointment of an Officer of Parliament has no obligation to consider the matter. If the committee chooses to do so, the Standing Orders provide that it has 30 calendar days following the tabling of the document concerning the proposed appointment in the House in which to do so. The options available to the committee are essentially the same: to examine and inquire, which may include calling the proposed appointee to appear before it, and the possibility of presenting a report.

The Standing Orders do not impose an obligation on the government to provide the proposed appointee’s curriculum vitae, but his or her biographical notes are usually tabled in the House when the proposed appointment is referred to committee.[356] In addition, the Standing Orders do not impose specific limits on the scope of the examination when a proposed candidate appears before the committee or on the number of sitting days that may be devoted to the appearance. Apart from the general provision for the 30‑day requirement, there is no provision that the committee’s examination must be completed within 10 sitting days after the proposed appointee appears, as is the case for appointments by Order in Council or certificate of nomination.

Ordinarily, the reports presented pursuant to this type of order of reference state that the committee has examined the proposed appointment and indicate whether or not it recommends that the House approve the appointment.[357] On occasion, some committees have presented more detailed reports,[358] while some standing committees have referred to their powers and mandates under the Standing Orders in presenting additional reports setting out observations on the appointment review process.[359]

The Standing Orders provide that not later than the expiry of the 30‑day period, a notice of motion to ratify the appointment shall be put under Routine Proceedings on the Order Paper, whether or not the committee to which it was referred has examined the matter or reported on it. When the motion is moved, it must be decided without debate or amendment. The House then decides whether or not it accepts the proposed appointment.[360]

Failure of the Government to Respond to Petitions or Written Questions

The Standing Orders provide that petitions tabled in the House by Members must be transmitted immediately to the government. The government must then table a response in the House within 45 calendar days.[361] In the same way, when a Member places a written question on the Order Paper for a Minister of the Crown, the Member may request that the government respond within 45 calendar days.[362]

In both cases, if the government does not respond within the time limit, its failure to do so is deemed referred to the appropriate standing committee.[363] It is not the subject matter of the petition or question that is referred, but simply the government’s failure to respond. The referral occurs on the day the time limit expires; this is noted in the Journals. If the referral involves a written question, the question is officially “designated” on the Order Paper until a response is provided; this allows the Member to place another question on the Order Paper if he or she so wishes.

The committee remains seized with the order of reference even if the response to the petition or written question is tabled within the days immediately following expiry of the time limit. However, a Member who has a designated question on the Order Paper may, when “Questions on the Order Paper” is called during Routine Proceedings, indicate the intention of raising the matter during the Adjournment Proceedings. In that event, the order of reference to the committee is immediately discharged.[364]

The Standing Orders require the Chair of a committee that receives an order of reference involving a petition or written question to convene a meeting of the committee within five sitting days of the referral, to consider the matter. The Chair may also place the matter on the agenda of a previously scheduled meeting, as long as this meeting takes place within the five-day limit. The meeting does not have to be dedicated solely to the referral; committees regularly add this type of order of reference to other items already on the agenda. As a matter of courtesy, the committee clerk informs the office of the Member sponsoring the petition or written question of the date of the meeting where the matter is to be discussed.[365]

Committees have free rein in terms of their own proceedings and in dealing with and disposing of such an order of reference. Among the possible options are:

*      To do nothing and/or deem the matter closed;[366]

*      To defer consideration of the matter to a later meeting;[367]

*      To examine and inquire into the matter, possibly calling witnesses[368] (for example, the sponsoring Member, Ministers or officials responsible either for the department or agency targeted by the petition or question or for the coordination of government responses, and so on). Occasionally a committee will mandate its Chair to write a letter to the individuals and institutions responsible, requesting explanations or voicing the committee’s dissatisfaction.[369] Committees may also decide to adopt a resolution on the matter;[370] and

*      To report to the House.[371]

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[242] In rare cases, a statute of Canada may give a parliamentary committee a specific mandate, specifically naming the committee in question. For example, the Oceans Act (S.C. 1996, c. 31, s. 52(1)) provides that the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans shall review the administration of the Act, within three years after its coming into force.

[243] Standing Order 108. Prior to 1986, standing committees received no general mandate from the Standing Orders. They met and began their work once the House had referred a specific matter to them (Journals, February 6, 1986, pp. 1644‑66, in particular pp. 1660‑2; February 13, 1986, p. 1710).

[244] Standing Order 32(5).

[245] Standing Order 81(4) and (5).

[246] Standing Orders 32(6), 110 and 111.1.

[247] Standing Orders 73(1) to (3) and 141(1).

[248] Such orders of reference are sometimes the result of the adoption of motions moved under Private Members’ Business. See, for example, Journals, April 18, 2007, pp. 1233-5. On one occasion, orders of reference to committees were made further to formal commitments in the Address in Response to the Speech from the Throne, which was adopted by the House (Journals, October 20, 2004, pp. 125-6; November 25, 2004, pp. 260-1).

[249] See, for example, Journals, June 29, 1983, p. 6116.

[250] Committee reports which go beyond the committee’s order of reference have been ruled out of order by Speakers. See, for example, Debates, June 29, 1983, pp. 26943‑4; February 28, 1985, pp. 2602‑3; May 15, 2008, pp. 5924-5.

[251] Standing Order 68(4).

[252] Standing Order 68(5). Since this Standing Order came into force in 1994, two bills have been drafted by a committee. In April 1994, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs received the mandate to prepare and bring in a bill on the readjustment of electoral boundaries (Journals, April 19, 1994, pp. 363-4, 368-70). A few months later, the Committee presented to the House a report including a draft bill (Fifty-First Report, presented to the House on November 25, 1994 (Journals, p. 939)). The second case is the result of the adoption of an opposition motion calling on the government to mandate a committee to prepare a bill on impaired driving. Immediately after this motion was concurred in, by unanimous consent of the House, a Minister moved a motion to have the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights prepare such a bill (Journals, October 30, 1997, pp. 174-5). The Committee presented the draft bill in May 1999 (Twenty-First Report, presented to the House on May 25, 1999 (Journals, p. 1905)).

[253] Standing Order 68(6). As regards the Fifty-First Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in 1994, a motion to concur in the report was debated and adopted during Government Orders (Journals, February 9, 1995, pp. 1107-8; February 14, 1995, pp. 1125-6). Bill C‑69, the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, received first reading on February 16, 1995 (Journals, p. 1141). The House agreed by unanimous consent to hold a brief debate at second reading before referring the bill to committee for clause-by-clause consideration (Journals, February 22, 1995, p. 1162; Debates, February 24, 1995, pp. 9987-92). The Committee reported the bill a few weeks later with amendments (Journals, March 22, 1995, p. 1256). The bill was then passed by the House, but was not passed by the Senate until the end of the session. As to the Twenty-First Report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in 1999, no motion was moved to concur in the report but the government later introduced a bill based on the Committee’s work, Bill C‑82, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving and related matters) (Journals, June 7, 1999, p. 2060). The House agreed by unanimous consent to review all stages of the bill in a single sitting (Journals, June 9, 1999, pp. 2085-6). The bill received Royal Assent shortly thereafter.

[254] On May 3, 2001, the Minister of Health introduced in the House a draft bill on assisted human reproduction (Journals, p. 357). That same day, while appearing before the Standing Committee on Health, the Minister asked the Committee to examine the draft bill (Evidence, May 3, 2001, Meeting No. 13). The Committee examined the draft bill and presented a report to the House on December 12, 2001 (Journals, p. 948). A few months later, the government officially introduced the bill (Journals, May 9, 2002, p. 1395). The bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Health for review (Journals, May 28, 2002, pp. 1437-8). The Committee Chair, Bonnie Brown, wrote about the experience in an article entitled “Committees as Agents of Public Policy: The Standing Committee on Health,” Canadian Parliamentary Review, in collaboration with N. Miller Chenier and S. Norris, Vol. 26, No. 3, Autumn 2003, pp. 4-9.

[255] Standing Order 73(1) and (2). The order of reference is contained in the motion adopted by the House containing the referral to the designated committee. When the House gives second reading to a bill, it approves its principle or scope. The committees are then bound by the decision of the House and they cannot amend the bill in a manner that would run counter to the fundamental principles that have been approved. When bills are referred to a committee before being read a second time, amendments to the scope and principles of that bill are possible at committee stage. For further information, see Chapter 16, “The Legislative Process”.

[256] Standing Order 73(3).

[257] All bills based on supply motions are studied by a Committee of the Whole (Standing Order 73(4)). For further information, see Chapter 19, “Committees of the Whole House”.

[258] Journals, November 16, 1964, p. 876; June 22, 1965, pp. 290‑1; May 31, 1966, p. 594; July 15, 1975, p. 711; March 30, 1993, pp. 2742‑3.

[259] Standing Order 141(1). They may, with unanimous consent, be referred to a Committee of the Whole. See, for example, Journals, February 2, 2007, p. 953.

[260] Debates, April 28, 1992, p. 9801.

[261] In 2001, the House had authorized the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to divide into two parts Bill C‑15, An Act amending the Criminal Code and other Acts, and to report it separately (Journals, September 26, 2001, p. 637). The Committee had then ordered the reprinting of the two new bills C‑15A (An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts) and C‑15B (An Act to amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms Act) for its own use (Fourth Report of the Committee, presented to the House on October 3, 2001 (Journals, p. 686)).

[262] For further information on all of the components that make up a bill as well as on those that may or may not be amended, see Chapter 16, “The Legislative Process”.

[263] The Speaker generally intervenes after Members have drawn his attention to the alleged irregularities. See, for example, Speaker Milliken’s ruling concerning two amendments made in committee to Bill C‑257, An Act to Amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers). The Speaker ruled that these amendments went beyond the scope of the bill and consequently ruled them inadmissible. He then ordered that the bill be reprinted without those amendments (Debates, February 27, 2007, pp. 7386‑7).

[264] Officials are often available during all or a large part of the hearing phase of a government bill in committee to answer technical questions. For further information, see Chapter 16, “The Legislative Process”.

[265] On the obligation to report within a prescribed period, see the next section of this chapter. The requirements related to these orders of the House supersede all rules or limits which committees may give themselves. See, for example, Journals, February 24, 2000, pp. 1018‑9; Legislative Committee on Bill C‑20, Minutes of Proceedings, February 24, 2000, Meeting No. 10. A time allocation motion at committee stage generally allocates a certain number of hours to this stage, so that at the end of the time period prescribed, all questions necessary to dispose of the bill are voted on successively, without further debate. For further information, see Standing Order 78, and Chapter 14, “The Curtailment of Debate”.

[266] One Speaker has ruled that this type of limitation is legitimate if it is approved by the committee. A Member had complained in the House that the committee he was a member of had adopted a rule limiting the number of minutes allocated for Members’ remarks on each amendment (Debates, November 6, 2006, pp. 4755‑6).

[267] Committees sometimes adopt rules to require such notice. See, for example, the Legislative Committee on Bill C‑2, Minutes of Proceedings, May 31, 2006, Meeting No. 17.

[268] Certain committees impose a deadline after which it is no longer possible to submit new amendments. See, for example, the Standing Committee on Health, Minutes of Proceedings, April 14, 2005, Meeting No. 32.

[269] Standing Order 75(1).

[270] The consideration of a clause may be postponed on condition that the clause in question has not already been the subject of an amendment that has been carried or negatived by the committee. However, if the amendment proposal was withdrawn, the consideration of the clause may be postponed. In practice, committees often decide to postpone the consideration of a clause even if an amendment to it was already moved. Committees may also defer the consideration of part of the bill or, in a bundle, of a series of successive clauses. Debate on a motion to postpone consideration of a clause or of a series of clauses must be limited solely to the matter of the postponement and not broach the provisions of the bill or of the clause concerned.

[271] An order of precedence applies when more than one amendment is moved for the same clause. For further information, see Chapter 16, “The Legislative Process”.

[272] A committee may, upon adoption of a motion to that effect, proceed to divide a clause for the purpose of debating the parts of the clause or in order to vote on them separately.

[273] Just as for amendments, admissibility rules apply to subamendments. For further information, see Chapter 16, “The Legislative Process”.

[274] See, for example, Standing Committee on Finance, Minutes of Proceedings, October 4, 2001, Meeting No. 48; Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, Minutes of Proceedings, November 25, 2004, Meeting No. 9.

[275] See, for example, Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Evidence, April 30, 2008, Meeting No. 27.

[276] See, for example, Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Minutes of Proceedings, February 7, 2008, Meeting No. 12.

[277] See Speaker Lamoureux’s ruling, Debates, December 20, 1973, pp. 774‑5.

[278] See, for example, the Fourth Report of the Standing Committee on National Defence, presented to the House on June 17, 2008 (Journals, p. 1000). It has happened that committees have rejected all of the clauses of a bill and have only reported its title or its number. See, for example, the Eighth Report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, presented to the House on April 30, 2007 (Journals, p. 1293).

[279] They are normally presented after the formal report on the bill. They should not be presented pursuant to the order of reference of the bill. For an example of administrative and procedural reports, see the Sixth Report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, presented to the House on April 29, 2008 (Journals, p. 740), wherein the Committee explains why it could not consider some of the clauses of a bill that had been referred to it. For an example of a substantive report, see the Fifth Report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, presented to the House on February 14, 2008 (Journals, p. 443).

[280] See, for example, Journals, October 26, 2007, p. 69.

[281] See, for example, Journals, February 24, 2000, pp. 1018‑9. For further information on time allocation, see Chapter 14, “The Curtailment of Debate”.

[282] See, for example, the Nineteenth Report of the Standing Committee on Finance, presented to the House on November 21, 2005 (Journals, p. 1297).

[283] See, for example, the Fifteenth Report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, presented to the House on April 18, 2007 (Journals, p. 1226).

[284] For further information, see Chapter 21, “Private Members’ Business”.

[285] See, for example, Journals, March 20, 2003, pp. 529‑30.

[286] See, for example, Journals, February 24, 2000, pp. 1023‑4.

[287] See, for example, the Ninth Report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, presented to the House on October 31, 2003 (Journals, p. 1216).

[288] For an example of such an amendment, see Journals, May 2, 2008, p. 758.

[289] See Speaker Milliken’s ruling, Debates, May 8, 2008, p. 5632.

[290] Occasionally, a committee is designated in each of the Houses of Parliament. For example, the Anti-terrorism Act (S.C. 2001, c. 41) was reviewed both by a committee of the House (Journals, May 19, 2006, p. 201) and by a Senate committee (Journals of the Senate, May 2, 2006, pp. 83‑4).

[291] See, for example, the Official Languages Act, R.S. 1985 (4th Suppl.), s. 88.

[292] See for example, the Conflict of Interest Act, S.C. 2006, c. 9, ss. 67(1) and (2), which state that a review must be held in the five years following the coming into force of the Act, or the Privacy Act, R.S. 1985, c. P‑21, ss. 75(1) and (2), which state that a review must be held every five years following the coming into force of the Act.

[293] For an example of this type of report, see the Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, presented to the House on March 27, 2007 (Journals, p. 1162). This was a report on the consideration of the provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act and related matters. Normally the committees are empowered solely to make recommendations; it is up to the government to consider the recommendations and, if it deems it advisable, to take the initiative of introducing a bill to amend existing legislation.

[294] See, for example, Journals, February 23, 2007, p. 1066.

[295] See, for example, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (R.S. 1985, c. 24 (4th Suppl.), s. 9), and the mandate of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in Standing Order 108(3)(b).

[296] See, for example, Journals, June 4, 2002, p. 1470; April 25, 2006, pp. 60‑1.

[297] Statutory Instruments Act, R.S. 1985, c. S‑22, ss. 19 and 19.1.

[298] If the motion repealing the statutory instrument is adopted (whether it was deemed adopted or whether the House defeated a Minister’s motion), the authority vested with the power of making regulations (usually the Governor in Council) must repeal the irregular provisions within 30 days following the adoption of the motion. For further information, see Chapter 17, “Delegated Legislation”.

[299] User Fees Act, S.C. 2004, c. 6, s. 4(2). “User fee” means a fee, charge or levy for a product regulatory process, authorization, permit or licence, facility, or for a service that is provided only by a regulating authority, that is fixed pursuant to the authority of an Act of Parliament and which results in a direct benefit or advantage to the person paying the fee (s. 2).

[300] User Fees Act, S.C. 2004, c. 6, s. 4(4). See, for example, Journals, March 30, 2007, p. 1196.

[301] See, for example, Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, Minutes of Proceedings, May 19, 2005, Meeting No. 40.

[302] User Fees Act, S.C. 2004, c. 6, s. 6(2). This is recorded in the Journals of the House. See, for example, Journals, March 3, 2008, p. 503.

[303] User Fees Act, S.C. 2004, c. 6, s. 6(1). There is no precedent to date concerning the House of Commons. The Act is silent with regard to the impact of unfavourable recommendations from the committee, should they be concurred in by the House.

[304] See, for example, Journals, February 8, 1994, pp. 132‑4.

[305] Standing Order 108(2). The power to undertake studies on specific matters on their own initiative was granted to standing committees following recommendations of the McGrath Committee (see the Third Report of the Special Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons, June 1985, pp. 18‑9; Journals, February 6, 1986, pp. 1644‑66, in particular pp. 1660‑1; February 13, 1986, p. 1710). For an example of a study initiated by a committee, see the Sixth Report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, presented to the House on February 28, 2008 (Journals, p. 484). This report concerns the mandate of CBC/Radio‑Canada. Standing joint committees must obtain permission to undertake a study from the Senate since the Rules of the Senate do not authorize them to conduct studies on their own initiative.

[306] For further information, see the section in this chapter entitled “Types of Committees and Mandates”. Most standing committees are authorized to study any question relating to the departmental activities and policies set out in their mandate. Moreover, in January 2008, the government stated its intention to table in the House all of the international treaties governed by international law which Canada intended to ratify. For a period of 21 days following their tabling, the government intends to abstain from implementing them in order to allow for parliamentary examination and debate within that timeframe. Although these treaties are not referred to parliamentary committees when they are tabled in the House, and there is no formal procedure concerning them, certain standing committees have used their power to initiate studies on matters pertinent to their mandates in order to conduct studies on some of these treaties and present reports. See, for example, Journals, February 14, 2008, p. 443 (tabling of the treaty); Fourth Report of the Standing Committee on International Trade, presented to the House on April 10, 2008 (Journals, p. 686) (consideration of the matter by a parliamentary committee); tabling and first reading of a treaty implementation bill (Journals, May 5, 2008, p. 763).

[307] During the 2007-08 fiscal year, studies initiated by committees made up approximately 38 percent of the committee hearings, and approximately 39 percent of the reports presented to the House during that period.

[308] Standing Order 32(5). Prior to 1982, committees were unable without a specific order of reference to study a report or other document tabled in the House. In 1982, the referral of these documents became automatic and was made permanent so as not to force the committee to limit its study to a specific period. Currently, few studies are undertaken pursuant to this provision. See, for example, Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings, November 20, 1997, Meeting No. 6.

[309] This is not a real, physical reference. Rather, committees are advised of the reference through an entry to this effect in the Journals. See, for example, Journals, April 7, 2008, p. 657. In the vast majority of cases, the Minister (or the Speaker of the House if he or she tables the document) decides to which standing committee the document will be referred. Sometimes the Standing Orders state that a document must be referred to a specific committee. See, for example, Standing Order 108(3)(a)(vii).

[310] In accordance with Standing Order 153, the Clerk publishes a document at the beginning of each parliamentary session listing all of the reports and documents to be tabled in the House of Commons pursuant to federal legislation.

[311] For further information on the overall estimates process, see Chapter 18, “Financial Procedures”.

[312] Programs whose funding and funding levels are already prescribed by statute are included with the estimates, marked “(S)” or “Statutory”. As these expenditures have already been approved by the passage of the appropriate legislation, they are not referred to committee for examination, but are provided for information purposes only. In addition, supplementary estimates often include what are known as “one dollar items”, which seek an alteration in the existing allocation of funds authorized in the main estimates. The purpose of a dollar item is not to seek new or additional money, but rather to spend money already authorized for a different purpose within a single department or agency. Since these votes are budgetary items, they must have a dollar value. However, because no new funds are requested, the “one dollar” is merely a symbolic amount. Dollar items may be used to transfer funds from one program to another, to write off debts, to adjust loan guarantees, to authorize grants or to amend previous appropriation acts.

[313] Standing Order 81(4) and (5).

[314] See, for example, Journals, February 14, 2008, pp. 441-3 (main estimates); October 30, 2007, pp. 81-3 (supplementary estimates). In practice, Treasury Board determines, based on the mandates of the standing committees, which votes will be sent to which specific committees. Because the supplementary estimates deal only with costs in excess of the amounts provided in the main estimates, this affects only specific departments or agencies that have new or additional expenses. They are therefore referred only to the standing committees affected by the votes contained in them. Moreover, the House may withdraw the consideration of specific votes from a standing committee and assign them to another committee. See, for example, Journals, March 13, 1995, p. 1207.

[315] Standing Order 81(4).

[316] Standing Order 81(4).

[317] Standing Order 81(4)(b). See, for example, Journals, May 30, 2007, p. 1447. Notice must be given during the time specified in Standing Order 54.

[318] Standing Order 81(4)(c). The Standing Orders provide that a report of this nature may be presented at any time during a sitting simply on a point of order raised by the Chair of the committee in question or by a member of the committee acting for the Chair. The House shall then immediately revert to “Presenting Reports from Committees” (Routine Proceedings) (Standing Order 81(4)(d)).

[319] Standing Order 81(4)(a).

[320] For further information, see Chapter 18, “Financial Procedures”.

[321] Standing Order 81(7).

[322] See, for example, Journals, March 31, 2008, pp. 613-7.

[323] Standing Order 81(8).

[324] See, for example, Journals, November 1, 2007, pp. 125-9.

[325] Standing Order 81(5).

[326] See, for example, Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Minutes of Proceedings, November 29, 2007, Meeting No. 4. There is nothing to prevent committees from hearing witnesses from outside the government. There are also no parliamentary rules that would prevent senior departmental officials from appearing prior to the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary.

[327] Interim supply consists of funds approved by Parliament to cover government expenditures for the period from April to June of each fiscal year, pending approval of the main estimates in June. For further information, see Chapter 18, “Financial Procedures”.

[328] The usual wording of an amendment of this nature is: “That vote [number] in the amount of $[amount] be reduced by $[amount] to $[amount]”. When proposing the reduction of a vote, it is necessary to take into account the fact that a part of the total amount may already have been approved by the House in granting interim supply. The amendment will then read: “That vote [number] in the amount of $[amount], less the amount of $[amount] granted in interim supply, be reduced by $[amount] to $[amount]”.

[329] However, the committee could present a report separate from its report on the votes, recommending that the government “consider the advisability” of increasing the amounts allocated to certain programs, services or activities. See, for example, the second report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, presented to the House on May 31, 2006 (Journals, p. 217) and concurred in on June 6, 2006 (Journals, pp. 239-41).

[330] See Speaker Lamoureux’s ruling, Journals, March 24, 1970, pp. 636‑7.

[331] See, for example, Standing Committee on Regional Industrial Expansion, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, May 7, 1986, Issue No. 1, p. 8.

[332] See, for example, Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food, Minutes of Proceedings, March 4, 2008, Meeting No. 19. As long as the report has not been presented to the House, the committee may return to the consideration of the votes, if it so decides. For example, on reconsideration, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration decided to rescind its decisions regarding certain votes that had been referred to it and discharge the order to report those decisions (Minutes of Proceedings, November 15, 2005, Meeting No. 77). As a result, committee members were able to recall the Minister responsible for the votes and question him further at a return appearance. The Committee subsequently voted the credits again and made a fresh order that they be reported to the House.

[333] See, for example, the First Report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, presented to the House on November 29, 2004 (Journals, pp. 268-9).

[334] See Speaker Lamoureux’s rulings, Journals, March 24, 1970, pp. 636‑7; June 18, 1973, pp. 419‑20; and Speaker Jerome’s ruling, Debates, December 10, 1979, p. 2189.

[335] Standing Order 108(2) and (3). See, for example, the Second Report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, presented to the House on May 31, 2006 (Journals, p. 217) and concurred in on June 6, 2006 (Journals, pp. 239-41).

[336] See, for example, the Sixty-Fourth Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House on April 21, 1997 (Journals, p. 1494), entitled “The Business of Supply: Completing the Circle of Control”; the Thirty-Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House on June 15, 2000 (Journals, p. 1883), entitled “Improved Reporting to Parliament Project—Phase 2: Moving Forward”; the First Report of the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons, par. 33-6, presented to the House on June 1, 2001 (Journals, p. 465) and concurred in on October 4, 2001 (Journals, pp. 691-3) pursuant to a Special Order (Journals, October 3, 2001, p. 685); the Fourth Report of the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons, par. 43-6, presented to the House on June 12, 2003 (Journals, p. 915) and concurred in on September 18, 2003 (Journals, p. 995); the Sixth Report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, presented to the House on September 25, 2003 (Journals, pp. 1039-40), entitled “Meaningful Scrutiny: Practical Improvements to the Estimates Process”. For a discussion of the review of estimates and prospects in this area, see Stillborn, J., “Parliamentary Review of Estimates: Initiatives and Prospects”, Canadian Parliamentary Review, Vol. 29, No. 4, Winter 2006‑07, pp. 22-7.

[337] Standing Order 108(3)(c)(vii).

[338] Standing Order 108(3)(c)(v). However, this authority has never been used to date. The requirement for coordination set out in the Standing Order implies that the authority could be exercised by the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates only with the consent of the standing committees to which the estimates had initially been referred. However, the provision is silent as to the form that such coordination might take.

[339] Standing Order 110(1). See, for example, Journals, January 28, 2008, pp. 348-350. In its Third Report, the McGrath Committee recommended that committees review Order‑in‑Council appointments. Standing Orders giving effect to the recommendations were adopted provisionally in 1986 and were made permanent in 1987. The review procedure deals only with non‑judicial appointments. See the Third Report of the Special Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, June 1985, pp. 29‑34; Journals, February 6, 1986, pp. 1644‑66, in particular p. 1664; February 13, 1986, p. 1710; June 3, 1987, pp. 1016‑28; Debates, October 30, 1986, p. 889. In addition, failure to comply with the five‑day rule has occasionally been raised in questions of privilege. For example, in 2004, the Speaker had to remind the government about the requirements. At that time, he ordered that the committees dealing with the Orders in Council which had not been tabled within the time allowed, would have 30 days from the actual date of tabling and not from the date on which the Orders in Council should have been tabled (Debates, March 8, 2004, pp. 1216-8; March 9, 2004, pp. 1259-60).

[340] In practice, it is the government that determines the committee to which the appointment will be referred. The House may decide, by special order, to withdraw the order of reference to a committee and refer the matter to another committee. See, for example, Journals, February 22, 2005, p. 466.

[341] Standing Order 110(2).

[342] Standing Order 110. Where Order‑in‑Council appointments have been withdrawn from certain committees and referred to others, the 30‑day period is deemed to have begun with the adoption of the order of reference to the new committee. See, for example, Debates, October 30, 1986, p. 889.

[343] Standing Order 111(1). In practice, a large majority of committees devote only one meeting to the appearance of an appointee or nominee.

[344] Standing Order 111(3).

[345] Standing Order 111(4). Committees sometimes instruct their clerks to obtain systematically all curricula vitae of appointees or nominees referred to them. See, for example, Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, Minutes of Proceedings, November 7, 2002, Meeting No. 1. The curricula vitae are then distributed to members or made available to them on request.

[346] There is nothing to compel committees to review Order-in-Council appointments or nominations referred to them. See Speaker Fraser’s ruling, Debates, December 11, 1986, p. 1998.

[347] See, for example, Standing Committee on Finance, Minutes of Proceedings, December 5, 2007, Meeting No. 14.

[348] The report should be adopted by the committee within the time allowed by the Standing Orders for the review of the appointment or nomination. On occasion, at the conclusion of their review, committees have simply adopted resolutions without reporting to the House. In some cases, these were motions in which they stated their support for the nominee or appointee and declared that they were concluding their review. See, for example, Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, Minutes of Proceedings, March 22, 2005, Meeting No. 25.

[349] Standing Order 111(2).

[350] See, for example, Standing Committee on Government Operations, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, November 27, 1986, Issue No. 4, pp. 4‑7; Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, February 13, 1997, Issue No. 6, p. 2. See also Speaker Fraser’s ruling, Debates, December 11, 1986, p. 1998. Members have sometimes raised questions of privilege in the House because some of their questions in committee were ruled inadmissible. Each time, the Speaker has refused to intervene and has reiterated that committees are masters of their own procedure and decisions of committee Chairs may be appealed to committee members (Debates, April 18, 2002, pp. 10539‑40; January 30, 2007, pp. 6174-5).

[351] See, for example, the Third Report of the Committee on Canadian Heritage, presented to the House of Commons on February 1, 2008 (Journals, p. 372).

[352] An act of Canada may provide for examination by a parliamentary committee of an appointment to a particular office. In certain cases, the act may even assign a decision‑making role to the parliamentary committee in approving or rejecting the appointment. See, for example, the Director of Public Prosecutions Act (S.C. 2006, c. 9, s. 4(4) and (5)), which requires that the Attorney General refer the appointment of another candidate for the position of Director of Public Prosecutions if the committee to which the initial appointment was referred does not give its approval. These examinations are conducted in accordance with the provisions of the Act and any other provisions ordered by the House, and not the process for examination of appointments and nominations provided by the Standing Orders. Committees may be required to examine the nomination and report within a certain time (see, for example, Journals, March 3, 2008, pp. 499-501).

[353] Debates, May 3, 2005, pp. 5547-8. A Member had raised a question of privilege regarding the fact that the government had disregarded the opinion of a standing committee and the House concerning an appointment to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. See the Fourth Report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, presented to the House on March 24, 2005 (Journals, p. 564) and concurred in on April 6, 2005 (Journals, pp. 583-4).

[354] The Standing Orders do not define “Officer of Parliament”. The First Report of the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons defined them as persons who report to Parliament and are usually appointed in some way by the House of Commons and Senate. See par. 42 of the report, presented to the House on June 1, 2001 (Journals, p. 465) and concurred in on October 4, 2001 (Journals, pp. 691-3) pursuant to a Special Order (Journals, October 3, 2001, p. 685). They include the following: the Auditor General, the Chief Electoral Officer (Officer of the House of Commons only), the Commissioner of Official Languages, the Information Commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner (Officer of the House of Commons only; the Commissioner is referred to in the Standing Orders), the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner and the Commissioner of Lobbying. The Standing Order relating to Officers of Parliament has been used (Journals, March 31, 2004, pp. 245-6) for the President of the Public Service Commission, although this person does not report directly to Parliament, and the appointment need not be approved by the House of Commons or Senate.

[355] Standing Order 111.1. In practice, it is the government that determines the committee to which the proposed appointment will be referred. See, for example, Journals, June 12, 2007, p. 1507. This procedure was suggested by the members of the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons, who thought it advisable to codify what was then the recent practice of having a nominee for a position as an Officer of Parliament appear before a committee of the House before the House approved the appointment. See par. 42-4 of the First Report of the Committee, presented to the House on June 1, 2001 (Journals, p. 465) and concurred in on October 4, 2001 (Journals, pp. 691-693) pursuant to a Special Order (Journals, October 3, 2001, p. 685). The reference to the Ethics Commissioner in the Standing Orders was added in 2004 when the House concurred in a report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (Twenty-Fifth Report, presented to the House on April 27, 2004 (Journals, p. 319) and concurred in on April 29, 2004 (Journals, p. 349)).

[356] See, for example, Journals, February 9, 2007, p. 987.

[357] See, for example, the Thirty-Fifth Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House on February 21, 2007 (Journals, p. 1042).

[358] See, for example, the Eleventh Report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, presented to the House on November 6, 2003 (Journals, p. 1247). In that Report, the Committee refers to the time constraints and background to its examination of the proposed appointment to the position of Privacy Commissioner that had been referred to it. It describes the qualifications that the proposed appointee should have, and then presents its findings and recommendations.

[359] See, for example, the Twelfth Report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, presented to the House on November 7, 2003 (Journals, p. 1259).

[360] Standing Order 111.1(2). The Standing Orders are silent as to potential conflicts that could arise in the event that a committee’s report on a proposed appointment were to be concurred in by the House before the motion to ratify the appointment was formally moved.

[361] Standing Order 36, in particular 36(8)(a).

[362] Standing Order 39, in particular 39(5)(a).

[363] Standing Orders 36(8)(b) and 39(5)(b). See, for example, Journals, April 19, 2004, p. 273 (petition) and September 18, 2006, p. 392 (written question). It is the Member who tabled the petition or placed the written question on the Order Paper who decides to which committee the matter should be referred. Usually it is referred to the committee whose mandate corresponds most closely to the subject matter of the petition or question. With regard to written questions, this rule was adopted in 2001 following concurrence in the First Report of the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons (par. 17‑8, presented to the House on June 1, 2001 (Journals, p. 465), and concurred in on October 4, 2001 (Journals, pp. 691‑3), following a Special Order (Journals, October 3, 2001, p. 685)). In the Committee’s Fourth Report, two years later, its members noted that the rule on written questions had had a salutary effect, and encouraged the government to comply with the timelines in the Standing Orders. They proposed a similar procedure for government responses to petitions. See the Fourth Report of the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons, par. 40, presented to the House on June 12, 2003 (Journals, p. 915) and concurred in on September 18, 2003 (Journals, p. 995). The rule came into force provisionally with concurrence in the Fourth Report. It became permanent with the concurrence in the Eleventh Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (Journals, October 29, 2004, pp. 170‑1).

[364] Standing Order 39(5)(b).

[365] The Member may attend the meeting, but this is not necessary for the order of reference to be considered.

[366] This frequently occurs when a committee learns that the government’s response has finally been tabled in the House. See, for example, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Minutes of Proceedings, May 27, 2003, Meeting No. 36.

[367] Many committees choose this option so that they can wait to see whether the government’s response is tabled in the meantime (see, for example, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Minutes of Proceedings, April 27, 2004, Meeting No. 12).

[368] See, for example, Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations, Minutes of Proceedings, January 31, 2002, Meeting No. 47; Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, Minutes of Proceedings, February 3, 2005, Meeting No. 17.

[369] See, for example, Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, Minutes of Proceedings, March 25, 2004, Meeting No. 5.

[370] See, for example, Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, Minutes of Proceedings, February 3, 2005, Meeting No. 17. The Committee adopted a motion expressing its displeasure with a department’s failure to respond within the prescribed number of days, and its intention to revisit the matter if a response was not forthcoming shortly.

[371] To date, no committee has ever reported such an order of reference to the House.

Move Up

 

To ensure the success of their work, committees count on the participation of their key players, in other words, their members. Guidance of the work is mainly in the hands of its leadership, that is the Chair, and the Vice-Chairs, if any. To assist committees in organizing and completing studies and projects, staff from the House of Commons and the Library of Parliament is made available to committees by the administrations of the two institutions.

*   Membership

The number of members varies depending on the type of committee. There are two basic types of members: regular members and, in the case of standing and standing joint committees only, associate members.

Members and Associate Members

*   Status of Members, Associate Members and Non-members

The status of member of a committee is accorded to Members of the House of Commons who belong officially to that committee. This status allows them to participate fully in their committee’s proceedings: members may move motions,[372] vote and be counted for purposes of a quorum.[373] They may also submit notices of motion if their committee requires such notice.

Standing and standing joint committees also have associate members. Associate members may be named to subcommittees and may act as substitutes for regular committee members who are unable to attend a committee meeting. While associate members are serving on subcommittees or as substitutes for regular members, they enjoy all the rights of regular members:[374] they are counted for purposes of a quorum, they may participate in debate, and they may move motions and vote. The use of associate members on subcommittees helps to reduce the workload of regular members.

The Standing Orders provide that any Member—whether affiliated with a political party or sitting as an independent—may participate in the public proceedings[375] of any committee, of which he or she is not a member, unless the House or the committee in question orders otherwise. The Standing Orders specifically exclude a non-member from voting, moving motions or being counted for purposes of a quorum.[376]

Committees often adopt sessional orders that govern the granting of the right to speak in cases where witnesses are to be questioned. Consequently, it is rare that a non-member is able to participate in such proceedings. Non-members are occasionally given the right to speak, however, following a decision by a majority of the members present or by unanimous consent.[377]

With the exception of joint committees, the Standing Orders do not provide for the participation of Senators in meetings of committees of the House of Commons.[378]

*   Establishing Committee Membership

Committees cannot take up the responsibilities assigned to them until their members have been named.[379] It is the House, and the House alone, that appoints the members and associate members of its committees, as well as the Members who will represent it on joint committees. The Speaker has ruled that this is a fundamental right of the House.[380] The committees themselves have no powers at all in this regard.[381]

In the vast majority of cases, the House sets the number, or the maximum number, of members for each committee. The number of members to be selected from each of the recognized parties is the subject of negotiation among the parties at the beginning of each Parliament. The resulting informal agreement is not set down in the Standing Orders or anywhere else, but is reflected in the composition of each committee, which generally reflects the proportions of the various recognized parties in the House.

The House has adopted committee membership mechanisms that enable it to rely largely on the recognized political parties to prepare the lists of members and associate members. As a result, an independent Member rarely sits on a committee unless a recognized political party allots him or her one of its seats.[382]

Members may belong to more than one committee, as either regular or associate members. While no rule prevents any Member from being named to a committee, current practice normally excludes those who have other parliamentary functions: the Speaker[383] and the other Chair Occupants,[384] Ministers[385] (including the Prime Minister[386]) and the leaders of recognized parties. Parliamentary Secretaries are normally appointed to the standing committees that have a mandate in their area of responsibility.[387]

For assistance in determining the membership of many of its committees, the House uses its Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs as a striking committee, that is, to prepare lists of members for standing, legislative and sometimes special committees. The lists are then reported to the House for approval. As a result of the Committee’s key role, there is a special procedure for appointing its members. At the start of the first session of a Parliament,[388] the Government House Leader normally moves a motion[389] to appoint the members of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.[390] The 12 members of the Committee continue in this capacity from session to session throughout the life of a Parliament. At its first meeting, the Committee usually decides to delegate to the Whips of the recognized parties the authority to prepare lists of committee members and associate members for proposal to the House.[391]

Standing and Standing Joint Committees

The Standing Orders provide that all but four standing committees shall have 12 members. The exceptions are the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts and the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, which all have 11 members.[392] The Standing Orders do not fix the number of representatives of the Commons on standing joint committees, but they do require the House to appoint enough Members to reflect the proportional relationship between the two Houses of Parliament.[393] This relationship is roughly one-third (Senate) to two-thirds (House of Commons). The number of members on each standing joint committee varies from session to session depending on the number of Senators and Members that the two Houses of Parliament appoint to them.

Within 10 sitting days of its appointment at the beginning of a Parliament, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs must report to the House a list of members for standing committees and of the Members who will sit on standing joint committees. The list must be revised annually within the first 10 sitting days after the summer adjournment, as provided in the House of Commons’ calendar, and again at the beginning of each new session, as long as the Committee presents only one such report between the third Monday in September and December 31.[394]

The list of members of standing committees and standing joint committees takes effect when the House concurs in the report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.[395] Until the report has been concurred in, any previous memberships approved by the House during the session remain in effect.[396]

The Standing Orders also give the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs responsibility for drawing up a list of associate members.[397] They set no limit on the number of associate members per committee. Nor do they set a deadline for presenting the House with a list of associate members. For practical reasons, the Committee usually reports this list to the House at the same time as its list of regular members. Here again, the list of associate members takes effect only when it has been concurred in by the House.[398]

The reports containing the lists of members and/or associate members for standing joint committees always include provision for sending a message to the Senate informing it which Members have been chosen by the House to represent it on those committees.[399]

Legislative Committees

Within five sitting days of the start of debate in the House on a motion to establish a legislative committee or to refer a bill to one, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs must meet to draw up a list of no more than 15 members for the legislative committee.[400] The list must be reported to the House no later than the Thursday following the five days, and the report is deemed concurred in upon presentation.[401] The membership list, which is then in effect, does not include the Chair of the committee, who is named separately by the Speaker.[402]

Special Committees and Special Joint Committees

The Standing Orders provide that special committees shall have no more than 15 members.[403] The membership of special committees may be established in several ways: the order of reference establishing a special committee may include the names of its members;[404] the members may be appointed separately by order of the House;[405] or the order of reference establishing the special committee may contain an instruction to a striking committee or the Whips of the recognized parties to prepare and bring in a list of names of Members.[406] The report from a striking committee must be concurred in by the House for it to come into effect.

In the case of special joint committees, the list of Members who will represent the Commons may be included in the order of reference that establishes the committee.[407] The members may also be appointed later, either by the adoption of a motion of the House[408] or by concurrence in a report from the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.[409] However this is done, the House must inform the Senate which Members will represent it, either by way of a message or by communicating the original order of reference (if it contains the membership list).[410] Unlike special Commons committees, the number of members on special joint committees is not limited; it can be whatever the two Houses prefer. By practice, the number of Members appointed to a special joint committee reflects the relative proportions of the Senate and the House of Commons.

Subcommittees

The membership of a subcommittee is usually determined by the main committee. Members of subcommittees may be named directly as part of the order of reference agreed to by the main committee,[411] but more often the main committee simply states in the order of reference the number of Members per recognized political party who will make up the subcommittee. It lets the Whips designate the Members belonging to their parties who will be regular members of the subcommittee.[412] Once all the Whips have finished their selection, the membership of the subcommittee is complete. In some cases, the main committee will use a combination of these two methods. The House itself may also name the members of a subcommittee.[413]

The members of a subcommittee may be selected from the regular members of the main committee, or from the list of associate members in the case of a subcommittee of a standing or standing joint committee.[414] The House or the main committee ultimately decide the number of members for a given subcommittee; the Standing Orders impose no limit in this regard.[415]

The membership of a subcommittee need not necessarily reflect the proportions of party membership either on the main committee or in the House itself. For example, when committees have agreed to establish subcommittees on agenda and procedure (steering committees), their memberships have varied considerably to suit individual committees’ needs. Typically, the steering committee of a standing committee consists of the main committee’s Chair, its two Vice-Chairs, and a representative of the third opposition party.[416] The steering committee of a legislative committee usually consists of the Chair and a representative of each of the parties.

*   Changes in Membership

Once the House has named the initial membership of its committees, there are no vacancies in positions for members or associate members.[417] Members of the House who are appointed to committees as regular or associate members retain this status until the House, or a mechanism authorized by the House, designates replacements for them (in the case of regular members) or removes them from the list (in the case of associate members). This applies even when Members can no longer carry out their functions on a committee (for example, in the event of a Member’s death or resignation from the House), or no longer wish to do so (for example, because of a change in the portfolio they have been given by their party).[418]

Standing and Standing Joint Committees

When a Member wishes to resign from a standing committee or a standing joint committee, he or she must give notice of this intention to the Chair of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in writing.[419] If the Member belongs to a party, he or she may also inform the party Whip. In the case of Members who die or resign their seats, their party Whip will ensure that the necessary replacements are arranged.

Members who would like to be added to, or removed from, the list of associate members of a given committee inform their Whip, who takes the necessary steps.[420]

Any change to the lists of members and associate members is done via a report to the House by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. In the case of changes to the list of regular members, the report indicates the name(s) of the Member(s) being replaced and the new Member(s) being appointed. If changes are being suggested to the list of associate members, the Committee will report additions to or removals from that list. In all cases, changes take effect when the House concurs in the Committee’s report.[421]

Legislative Committees

Changes in the membership of legislative committees are effected by having a notification of the change signed by the Chief Whip of the appropriate party and filed with the clerk of the committee. The notification indicates the names both of the Member being removed from the committee and of the replacement. Pursuant to the Standing Orders, changes take effect as soon as the committee clerk receives the notification.[422]

Special and Special Joint Committees

Changes in the membership of special committees and in the list of Members sitting on special joint committees are normally done by a special order of the House or using the mechanisms set out in the initial order of reference creating the committee.[423]

Subcommittees

A main committee may modify the membership of one of its subcommittees if it appointed the subcommittee’s members, but not if the House has done so.[424] If the members of the subcommittee were named in the order of reference creating the subcommittee, the main committee must adopt another order providing for the replacement of some members by others. If the initial order of reference left it up to the Whips of the recognized parties to designate members, changes to the membership list may be made by the Whips, who then inform the clerk of the subcommittee.[425] Orders of reference creating a subcommittee often put members of the main committee’s leadership (Chair, Vice-Chairs) on the subcommittee. If other Members assume these leadership functions in the course of the session, they automatically become members of the subcommittee without further formal action.

Substitutions

*   Status of Substitutes

It is generally accepted that Members who have been appointed to a committee are required to attend its meetings.[426] However, this may not be possible on occasion. When members of some types of committee are unable to attend its meetings, they can be replaced by designated substitutes. While a substitution is in effect, the substitute enjoys the same rights and privileges as the regular committee member whom he or she is replacing.[427] Substitutes are counted for purposes of establishing a quorum, and they may move motions (including those of which the member they are replacing has given notice[428]), participate in debate, and vote. Outside of meetings, substitutes may give notice, if the committee requires this, of motions that the member they are replacing, or another substitute for that member, may move at a later meeting.[429]

Substitutes for members who are officers of the committee (for example, its Chair or Vice-Chair) do not, however, assume the prerogatives or responsibilities related to these positions.

At meetings, the very principle of substitution means that it may only occur when the substituted member is absent from the meeting. Thus, a member, such as a Parliamentary Secretary, who is called upon to appear as a witness before a committee of which he or she is a member, cannot be substituted at that meeting, but retains his or her right to participate and vote during the meeting.[430]

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*   Methods of Designating Substitutes
Standing and Standing Joint Committees

The Standing Orders provide for the temporary replacement, by designated substitutes, of members of standing or standing joint committees who are unable to participate in committee business.[431]

Standing committee members, or Members who belong to a standing joint committee, may file with the clerk of their committee a list of the names of not more than 14 Members from their party who can act as substitutes when required. The list is to be filed within five sitting days of the committee’s organization meeting (the meeting of a committee where the members elect a Chair at the beginning of a parliamentary session). Changes to the list may be filed later as required.[432] Notification of replacement by a substitute on the list must be sent by the Member to his or her party’s Chief Whip the day before the meeting when the substitution is to occur. After signing the notice, the Whip forwards it to the clerk of the committee.

If no list of substitutes has been filed with the committee clerk, or if a list has been filed with the clerk but no notice has been received by him or her of a substitution being made from it, the Standing Orders authorize the Chief Whip of any recognized party to initiate a substitution by filing a notice with the committee clerk. For the purpose of substitution, Whips may select any Member belonging to their party.[433] They may also select one of the independent Members, if any, listed as associate members of the committee.[434]

Independent Members who are regular members of a committee can only be substituted on the initiative of the Chief Whip of a recognized party. As an independent Member occupies a spot traditionally reserved for a Member belonging to one of the recognized parties, it is the Chief Whip of the party in question who may submit a notice of substitution for the independent Member.

Ordinarily, substitutions are limited to one day at a time (the day the committee plans to meet). In most cases, a substitution takes effect from the time the committee clerk receives the notice until the end of the meeting or meetings held on the date indicated in the notice, or until the regular member arrives.[435] More than one notice of substitution for the same regular member may be filed successively with the committee clerk on a day when the committee is meeting, in which case the notice received last automatically replaces the one before.

Legislative Committees

The Standing Orders do not provide a mechanism for substitutions on legislative committees. Instead, a member of a legislative committee who is temporarily unable to carry out his or her duties can use the procedure established for changing the membership of a legislative committee: the Member files with the clerk of the committee a notification signed by the Member’s party Whip, indicating the name of the Member who will replace him or her as a regular member of the committee.[436] Should the first Member wish to continue sitting on the committee after the replacement, another notification of the same kind must be filed to reinstate him or her as a member of this committee.

Special and Special Joint Committees

Substitutions are permitted on special committees and special joint committees only where authorized in their order of reference and only in the manner stipulated in that order. The House has permitted substitutions on special committees in a manner similar to that used by standing committees.[437] It has also permitted special committee membership to be changed on signed notification by a Chief Whip, as is done for legislative committees.[438]

Subcommittees

The substitution mechanisms for subcommittees depend on the type of main committee to which they are attached. For example, the members of subcommittees of standing committees and the Members who sit on subcommittees of a standing joint committee may be substituted following the same procedure applicable to their main committee.

Participation by Non-Parliamentarians

In the past, some committees have allowed people who were neither Members of the House nor Senators to participate in certain committee studies. These individuals, who represented groups specifically targeted by the studies, were permitted to put questions to witnesses and participate in deliberations and the drafting of reports. They were not permitted to move motions or vote, nor could they be counted for purposes of a quorum.[439]

*   Chairs, Vice-Chairs and Acting Chairs

Roles of Chairs, Vice-Chairs and Acting Chairs

*   Role of Chairs

The Chair is a key figure on any committee.[440] Chairs are so important that when a committee does not have one, it is not considered properly constituted. It can undertake no work or other activities, and cannot exercise any of its powers.

Committee Chairs have procedural, administrative and representative responsibilities.

Procedural Responsibilities

Chairs preside over committee meetings and oversee committee work. They recognize the Members, witnesses and other people who wish to speak at these meetings; as in the House, all remarks are addressed to the Chair. They ensure that any rules established by the committee, including those on the apportioning of speaking time, are respected. They are responsible for maintaining order and decorum in committee proceedings, and rule on any procedural matter that arises, subject to an appeal to the committee.[441]

As the presiding officer of the committee, the Chair does not move motions. Furthermore, the Chair does not vote, except in two situations: when a committee is considering a private bill, the Chair may vote together with other members of the committee; and, when there is an equality of voices (a tie), the Chair has the casting vote.[442]

Administrative Responsibilities

Committee Chairs have considerable administrative responsibilities, starting with those involving the committee’s program of activities. In compliance with instructions from the committee or an order from the House, the Chair:

*      calls committee meetings;

*      decides on the agendas for the meeting;

*      cancels scheduled meetings or modifies agendas if an unexpected development makes this necessary and there is no committee meeting before the meeting that needed to be cancelled or have its agenda modified;[443]

*      usually presides over the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure, if there is one; and

*      works closely with committee staff to ensure that the committee’s work goals are achieved.

Chairs are also key figures in a committee’s financial administration. They:

*      submit budget requests approved by their committee to the Liaison Committee or the Board of Internal Economy;[444]

*      manage the budgets allocated to their committee, in conjunction with the committee clerk;

*      are ex officio members of the Liaison Committee;[445]

*      sign service contracts with personnel hired from outside the Parliamentary Precinct, as approved by their committee; and

*      sign the committee’s financial documents, including those incurring expenses and paying bills. Chairs may partially delegate this authority to the committee clerk.

Representative Responsibilities

Finally, committee Chairs have certain representative responsibilities for their committee. Committee reports are signed by the Chair, to certify that their content reflects the committee’s decisions.[446] Chairs normally present the reports to the House as well.[447]

Important correspondence from the committee is signed by its Chair, whose name also appears in the committee’s press releases. Chairs participate in official press conferences held by their committee. They are the committee’s main spokesperson to other parliamentarians,[448] the media and civil society. During Oral Questions in the House, a committee Chair may answer questions, provided they deal with the committee’s proceedings or schedule and not with the substance of its work.[449]

Within the Parliamentary Precinct, committee Chairs may have to represent their committee in making budget submissions, obtaining special leave from the House or welcoming delegations from other parliaments. Outside the Precinct, when a committee travels, its Chair acts as head of the delegation.

*   Role of Vice-Chairs

Vice-Chairs usually preside over meetings, or parts of meetings, when the Chair is absent. When they preside, they have the same authority as the Chairs for maintaining order and decorum.[450] The practice is that a committee’s first Vice-Chair is called upon first to replace its Chair, and that the second Vice-Chair, if one exists, is called upon to replace the Chair if the first Vice-Chair is not present when the absence of the Chair is noted.

Vice-Chairs are usually members of the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure, if their committee has one. Occasionally they may play a role outside committee meetings, at the request of the Chair. They may present a committee report in the House, for example, or appear before the Liaison Committee to defend a budget submission. In the Chair’s absence they may also answer oral questions in the House about the committee’s schedule or proceedings.[451]

Vice-Chairs cannot fulfil any responsibilities or perform any other function while the office of Chair is vacant.

*   Role of Acting Chairs

In the absence of the Chair and Vice-Chairs of a committee, an Acting Chair must be chosen to preside over a committee meeting.[452] With the committee’s consent, the Chair of a standing or special committee may designate a member to act as Chair at a given meeting if it is known in advance that the Chair and the Vice-Chairs will not be attending.[453] Where no Acting Chair has been designated, the committee clerk must preside over the election of an Acting Chair before the committee can begin its work.[454]

When he or she is unable to act in that capacity at or during a meeting, the Chair of a legislative committee is empowered by the Standing Orders to designate a member of the committee as an acting Chair.[455] The Chair’s designation of a replacement is notified to the clerk of the committee in writing, who in turn informs the committee at the meeting concerned.

An Acting Chair has the same authority as the Chair for maintaining order and decorum. No Acting Chair may be designated when the office of Chair is vacant.

Methods of Designation

As shown in figure 20.3, the methods of designating Chairs and Vice-Chairs vary depending on the type of committee. In most cases, they are elected by the members of the committee, but others are, or may be, chosen by third parties (the House, the Speaker, the main committee in the case of a subcommittee). Some committees have Vice-Chair positions, some do not, depending on the Standing Orders or an order from the House. In some cases, the decision whether or not to have a Vice-Chair is up to the committee.

 

Methods of Designating Chairs and Vice-Chairs by Type of Committee

Any Member of the House may be asked to be the Chair or the Vice-Chair of a committee, provided that, for all committees except legislative committees, he or she is a member of that committee. The Speaker and the Deputy Speaker have chaired a variety of committees studying matters related to the House.[456] As ex officio members of the Panel of Chairs, Chair Occupants have been called on to chair legislative committees.[457] Ministers,[458] party leaders and independent Members[459] do not normally sit on committees and therefore do not usually act as Chairs or Vice-Chairs.

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*   Standing and Standing Joint Committees

The Standing Orders provide for the Chairs and Vice-Chairs of standing and standing joint committees to be elected by their members.

At the beginning of each session of Parliament, within 10 sitting days of concurrence by the House in the report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs establishing the membership of the standing committees and the list of Members representing the House on standing joint committees, the Clerk of the House convenes meetings of each committee to elect a Chair.[460] The only item on the announced agenda for these organization meetings is the election of the Chair. Committee members must be given 48 hours’ notice of the meeting.[461]

The Standing Orders require that each standing and standing joint committee elect a Chair and two Vice-Chairs at the beginning of each session.[462] While the committees usually take advantage of the organization meeting to elect their Vice-Chairs,[463] they may decide to postpone those elections to a later meeting.

The Standing Orders also require standing and standing joint committees to elect their Chairs and Vice-Chairs “if necessary” during a session. In fact, this requirement refers to two very specific events and times: (1) within 10 sitting days of concurrence by the House in the report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs renewing the membership of the standing and standing joint committees following each summer adjournment of the House, whether or not the members and associate members of a particular committee have changed;[464] and (2) when a vacancy arises in the offices of Chair or Vice-Chairs. In the former case, the committee proceeds with the election of a Chair and Vice-Chairs, while in the latter, it holds only the election necessary to fill the vacancy.

To be eligible for the office of Chair or Vice-Chair, a Member must meet two conditions. First, the Member must be a regular member of the committee;[465] second, the Member must be from the political party prescribed in the Standing Orders for the office in question. For the vast majority of standing committees, the Chair must be a Member of the government party, the first Vice-Chair a Member of the Official Opposition, and the second Vice-Chair a Member of an opposition party other than the Official Opposition party.[466] However, there are special provisions for four standing committees and one standing joint committee. In the case of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts,[467] the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, and the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations,[468] the Standing Orders require that the Chair (or Joint-Chair) be a Member of the Official Opposition, the first Vice-Chair a Member of the government party, and the second Vice-Chair a Member of an opposition party other than the Official Opposition party.

The committee clerk presides over the election in all cases but may not take part in debate with committee members or hear points of order or questions of privilege.[469] In fact, the clerk may not entertain any motions except those concerning the election of a Member to an office.

Before proceeding with the election, the clerk must determine that there is a quorum. If all offices are to be filled at the meeting, the clerk begins with the election of a Chair. The clerk then moves on, if the committee consents, to the election of the first and second Vice-Chairs, in that order. In standing joint committees, two Joint-Chairs are elected, one from each House. The Senate Joint-Chair is elected first, followed by the Commons Joint-Chair. The election of each Joint-Chair is presided over by the Joint-Clerk from the respective House. All committee members, whether they are Senators or Members of the House of Commons, are entitled to vote for the Joint-Chairs from each House.[470]

For each office to be filled, the clerk invites members to make motions proposing the election of a particular member to the office in question.[471] When members have no further nominations to propose, the clerk calls for a vote. If there is only one candidate for the office, the motion is agreed to or negatived (if there is a tie or a majority of “nays”) by the committee members.[472] If there is more than one candidate, the Standing Orders require that the election be conducted by secret ballot[473] as follows:[474]

*      the committee clerk first announces the candidates to the committee members and then provides a ballot paper to each member who is eligible to vote;

*      the members print the first and last name of the candidate whom they support on the ballot paper, which they then deposit in the box provided; and

*      the committee clerk counts the ballots and announces the name of the candidate who received the majority of the votes. If no candidate received a majority of the votes, a second ballot is taken, the name of the candidate who received the fewest votes having been dropped from the ballot.

Balloting continues in this manner until a candidate receives a majority of the votes. The Standing Orders require the clerk to destroy the ballots and to refrain from divulging the number of votes cast for any candidate.

In the case of an election for the office of Chair, if no motion is adopted, the committee cannot proceed with other business. When an impasse is evident, the members disperse, and the Clerk of the House must convene another meeting at a later time, when the election of a Chair will be the first order of business.[475]

*   Legislative Committees

The Chair of a legislative committee is not elected by the members but is selected by the Speaker from the Panel of Chairs once the committee’s membership has been established.[476] The Panel of Chairs is established at the beginning of each session and is composed of as many as 12 Members named by the Speaker in proportion to the party standings in the House, along with the Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole House, the Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole House, and the Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole House.[477]

Like the Speaker, the Chair of a legislative committee acts as a neutral arbitrator of proceedings. He or she may be a member of any of the parties in the House,[478] is not counted for the purposes of determining quorum,[479] and does not take part in the committee’s debates.[480]

*   Special and Special Joint Committees

The Standing Orders provide for special committees to elect a Chair and two Vice-Chairs. The Chair must be a Member of the government party, the first Vice-Chair a Member of the Official Opposition, and the second Vice-Chair a Member of an opposition party other than the Official Opposition party.[481] Like standing joint committees, special joint committees elect a Joint-Chair from the House of Commons and a Joint-Chair from the Senate, as well as two Vice-Chairs.[482]

The elections of a Chair and Vice-Chairs are the first orders of business on the proposed agenda of the committee’s first meeting in a session.[483] The meeting is convened for that purpose by the Clerk of House after the committee’s membership has been established and consultations have been held with recognized parties concerning the timing of the meeting[484] (in the case of special joint committees, the parties in the Senate are also consulted). Elections during a session must be conducted only if a vacancy arises.

*   Subcommittees

Like other types of committees, a subcommittee must have a Chair in order to conduct business.

When establishing a subcommittee, the main committee is responsible for determining whether or not to name a Vice-Chair.[485] If it sees fit, the committee may also specify the required political affiliation of the Chair or Vice-Chairs.

Main committees have two choices regarding the selection of their subcommittees’ officers: designate them directly in an order of reference,[486] or leave it up to the subcommittee members to elect them according to the procedure followed by standing and special committees.[487]

As in the case of other types of committees, elections may become necessary during a session when there is a vacancy in one of the officer positions. The practice has been not to require subcommittees of standing committees to re-elect their officers when the House concurs in the report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs renewing the membership of the standing committees following each summer adjournment. Some nevertheless do so voluntarily.[488]

Vacancies

Occasionally, vacancies arise in the office of Chair or Vice-Chair during a session. In fact, they arise automatically when an officer:

*      is elected to another officer position within the same committee;[489]

*      resigns from his or her position;[490]

*      resigns as a Member of Parliament;

*      passes away;

*      ceases to be a member of the committee;[491]

*      ceases to be a member of the recognized party required by the House to hold the office; or

*      is removed from office by the committee.[492]

In the event of a vacancy in the office of Chair, the committee cannot conduct any other business until a new Chair is chosen.[493] This is similar to procedure in the House, where a vacancy in the office of Speaker must be filled before any other matter can be considered.[494]

In the case of committee Chairs who are elected, a vacancy that arises while the committee is sitting triggers an immediate election.[495] If the vacancy occurs when the committee is not sitting, but a meeting has already been convened by the former Chair, the first order of business at that meeting will be the election of a new Chair. If no meeting is scheduled, the next one will be convened by the Clerk of the House after the usual consultations with the recognized parties. If the Chair of a committee was designated by a third party (the House, the Speaker, the main committee in the case of a subcommittee), a new designation is required when there is a vacancy.[496]

Vacancies in the offices of Vice-Chair do not prevent committees from conducting business. If the Vice-Chairs are elected, the committee holds a new election at the earliest opportunity.[497] If the Vice-Chairs are designated, there must be a new designation as soon as possible.

*   Committee Staff

In the execution of its functions, each committee is normally assisted by a committee clerk and an analyst. Occasional assistance is also provided by legislative clerks, lawyers from the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, and staff hired from outside the Parliamentary Precinct.

Committee Clerk

The clerk of a committee is a professional from Procedural Services of the House of Commons who serves as the committee’s procedural and administrative officer.[498] The clerk is the committee’s principal adviser regarding parliamentary procedure, especially committee procedure. The clerk also prepares the minutes of meetings and swears in witnesses at the committee’s request.

Following the instructions of the Chair and the committee, the clerk organizes the committee’s work and meetings. In particular, the clerk publishes and distributes notices of meetings to interested parties, contacts witnesses whom the committee wishes to hear, distributes all meeting documentation to the committee members, and oversees the process of producing reports and presenting them to the House. If the committee travels outside the Parliamentary Precinct, the clerk prepares a detailed itinerary and oversees the travel arrangements (transportation, accommodation, per diems and so on).

The clerk also has a number of financial roles and responsibilities. Ordinarily, the clerk advises the committee members and the Chair on financial matters. The clerk prepares the committee’s budget requests and assists the Chair in providing justification to the Liaison Committee if necessary. The clerk regularly manages and monitors the committee’s finances. If authorized to do so by the Chair, the clerk approves the payment of invoices received by the committee for goods and services. In addition, the clerk prepares the contracts required to hire staff from outside the Parliamentary Precinct.

The clerk is also the main point of contact for enquiries from the general public, public officials and the media concerning the committee’s activities. The clerk receives most of the correspondence intended for the committee. The clerk also acts as the committee’s liaison with other branches and services of the House, the Senate and the Library of Parliament.

As a non-partisan and independent officer, the clerk also provides advice to all members of the committee; the clerk carries out his or her duties and responsibilities under the direction of the committee and the Chair. In performing those functions, the clerk receives assistance and support from the many services of the House, particularly from administrative and logistical staff of the Committees Directorate.

Analysts

The Library of Parliament provides analysts to all committees on request.[499] The analysts are highly skilled researchers and usually are specialists in the subject area of the committee to which they are assigned. They are the resource persons for any substantive questions that the Chair and committee members may have. They provide briefing material and other background material to committee members. They may identify potential witnesses for the committee and suggest possible lines of questioning during committee hearings. They play an important role in the drafting of substantive reports. Like the committee clerks, they perform their duties in a non-partisan, neutral manner. They are at the disposal of all committee members.

Legislative Clerks

Legislative clerks are not part of the regular staff assigned to committees. They assist committees from time to time in the clause-by-clause analysis of bills. Legislative clerks are professionals from Procedural Services of the House of Commons who advise committee Chairs and members on the procedural admissibility of amendments that Members propose to bills. Legislative clerks have an in-depth knowledge of the bills being considered and their constituent parts, and of the rules of procedure governing the nature and form of amendments that can be proposed by Members. During a session, legislative clerks are assigned responsibility for a number of bills and may work with more than one committee.

Other Staff

When questions of a legal nature arise, committees sometimes avail themselves of the services of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel and his or her staff. The Standing Orders also empower committees to hire expert, professional, technical, administrative, clerical and secretarial staff on contract from outside the Parliamentary Precinct, as required.[500] Before considering that option, committees should verify the availability of internal resources from the administration of the House of Commons or the Library of Parliament.[501]

If they wish to proceed with hiring from outside, they must first determine the nature and scope of the work to be performed. Next, they must adopt a motion specifying the terms of reference and duration of the contract, and the maximum rate or amount of remuneration of the additional staff.[502] They are then required to obtain the necessary approval and funding for the contracts from the appropriate authorities (Liaison Committee, Board of Internal Economy).[503]

Such contracts and budgets are subject at all times to the guidelines set out by the Board of Internal Economy. Special rules apply to contracts in the event of prorogation or dissolution of Parliament.[504]

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[372] This includes motions for which notice has been given by a member’s officially designated substitute, if the committee in question requires such notice. For further information, see “Substitutions” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Membership, Leadership and Staff”.

[373] A quorum is the minimum number of Members required at a meeting for a committee to exercise its powers. For further information, see “Quorum and Call to Order / "Reduced Quorum"” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[374] See Speaker Parent’s ruling, Debates, November 7, 1996, pp. 6225‑6.

[375] Standing Order 119. It is up to each committee to decide whether or not to allow Members who do not sit on the committee to attend in camera meetings; however, the practice is that such Members usually withdraw when the committee moves in camera.

[376] Standing Order 119. The participation of non-members can sometimes be helpful. For example, when a committee considers a private Member’s bill, it may wish to have input from the sponsoring Member without having to call that Member as an official witness.

[377] See, for example, Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, Minutes of Proceedings, April 24, 2007, Meeting No. 47, Evidence, p. 8. See also Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, Minutes of Proceedings, November 25, 2004, Meeting No. 9, Evidence, p. 15.

[378] Committees have allowed Senators to participate in special meetings without any objections being raised. See, for example, Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Minutes of Proceedings, June 14, 2005, Meeting No. 41.

[379] This does not prevent the House from referring certain matters to existing committees whose members have not yet been appointed (see, for example, Journals, November 24, 2008, pp. 30‑2). See also the Speaker’s rulings regarding the referral of a bill, and the subject matter of a bill, to committees that did not yet have any members (Journals, November 5, 1957, p. 82; February 5, 1959, pp. 82‑3).

[380] Debates, June 20, 1994, pp. 5582‑4.

[381] There is one exception to this: when committees create subcommittees, they may decide on the membership of those subcommittees, subject to certain restrictions. See Standing Order 108(1)(b).

[382] During the Thirty‑Third Parliament, independent Member Anthony Roman (York North) was a member of two committees (see Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, March 18, 1986, Issue No. 32, p. 10; Standing Joint Committee on Regulations and Other Statutory Instruments, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, February 5, 1987, Issue No. 4, p. 4). During the Thirty‑Ninth Parliament, André Arthur (Portneuf–Jacques‑Cartier) was a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology (Journals, April 26, 2006, pp. 64, 77, 93; October 30, 2007, pp. 83, 96; October 31, 2007, p. 122).

[383] The Speaker was formerly ex officio Joint‑Chair of the Standing Joint Committees on the Library of Parliament and the Parliamentary Restaurant. The Speaker may also, on occasion, chair a special committee. Speaker Jerome served as Chair of the Special Committee on the Rights and Immunities of Members as well as of the Special Committee on TV and Radio Broadcasting of Proceedings of the House of Commons and its Committees (Journals, December 13, 1976, p. 230; January 25, 1977, pp. 287‑8).

[384] Chair Occupants other than the Speaker may be called upon to act as Chairs of legislative committees pursuant to Standing Order 112. For example, when Peter Milliken (Kingston and the Islands) was Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole, he chaired the legislative committee responsible for considering Bill C-20, An Act to give effect to the requirement for clarity as set out in the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Quebec Secession Reference (Journals, February 9, 2000, p. 864). Chair Occupants have also chaired special committees. Deputy Speaker Marcel Danis served as Chairman of the Special Committee on the Review of the Parliament of Canada Act (Journals, December 14, 1989, p. 1011). During the First Session of the Thirty‑Eighth Parliament, Jean Augustine, who was then Deputy Vice‑Chair of Committees of the Whole, was appointed associate member of three standing committees and one standing joint committee (Journals, October 20, 2004, pp. 117‑21, 124, in particular pp. 118, 120-1).

[385] There have been exceptions: for example, Allan MacEachen was named to replace Mitchell Sharp on the Striking Committee during the Second Session of the Thirtieth Parliament (1976‑77) (Journals, November 1, 1976, p. 92). In 1990, Marcel Danis, who, as Deputy Speaker of the House, had been appointed Chair of the Special Committee on the Review of the Parliament of Canada Act, continued as Chair of the Committee even after his appointment to Cabinet (Journals, March 6, 1990, p. 1290). During the First Session of the Thirty‑Ninth Parliament (2006‑07), Jason Kenney continued to be a member of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, even after becoming Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity) in the course of the session. He also continued to chair the Subcommittee until the end of the session. See, for example, Minutes of Proceedings, May 29, 2007, Meeting No. 20. During the Second Session of the Thirty‑Ninth Parliament, Mr. Kenny was again a member of this Subcommittee. See, for example, Minutes of Proceedings, June 17, 2008, Meeting No. 22.

[386] In the early years of Confederation, Prime Ministers served on a variety of standing committees. See, for example, Journals, November 15, 1867, pp. 16, 21‑2. The last Prime Minister to be named to a standing committee was William Lyon Mackenzie King, who served on the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament until 1926 (Journals, March 16, 1926, p. 152).

[387] Further to a recommendation of the Special Committee on Reform of the House of Commons (the McGrath Committee), Parliamentary Secretaries were prohibited from belonging to standing committees whose mandate was within their area of responsibility (Third Report of the Committee, p. 18, presented to the House on June 18, 1985 (Journals, p. 839); Journals, February 6, 1986, pp. 1644‑66, in particular p. 1657). The absence of Parliamentary Secretaries deprived the government of an official representative on committees and was considered by some to impede the committees’ work (Debates, April 9, 1991, pp. 19194‑7). The prohibition on the membership of Parliamentary Secretaries was lifted in 1991 (Journals, April 11, 1991, pp. 2905‑32, in particular p. 2923). During the First Session of the Thirty‑Eighth Parliament, Parliamentary Secretaries were sworn in as members of the Privy Council. A Member rose on a point of order to ask the Speaker to rule whether three Parliamentary Secretaries who belonged to a standing committee that had launched an investigation of a government program could continue to sit on that committee. In his ruling, the Speaker held that nothing prevented members of the Privy Council who were not members of Cabinet from sitting on committees. In the same ruling, the Speaker found that there was no reason to intervene, especially as the House had itself approved the appointment of those three Parliamentary Secretaries to the committee (Debates, February 16, 2004, pp. 615‑7).

[388] Standing Order 104(1). On at least one occasion, the House did not have committees struck during the first session of a Parliament: the striking committee was established at the beginning of the second session (Journals, April 6, 1989, p. 50).

[389] See, for example, Journals, April 4, 2006, p. 14.

[390] The House used to establish a committee solely to act as a striking committee. This was last done in 1989 (Journals, April 6, 1989, p. 50). In 1991, the role of striking committee was added to the mandate of the Standing Committee on House Management (Journals, April 11, 1991, pp. 2905‑32, in particular p. 2922); it is now part of the mandate of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (Journals, January 25, 1994, pp. 58‑61).

[391] By practice, the House usually names the Whips of all recognized parties to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. At its organization meeting the Committee adopts a motion similar to the following: “That the four Whips be delegated the authority to act as the Striking Committee pursuant to Standing Orders 104, 113 and 114, provided that the recommendations are unanimous and a copy of the report is signed by all four Whips or their representatives, and that they present their recommendations directly to the Chair of the Committee for presentation to the House on behalf of the Committee” (Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings, October 25, 2007, Meeting No. 1). The number of Whips set out in the motion varies from Parliament to Parliament with the number of recognized parties in the House.

[392] Standing Order 104(2). The four standing committees of the House that have 11 members are those that, pursuant to Standing Order 106(2), must be chaired by an Official Opposition Member.

[393] Standing Order 104(3). Given the party representation in the two Houses at any given time, the proportional representation on a particular joint committee may be only approximate. See, for example, Journals, June 19, 1991, pp. 226‑7.

[394] Standing Order 104(1). See, for example, Journals, April 26, 2006, pp. 64‑92. The list need not include the members of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs itself, who are appointed by Order of the House at the start of a Parliament. The House has in the past appointed the members of certain standing committees directly, by special order, so that they can start work more quickly. See, for example, Journals, October 10, 2002, pp. 57‑8. These appointments occurred before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs had submitted its lists.

[395] See, for example, Journals, October 31, 2007, p. 122. The House occasionally approves special orders providing for automatic concurrence in a report at a given time. See, for example, Journals, September 23, 2003, p. 1027.

[396] The Committee’s Forty‑Ninth Report, presented to the House on October 5, 1990 (Journals, pp. 2074‑8), proposed new memberships for all standing and standing joint committees. No motion to concur in the Forty‑Ninth Report was moved prior to prorogation on May 12, 1991, and the committees continued to function up to prorogation with their memberships as they existed prior to the Report’s presentation.

[397] Standing Order 104(4). The list includes the associate members, if any, of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

[398] Journals, October 30, 2007, pp. 83‑111; October 31, 2007, p. 122.

[399] See, for example, Journals, October 30, 2007, p. 111.

[400] Standing Order 113(1). It is not uncommon for legislative committees to have fewer than 15 members. See, for example, Journals, February 22, 2007, p. 1059.

[401] The House may appoint the members of a legislative committee directly, by special order. See, for example, Journals, October 26, 2007, p. 69.

[402] Standing Order 113(2). As a rule, all committee Chairs are members of the committee over which they are chosen to preside, except in the case of legislative committees. For further information on the choice of Chairs for legislative committees, see “Methods of Designation” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Membership, Leadership and Staff”. Furthermore, on occasion, the House has appointed the Chair of a legislative committee directly. See, for example, Journals, October 26, 2007, p. 69.

[403] Standing Order 105. These committees often have fewer than 15 members. See, for example, the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan (13 members) (Journals, April 8, 2008, pp. 665‑7).

[404] See, for example, the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons (Journals, March 21, 2001, pp. 208‑9).

[405] See, for example, the Special Committee on Pension Reform (Journals, March 1, 1983, p. 5654; March 9, 1983, p. 5684).

[406] See, for example, Journals, April 8, 2008, pp. 665‑7. An attempt was made to depart from an order to bring in a list of names, by presenting a report that provided for a mechanism by which the Whips would designate members from time to time, but it was ruled out of order (Journals, June 19, 1991, pp. 226‑7; September 25, 1991, p. 393, Debates, pp. 2712‑8; September 27, 1991, pp. 2823‑5). In at least one instance in the past, the instruction has provided that the striking committee’s report be deemed concurred in when presented to the House (Journals, March 30, 1993, p. 2742).

[407] The order of reference may name the membership directly (Journals, December 13, 1983, p. 37) or it may be done by reference. For example, the membership of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs was designated to represent the House on the Special Joint Committee on a Code of Conduct (Journals, March 12, 1996, p. 83).

[408] See, for example, Journals, December 5, 1997, pp. 353‑4.

[409] See, for example, Journals, March 30, 1993, p. 2742; April 2, 1993, pp. 2784‑5.

[410] See, for example, Journals, December 13, 1983, pp. 37‑8.

[411] See, for example, Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings, April 25, 2006, Meeting No. 2.

[412] The motion to appoint the members usually reads: “following the usual consultations with the Whips”. See, for example, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Minutes of Proceedings, November 13, 2007, Meeting No. 1. This procedure permits subsequent changes to the membership of a subcommittee at the Whip’s discretion without the adoption of an order by the committee.

[413] See, for example, Journals, June 27, 1985, p. 907.

[414] Standing Order 108(1)(b). A committee was given leave to name Members to a subcommittee who were neither members nor associate members of the committee (Journals, March 9, 1983, p. 5684).

[415] Occasionally, subcommittees have as many members as their main committee. See, for example, the Subcommittee on Oil and Gas and Other Energy Prices, from the Second Session of the Thirty‑Ninth Parliament (2007‑08).

[416] See, for example, Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings, November 13, 2007, Meeting No. 1.

[417] Subcommittees can be an exception: for example, a member of a standing committee’s subcommittee who ceases to be a member or associate member of the standing committee automatically ceases to be a member of the subcommittee as well.

[418] For example, Shaughnessy Cohen (Windsor–St. Clair) died in office on December 9, 1998 (Journals, December 10, 1998, p. 1431). Officially, she remained a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights until replaced by Aileen Carroll (Barry–Simcoe–Bradford) on February 1, 1999 (Fifty-Second Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House and concurred in on February 1, 1999 (Journals, pp. 1444‑5)). During the Second Session of the Thirty‑Ninth Parliament, Maka Kotto (St‑Lambert) resigned his seat in the House on March 13, 2008 (Journals, p. 597), but remained officially an associate member of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament and the Standing Committee on Official Languages until Parliament was dissolved on September 7, 2008.

[419] Standing Order 114(2)(d).

[420] By practice, independent Members inform the Whip of the party that agreed to place them on the associate members’ list for a given committee.

[421] Standing Order 114(2)(d) and (4). See, for example, Journals, April 4, 2008, pp. 644‑7. By practice, changes to the membership of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs are done by adoption of a special order of the House (see, for example, Journals, September 28, 1998, p. 1086; November 21, 2008, p. 27).

[422] Standing Order 114(3).

[423] See, for example, Journals, November 18, 1997, p. 225. These mechanisms may reflect the provisions governing legislative committees, in other words, changes to membership are done by filing with the committee clerk a written notice signed by a Whip.

[424] See, for example, Journals, October 1, 1985, p. 1052.

[425] In the case of a subcommittee of a legislative committee, changes must be made as they are for the main committee, that is, by filing with the clerk of the subcommittee a written notice signed by a Chief Whip.

[426] Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 462. Formerly, Members were excused from service on a committee only if they could show some reason why they were unable to attend. They could be excused by order of the House for such reasons as ill health or advanced age. See, for example, Journals, March 24, 1873, p. 60.

[427] On this matter, see Speaker Parent’s ruling, Debates, November 7, 1996, pp. 6225‑6.

[428] See, for example, Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, March 12, 2002, Meeting No. 54.

[429] See, for example, Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, Minutes of Proceedings, August 19, 2008, Meeting No. 44.

[430] See, for example, Standing Committee on Consumer and Corporate Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, November 27, 1991, Issue No. 28, pp. 3, 39‑40.

[431] In 1985, the McGrath Committee recommended that Members be responsible for finding their own replacements when they were unable to attend committee meetings (Third Report of the Special Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, presented to the House on June 18, 1985 (Journals, p. 839), pp. 18‑9). Following the presentation of the Report, a provision was added to the Standing Orders that required members of standing committees to file a list of substitutes. Members failing to file such a list were removed from the committee (Journals, February 6, 1986, pp. 1644‑66, in particular pp. 1659‑60; February 3, 1986, p. 1710). See, for example, Journals, May 29, 1986, pp. 2234‑5. In 1994, the filing of a list of substitutes was made voluntary, and the provision removing members who failed to do so was deleted (Journals, January 25, 1994, pp. 58‑61, in particular p. 61).

[432] Standing Order 114(2)(a).

[433] Standing Order 114(2)(c). See, for example, Standing Committee on Finance, Minutes of Proceedings, May 28, 2007, Meeting No. 86, where Gerry Ritz, at that time Secretary of State (Small Business and Tourism), substituted for a regular member.

[434] In 1994, Audrey McLaughlin (Yukon), who was then sitting as an independent Member and was not on the associate members’ list, substituted for a regular member of the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Committee and voted. When called upon to rule on the matter, Speaker Parent declared that the vote should be disallowed (Debates, June 20, 1994, pp. 5582, 5584).

[435] A committee meeting may extend beyond the date indicated in the notice. The substitution continues to be valid as long as the meeting began on the date indicated. If in the end the committee does not meet on the date indicated in the notice, the substitution expires at the end of that day.

[436] Standing Order 114(3). Since Chairs of legislative committees are not members of these committees, having been appointed directly by the Speaker, they cannot have themselves “substituted” in this way.

[437] See, for example, Journals, April 8, 2008, pp. 665‑7.

[438] See, for example, Journals, November 18, 1997, pp. 224‑5.

[439] See Subcommittee on Indian Self‑Government, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, October 6, 1982, Issue No. 1, pp. 8‑9, 11; November 18, 1982, Issue No. 6, p. 3; Subcommittee on Indian Women and the Indian Act, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, September 8, 1982, Issue No. 1, p. 8; Special Committee on Indian Self-Government, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, December 22, 1982, Issue No. 1, p. 5. These Committees invited representatives of various national organizations representing Aboriginal peoples to participate in its proceedings, giving them the title of “ex officio members” or “liaison members”. In a report, the members of the Special Committee on Indian Self‑Government explained that they had asked these individuals to participate because there were no Aboriginal Members of Parliament and they wanted to make sure that they were fully aware of the concerns and perspectives of Aboriginal people (Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, October 12, 1983, October 20, 1983, Issue No. 40, pp. 4, 199). In 1990, the Standing Committee on the Environment proposed to involve representatives of nongovernmental organizations in the drafting of a report on the environment in Canada. The Committee did not however act on this idea (Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, December 13, 1990, Issue No. 63, p. 3). In 2004, the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources adopted a motion providing for participation by at least one representative of the group(s) affected by any First Nations legislation that might be sent to the Committee. The Committee did not have an opportunity to follow through on this decision before Parliament was dissolved (Minutes of Proceedings, March 23, 2004, Meeting No. 5).

[440] Joint committees usually have two Joint‑Chairs: a Member representing the House of Commons and a Senator representing the Upper House.

[441] For further information on appeals from Committee Chair decisions, see “Committees and Questions of Procedure and Privilege” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[442] For further information on casting votes by committee Chairs, see “Rules of Debate and Decision-making Process” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[443] For further information, see “Cancelling a Meeting” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[444] These bodies allocate funding among the parliamentary committees. For further information, see “Funding of Activities” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[445] Standing Order 107.

[446] See Speaker Milliken’s ruling (Debates, May 8, 2003, pp. 5990-1).

[447] For further information, see “Presentation to the House” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[448] See, for example, Journals, June 12, 2008, p. 978.

[449] See, for example, Debates, March 12, 2008, p. 4049. For further information, see Chapter 11, “Questions”. See also Speaker Milliken’s ruling in this regard (Debates, April 3, 2008, pp. 4405‑6).

[450] See, for example, Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Minutes of Proceedings, April 15, 2008, Meeting No. 24.

[451] See, for example, Debates, March 7, 2008, p. 3803. Speaker Milliken observed that this was a well-established practice (Debates, April 3, 2008, pp. 4405‑6).

[452] As a general rule, the role of an Acting Chair is limited to filling a temporary need, that of presiding over one meeting. In 2005, however, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics designated one of its members as Acting Chair for a period of several months. This was done in response to the prolonged absence of the Committee’s Chair, who had given his consent to the designation. Renewed several times subsequently, the designation was to end as soon as the Chair was able to resume his functions (Minutes of Proceedings, March 22, 2005, Meeting No. 15; May 31, 2005, Meeting No. 26; June 21, 2005, Meeting No. 32; October 18, 2005, Meeting No. 36). The designated Acting Chair assumed the regular Chair’s administrative, procedural and representative roles.

[453] See, for example, Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Evidence, October 16, 2001, Meeting No. 26. In the case of joint committees, the designation of an Acting Chair is done in conjunction with the Senate Joint‑Chair.

[454] See, for example, Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, Minutes of Proceedings, September 27, 2001, Meeting No. 21. In theory, such an election could be required at an organization meeting when the Chair and Vice‑Chairs have been elected in absentia, or when no Vice‑Chairs have been elected and the elected Chair is absent.

[455] Standing Order 113(4).

[456] The Speaker has served as the Chair of the Special Committee on the Rights and Immunities of Members (Journals, March 9, 1978, p. 467) and of the Special Committee on TV and Radio Broadcasting of Proceedings of the House and its Committees (Journals, October 18, 1977, p. 11). The Deputy Speaker has chaired the Special Committee on the Review of the Parliament of Canada Act (Journals, December 14, 1989, p. 1011). Following his appointment as Minister of State (Youth and Fitness and Amateur Sport) and his resignation as Deputy Speaker, Marcel Danis continued as Chair of this Committee (Journals, March 6, 1990, p. 1290). The Deputy Speaker also chaired the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons in the early 2000s (Journals, March 21, 2001, pp. 208‑9; November 28, 2002, p. 236).

[457] See, for example, Journals, February 24, 2005, p. 481. For further information on the Panel of Chairs, see “Legislative Committees” in this section.

[458] The last Minister to be elected Chair of a committee was Mitchell Sharp (Standing Committee on Procedure and Organization, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, October 17, 1974, Issue No. 1, p. 5). During the First Session of the Thirty-Ninth Parliament (2006-07), Jason Kenney continued to chair the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development even after becoming Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity) during the course of the session (see, for example, Minutes of Proceedings, May 29, 2007, Meeting No. 20).

[459] Anthony Roman (York North), an independent Member, served as Chair of a legislative committee in 1987 (Journals, November 4, 1987, pp. 1835‑6).

[460] Standing Order 106(1).

[461] The House may, by special order, allow this requirement to be waived. See, for example, Debates, October 31, 2001, p. 6788.

[462] Standing Order 106(2).

[463] Any decision to deal with matters other than the election of a Chair at an organization meeting is made by the committee under the direction of the Chair (or Acting Chair).

[464] Standing Order 104(1). In September 1991, the House, by Special Order, suspended the election of the Chairs required under the Standing Orders and confirmed the incumbent Chairs in office (Journals, September 27, 1991, p. 408). As with the organization meeting, that meeting is preceded by 48 hours’ notice to members. It is convened by the Clerk of the House for the sole purpose of electing a Chair. Although the Standing Orders provide only for an election for the office of Chair following concurrence in the report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs after the House’s summer adjournment, the practice has been for the standing and standing joint committees to elect their Vice-Chairs as well at that time. See, for example, Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings, September 26, 2006, Meeting No. 15.

[465] The Member is not required to be at the meeting and may be elected in absentia. See, for example, Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, Minutes of Proceedings, October 17, 2005, Meeting No. 53. A substitute cannot be elected to the office of Chair or Vice-Chair.

[466] Standing Order 106(2).

[467] In the case of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, the practice of choosing a Chair from the Official Opposition was part of the government’s initial intention in establishing the Committee. A commitment to having a member of the Opposition chair the committee was made in the 1958 Throne Speech (Debates, May 12, 1958, p. 6).

[468] The Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations, originally the Standing Joint Committee on Regulations and Other Statutory Instruments, was proposed as one which should operate in a primarily non-partisan manner, aided by a proposal that the committee not be chaired by government members (Debates, October 14, 1971, pp. 8679-81).

[469] However, points of order or questions of privilege may be heard by the Chair once elected. Since the committee is properly constituted following the election of a Chair, its members may begin making decisions, provided a quorum is present.

[470] See, for example, Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament, Minutes of Proceedings, November 29, 2007, Meeting No. 1.

[471] The Standing Orders do not specifically require that the person nominated consent to being a candidate. If the Member is not interested in the office, the clerk will ask whether the committee unanimously consents to the withdrawal of the motion. If consent is not given, the motion remains before the committee. This reflects the practice followed in the House, where unanimous consent is required for withdrawal of a matter before it. In theory, if the committee does not consent to the withdrawal of the nominating motion, the motion may result in the election of a member against his or her will (see, for example, Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Evidence, March 6, 2008, Meeting No. 19, pp. 8-9). This course of action may lead to a stalemate, as the member in question may resign immediately after being elected.

[472] A recorded vote may be requested. See, for example, Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Minutes of Proceedings, May 1, 2006, Meeting No. 1.

[473] See, for example, Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Evidence, October 13, 2004, Meeting No. 1, p. 1.

[474] Standing Order 106(3).

[475] Standing Order 106(1). See, for example, Standing Committee on Official Languages, Evidence, May 15, 2007, p. 12. If the meeting that resulted in the impasse was convened by the Clerk of the House following concurrence by the House in a report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, the next meeting, like the first, will require 48 hours’ notice to the members. See Speaker Milliken’s ruling (Debates, November 5, 2002, pp. 1311, 1327).

[476] Standing Order 113(1) and (2). See, for example, Journals, February 27, 2008, pp. 475‑6 (establishment of a committee’s membership), 479 (appointment of a Chair).

[477] Standing Order 112. See, for example, Journals, April 28, 2006, p. 108. During a session, the Speaker may modify the membership of the Panel of Chairs as required, by replacing or removing Members. See, for example, Journals, December 12, 2006, p. 906.

[478] For example, in the First Session of the Thirty-Ninth Parliament, under a minority government of the Conservative Party of Canada, the Speaker selected a Member from the Liberal Party of Canada as Chair of the Legislative Committee on Bill C-27 (Journals, November 10, 2006, p. 704).

[479] Standing Order 118(1).

[480] The view of the legislative committee Chair as a non-partisan presiding officer stems from a recommendation in the Sixth Report of the Lefebvre Committee, repeated in the First Report of the McGrath Committee, concerning the establishment of a system of legislative committees: “Your Committee believes that Legislative Committees ought to be regarded as smaller versions of the Committee of the Whole House … (T)he Deputy Speaker, as the Chairman of Committees, is an impartial presiding officer. We believe that the establishment of a Panel of Chairmen would impart these qualities to the committee stage of all legislation. As neutral Chairmen, panel members would be able to develop expertise in House procedures and to meet from time to time to ensure consistent chairing practices” (Special Committee on Standing Orders and Procedure, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, April 28, 1983, Issue No. 19, p. 5; Special Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, December 20, 1984, Issue No. 2, p. 8). Some legislative committee Chairs have cited this principle of impartiality as grounds for abstaining from votes in the House on the bill over which they were to preside in committee. See, for example, Debates, June 26, 1989, p. 3645.

[481] Standing Order 106(2). Occasionally, the Chair may be named in the order of reference establishing the special committee. See, for example, Journals, November 28, 2002, p. 236. In addition, there have been occasions where the order of reference has stipulated, notwithstanding the Standing Order, that a special committee will have three Vice-Chairs, each representing an opposition party. See, for example, Journals, April 8, 2008, pp. 665-7.

[482] Before Standing Order 106(2) was adopted in its current form, special joint committees seldom elected Vice-Chairs. For an example of a committee that did so, see Special Joint Committee on a Code of Conduct, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, March 20, 1997, Issue No. 1, p. 71.

[483] See, for example, Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan, Minutes of Proceedings, April 15, 2008, Meeting No. 1.

[484] The organization meetings of special committees, unlike those of standing committees, do not have to be held within a certain period of time following the appointment of their membership.

[485] Since subcommittees often have a smaller membership than other types of committees, the main committees do not always consider it necessary to appoint Vice-Chairs, though subcommittees often have them. Subcommittees established by committees that do not have Vice-Chairs, such as legislative committees, generally do not have Vice-Chairs.

[486] See, for example, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Minutes of Proceedings, October 5, 2000, Meeting No. 58. It is common practice for standing committees to automatically appoint their Chair and Vice-Chairs to the same positions on their Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure, thereby avoiding the need for elections.

[487] See, for example, Subcommittee on Public Safety and National Security, Minutes of Proceedings, December 7, 2004, Meeting No. 1.

[488] See, for example, Subcommittee on the Review of the Anti-terrorism Act, Minutes of Proceedings, September 26, 2006, Meeting No. 7.

[489] See, for example, Standing Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, November 17, 1983, Issue No. 156, p. 3.

[490] Resignations are generally submitted in the form of a written notice to the committee clerk (see, for example, Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Evidence, May 10, 2006, p. 1; effective on receipt of the notice in the case of immediate resignation or on the date specified in the notice) or through oral notice to the committee members (see, for example, Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Evidence, November 7, 2002, p. 1; effective at the time of the announcement).

[491] This does not apply to Chairs of legislative committees since they are not members of the committees they chair.

[492] See, for example, Standing Committee on Official Languages, Minutes of Proceedings, May 15, 2007, Meeting No. 54. If a committee decides that a sufficiently serious situation requires the removal of the Chair or a Vice-Chair, it must adopt an explicit order relieving the person of his or her duties. See, for example, Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings, March 6, 2008, Meeting No. 19. Such orders often provide for an election to be held immediately to fill the vacancy. A motion stating simply that the committee has lost confidence in its Chair or a Vice-Chair could have unpredictable consequences.

[493] In the spring of 2008, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs did not meet for several months, notably due to the resignation of its Chair.

[494] See Standing Order 2(2), and Chapter 7, “The Speaker and Other Presiding Officers of the House”.

[495] Standing Order 106(2). See, for example, Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, Minutes of Proceedings, June 14, 2007, Meeting No. 65, Evidence, pp. 18-9.

[496] See, for example, Journals, June 12, 1989, p. 358; June 15, 1989, p. 379.

[497] Standing Order 106(2). See, for example, Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings, November 7, 2002, Meeting No. 6. At that meeting, the Chair and the two Vice-Chairs resigned in succession. The committee clerk conducted elections for Vice-Chairs as soon as they had announced their resignations.

[498] Committees may be supported by more than one clerk. Joint committees have a Joint Clerk for the House of Commons and a Joint Clerk for the Senate.

[499] The request usually takes the form of a routine motion adopted by the committee at the beginning of the session. For further information, see “Organization Meeting” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[500] Standing Order 120.

[501] See, for example, the request that the Standing Committee on Public Accounts made to the Library of Parliament for additional resources (a forensic auditor and an investigator) (Minutes of Proceedings, February 24, 2004, Meeting No. 5).

[502] See, for example, Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access, Minutes of Proceedings, February 23, 1998, Meeting No. 5. However, committees sometimes hire staff in the locations that they visit when they travel. Such contracts are travel expenses and are paid out of the travel budget allotted by the Liaison Committee or the Board of Internal Economy.

[503] For further information, see the Financial Management and Policy Guide for Committees, prepared by the House of Commons Finance Services. For further information about the authorities responsible for allocating funds among the committees, see “Funding of Activities” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[504] For further information, see the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Lifespans”.

Move Up

*   Procedural Framework for Committee Activities

Committee Procedure and Its Sources

Committee procedure includes all of the rules and practices governing the proceedings of parliamentary committees. The primary sources are the Constitution and Acts of Parliament; orders of reference, instructions and Standing Orders of  the House of Commons; rulings by the Speaker of the House and committee Chairs; and, finally, practice.

*   Constitution and Acts of Parliament

The Constitution does not make specific reference to House of Commons committees, but it does contain a number of provisions that provide a basis for or have a bearing on committee proceedings. One section of the Constitution Act, 1867 authorizes the Parliament of Canada to define the privileges, immunities and powers it exercises.[505] Those privileges give the House the power to conduct inquiries, summon witnesses to appear and order the production of documents. The House delegates those powers to the parliamentary committees it creates. The Constitution also states that any resolution or bill for the appropriation of public revenue must first be recommended by the Crown.[506] This requirement has a significant impact on the form of motions likely to be admissible in committees. Finally, the Constitution Act, 1982 establishes the obligations of Parliament and, by extension, parliamentary committees regarding bilinguism.[507] The Act specifically states that everyone has the right to use English or French in any debates and other proceedings of Parliament.

The Parliament of Canada Act is central to the power of committees to obtain pertinent and truthful testimony. The opening provisions of the Act form the legal basis for immunity from prosecution for comments made in the context of a parliamentary committee, the power of committees to administer oaths and receive solemn declarations, and the punishment that may be imposed on witnesses for perjury. The Act also states that the persons authorized to administer oaths and receive solemn declarations include Chairs of parliamentary committees and the Speaker of the House;[508] the Speaker may delegate that power to committee clerks. Finally, the Act contains a provision that prohibits Senators and Members from receiving compensation in relation to any matter before a committee of the House.[509]

Other statutes enacted by Parliament establish certain roles for parliamentary committees pertaining to the consideration of bills, or parts of bills, or the approval or rejection of regulations made under Acts.[510]

*   Orders of Reference, Instructions and the Standing Orders of the House of Commons

Orders of reference and instructions issued by the House to parliamentary committees are a vital source of procedural rules for committees. They provide a framework for committee proceedings. Orders of reference can be adopted for a specific purpose—in which case they are recorded in the Journals—or consolidated in the Standing Orders.

The Standing Orders are the most important body of written rules governing committee proceedings. Chapter XIII of the Standing Orders deals specifically with committees. It covers the powers, mandates and membership of committees, quorum, the methods of designating Chairs and Vice-Chairs, staff and budgets.[511] However, the provisions of Chapter XIII are not the only ones that pertain to committees. Many other chapters of the Standing Orders contain provisions that directly or indirectly affect committee proceedings. For example, Chapter X (Financial Procedures) deals with the referral of the main and supplementary estimates to standing committees.[512]

The Standing Orders also state that standing, special and legislative committees must comply with the Standing Orders of the House so far as may be applicable.[513] In areas where the Standing Orders do not apply or cannot be applied, committees are free to define and adopt rules governing their proceedings. Such rules may be adopted to deal with situations of a temporary nature.[514] They may also govern specific aspects of a committee’s proceedings in a given parliamentary session, in which case they are referred to as “routine motions”.[515]

*   Rulings by the Speaker of the House and Committee Chairs

The Speaker of the House is regularly asked to rule on the procedural admissibility of matters before the House. Rulings from the Speaker constitute precedents for future Speakers of the House. The matter before the House may pertain to the proceedings of one or more committees. If the Speaker rules on a matter of that nature, the committees affected will be required to comply with any provisos in the ruling.[516] This rarely happens in practice, since the Speaker is reluctant to intervene in a committee’s internal affairs unless the committee has previously reported on the matter to the House.[517]

As with the Speaker of the House, the Chair of a committee may be asked to rule on the procedural admissibility of a matter before the committee. Such rulings, which are sources of procedure, provide guidance in similar situations that may be encountered by the committee in the future. However, unlike rulings by the Speaker of the House, rulings by the Chair can be overturned by the committee and do not constitute precedents for future Chairs of the committee or the Chairs of other parliamentary committees.

*   Practice

Committee practice is the body of unwritten rules governing committee proceedings. It consists of procedures that have developed over time and are viewed as standard operating practice.[518] For example, while there is no Standing Order to that effect, the normal practice is to have government Members sit to the right of a committee Chair and opposition Members sit to the left.

In the absence of written rules, a committee can refer to practice when the members are uncertain as to how to proceed on a particular issue. Practice may also be used as a factor to be taken into consideration by a committee Chair who is required to make a ruling. The starting point in these circumstances is to examine how the committee proceeded in the past. If the analysis must be carried further, the committee can then examine the practice of other committees of the House and the practice of the House itself, if it can be applied to the committee’s proceedings.

During their proceedings, committees follow established practice. By decision of the majority of their members, they can, however, deviate from or adapt practice depending on their needs. If a situation guided by practice arises frequently and becomes a source of concern and interest for the members of a committee, the committee can decide to adopt a written rule to deal with the situation, which would have to be observed.

Masters of Their Procedures and Proceedings: a Freedom with Boundaries

The idea that committees are “masters of their proceedings” or “masters of their procedures” is frequently evoked in committee debates or the House.[519] The concept refers to the freedom committees normally have to organize their work as they see fit and the option they have of defining, on their own, certain rules of procedure that facilitate their proceedings.

These freedoms are not, however, total or absolute.[520] First, it is useful to bear in mind that committees are creatures of the House.[521] This means that they have no independent existence and are not permitted to take action unless they have been authorized/empowered to do so by the House.

The freedom committees have is, in fact, a freedom limited on two levels. First, committees are free to organize their proceedings as they see fit provided that their studies and the motions and reports they adopt comply with the orders of reference and instructions issued by the House. Second, committees may adopt procedural rules to govern their proceedings, but only to the extent the House does not prescribe anything specific. At all times, directives from procedural sources higher than parliamentary committees (Constitution; statutes; orders of reference, instructions and Standing Orders of the House; and rulings by the Speaker) take precedence over any rules a committee may adopt.[522]

*   Committees and Questions of Procedure and Privilege

Disorder and Misconduct

Disorder and misconduct in a committee may arise as a result of the failure to abide by the rules and practices of a committee or to respect the authority of the Chair. Disorder and misconduct also include the use of unparliamentary language, failure to yield the floor or persistent interruption of the proceedings in any manner. However, neither committees nor their Chairs have the authority to censure an act of disorder or misconduct.[523] If a committee desires that some action be taken against those disrupting the proceedings, it must report the situation to the House. The House may then take such measures as it deems appropriate.

In the event of disorder, the Chair may suspend the meeting until order can be restored[524] or, if the situation is considered to be so serious as to prevent the committee from continuing with its work, the meeting may be adjourned.[525] In addition, the Chair may, at his or her discretion, interrupt a member whose observations and questions are repetitive or are unrelated to the matter before the committee. If the member in question persists in making repetitive or off-topic comments, the Chair can give the floor to another member. If the member refuses to yield the floor and continues talking, the Chair may suspend or adjourn the meeting.[526]

Decisions of the Chair and Appeals

One of the primary responsibilities of a committee Chair is to determine the procedural admissibility of matters raised in committee and whether the committee business is conducted to procedure. The Chair makes such decisions on his or her own initiative or following a point of order raised by a Member.

Decisions by the Chair are not debatable. They can, however, be appealed to the full committee.[527] To appeal a decision by a Chair, a Member must inform the committee of his or her intent immediately after the decision is announced. The Chair then asks the committee to vote on the following motion: “That the decision of the Chair be sustained”.

This motion cannot be debated or amended and it is put to a vote immediately. If a majority of Members vote in favour of the motion, the Chair’s decision is sustained.[528] If a majority of Members vote against the motion, the Chair’s decision is overturned.[529] In the event of an equality of voices, the Chair’s decision is sustained.[530] The overturning of a ruling is not considered a matter of confidence in the Chair.

Points of Order

A point of order can be raised at any time during a meeting where a Member is of the opinion that the Standing Orders or a committee rule has been breached, or the Member believes that usual practice has not been followed. The proceedings under way are temporarily suspended while the point of order is addressed. Every point of order must be considered by the Chair, who determines whether or not the point of order has merit. Generally, the Chair makes an immediate decision on a point of order. However, where the point of order requires greater reflection or more extensive research, the Chair can take the matter under advisement and render a decision at a later time.[531]

Questions of Privilege in Committee

The Chair of a committee does not have the power to rule on questions of privilege;[532] only the Speaker has that power. If a Member wishes to raise a question of privilege during a committee meeting or an incident arises in connection with the committee’s proceedings that may constitute a breach of privilege, the committee Chair allows the Member to explain the situation. The Chair then determines whether the question raised in fact relates to parliamentary privilege. If the Chair determines that the question does relate to parliamentary privilege, the committee may then consider presenting a report on the question to the House. The report should:

*      clearly describe the situation;

*      summarize the facts;

*      provide the names of the people involved, if applicable;

*      state that there may be a breach of privilege; and

*      ask the House to take such measures as it deems appropriate.[533]

Ordinarily, presentation of a report to the House is a prerequisite for any question of privilege arising from the proceedings of a committee.[534]

*   Rules of Debate and the Decision-making Process

Rules of Debate

Every standing, legislative and special committee observes the Standing Orders of the House so far as they may be applicable, except the Standing Orders as to the election of a Speaker, seconding of motions, limiting the number of times of speaking and the length of speeches.[535]

This means that, in principle, the number of times a Member may speak in committee and the length of his or her speeches is not subject to any limit. The Member can thus take the floor as often and for as long as he or she wishes, provided the Chair has duly given the Member the floor.

The freedom the Standing Orders give committees regarding the number of times a person may speak and the length of speeches does not prevent a committee from adopting its own rules if it judges that such rules would be useful. The vast majority of committees adopt rules on the questioning of witnesses, specifying the order in which Members will pose questions and about the length of the questioning. As well, committees sometimes adopt rules to limit the number of times a person may speak or the length of speeches for specific studies or debates.[536]

Decision-making Process

A motion is needed to submit a proposal to a committee and obtain a decision on it. A motion is moved by a Member to have the committee do something, order its Chair and staff to ensure that something is done (an order) or express an opinion on a matter (resolution). Where the motion is debatable, moving of the motion triggers a period of debate. If no Member wishes to speak to the motion, the debate ends. The Chair then calls for a vote on the motion. A decision is made: the motion is either carried or defeated.

*   Notice

The Standing Orders do not require that notice be given before moving a motion in committee. However, to avoid situations where the members of a committee are forced to consider issues without warning, committees usually deem it appropriate to adopt rules on notice for substantive motions. Such notices are normally 24 or 48 hours.[537]

According to standard practice, 48 hours’ notice means that two nights must pass before the motion can be presented in committee, rather than 48 actual hours.[538] Twenty-four hours’ notice corresponds to one night. If 48 hours’ notice is given on a Tuesday, a committee can act on the motion on the following Thursday. Notices of motion issued by a Member who is no longer a member of a committee become moot.

*   Moving Motions

A member of a committee may move a motion at any time in the normal course of a meeting,[539] provided that:

*      the notice period, if any, has been respected;

*      the motion is not a substantive motion or a subsidiary motion where such a motion is already being debated (a committee is required to deal with such motions one at a time);

*      the member has the floor to move the motion and is not doing so on a point of order; and

*      moving the motion does not violate any rule the committee may have adopted in respect of the period in which motions can be moved.[540]

A motion moved in committee does not require a seconder,[541] but should be submitted to the committee Chair in writing; this allows the motion to be read to the committee members if necessary and accurately recorded in the minutes.

*   Votes

A committee cannot make a decision or vote unless there is quorum.[542] When debate on a motion ends or when a non-debatable motion is moved, the Chair reads the motion and asks the committee members if they agree.[543]

In contrast to the procedure in the House, where Members are summoned by the division bells, there is no provision for summoning absent committee members to a vote.[544]

Decisions can be:

*      made unanimously;

*      made “on division”;

*      voted on with a show of hands; or

*      made by recorded vote (at the request of a committee member).

Members who do not want a motion to be carried unanimously but also do not want a vote by show of hands or a recorded vote can indicate their wishes by simply saying “on division” after the Chair calls for a vote by the members.[545] However, if there is obvious disagreement among the members, the committee Chair calls for a vote by show of hands. The number of members voting for or against the motion is recorded in the Minutes of Proceedings of the meeting.[546]

If a Member requests a recorded vote,[547] the clerk reads out the names of the committee members in alphabetical order (by political affiliation). Each member replies “yea” or “nay”. The results of the vote are announced by the clerk, and the Chair declares the motion carried or defeated, as the case may be. The names of the members who voted for and against the motion are listed in the Minutes of Proceedings.[548]

As with the Speaker of the House, the Chair of a committee votes only in the case of an equality of voices (that is, a tie).[549] The Chair is not bound to give reasons for his or her vote and is free to vote either way. However, when bills are being studied, the Chairs of legislative or standing committees normally vote in such a way as to maintain the status quo or to keep the matter open for further discussion, just as the Speaker would do in similar circumstances in the House.[550]

Use of Unanimous Consent

Committee decisions are usually made by majority of the members present. However, unanimous consent of the members present is required to:

*      withdraw a motion that has already been moved;[551] and

*      continue meeting when the division bells are ringing for a recorded division in the House.[552]

Unanimous consent is generally used to:

*      temporarily suspend the application of a committee rule;

*      retake a vote on a matter that has already been put to a vote; or

*      move a motion in respect of which notice was given by another committee member.[553]

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*   Motions in Committee

Format and Admissibility

Generally, the rules governing the admissibility of motions in the House of Commons apply in the same manner to parliamentary committees.[554] For example, a motion should not contain offensive or unparliamentary language.

As in the House, the use of a preamble in a motion in committee is not recommended. A committee has the means to explain the motions it adopts in the body of the report it presents to the House, if such explanation is needed.

Furthermore, motions moved in committee must not go beyond the committee’s mandate[555] or infringe upon the prerogative of the Crown relating to the appropriation of public revenues.[556]

Types of Motions

There are three main types of motions moved in committee: substantive motions, subsidiary motions and privileged motions. The three types of motions and the links between them are illustrated in Figure 20.4.

 

Types of Motions in Committee

 

*   Substantive Motions

A substantive motion is a separate, self-contained motion. It does not arise from another motion. Generally, a substantive motion is debatable and amendable. If carried, a substantive motion becomes a resolution or order of the committee. Many committees require notice for this type of motion. Some allow substantive motions to be moved without notice if they arise from a study or debate then before the committee.

*   Subsidiary Motions

A subsidiary motion is used to advance a question before the committee, for example, to allow a report to be adopted. Subsidiary motions do not normally require notice, but they are debatable and amendable.

*   Privileged Motions

A privileged motion is a motion dependent on another motion already before the committee. There are two types of privileged motions: motions to amend (amendments) and superseding motions.

Amendments

An amendment[557] is moved in order to amend a motion before the committee. The objective is to make the motion more acceptable to the committee or put forward new wording for the main motion. A motion to amend does not require notice. Once the amendment has been moved and deemed admissible, the Chair submits it to the committee. Debate on the main motion is suspended, and the amendment is debated until it has been decided. Debate on the main motion then resumes, whether or not it has been amended. As with a main motion, a motion to amend can itself be amended. A subamendment is a proposed amendment to an amendment. In most cases, there is no limit on the number of amendments that may be moved; however, only one amendment and one subamendment may be considered by a committee at one time.

Superseding Motions

A superseding motion is a motion moved for the purpose of replacing the motion then being considered by the committee. There are two types of superseding motions: dilatory motions and the previous question.

*    Dilatory Motions

A dilatory motion is a motion designed to dispose of the original question before the committee, either for the time being or permanently.[558] Dilatory motions do not require notice, nor can they be amended or debated. They are therefore put to a vote immediately.

If a dilatory motion is accompanied by a condition, it becomes a substantive motion. It is then subject to the rules on the admissibility of such motions.[559] It also becomes debatable and amendable.

The main dilatory motions deemed admissible in committee include:

*      “That the Committee do now adjourn” / “That the meeting be adjourned”:

If the motion is carried, the committee adjourns immediately to the call of the Chair.[560] If the motion is defeated, the committee meeting continues.

*      “That the debate be now adjourned”:

A member who moves “That the debate be now adjourned” wishes to temporarily suspend debate underway on a motion or study. If the motion is carried, debate on the motion or study ceases and the committee moves on to the next agenda item.[561]

*      “That the Committee proceed [to another order of business]”:

This motion results in the matter then under consideration by the committee being replaced by the order of business proposed in the motion. If the motion is carried, the committee immediately proceeds to the “order” referred to in the motion.[562]

*    Motion for the Previous Question

The motion “That this question be now put” is known as the previous question. In the House, the previous question is a debatable motion.[563] When the debate ends, the motion for the previous question is put to a vote. If the motion is carried, the initial motion under consideration is immediately put to a vote.[564]

In committee, motions for the previous question are inadmissible.[565]

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*   Organization and Conduct of Business

At the beginning of a session, a committee’s work typically follows a number of steps. Ordinarily, these steps include the convening of an organization meeting, the determination of a study, the preparation of a work schedule and a list of witnesses, the receipt of a briefing, the gathering of evidence and opinions, deliberations leading to the production and adoption of a report, and the presentation of the report to the House. In some cases, a government response to the report will be requested, or the report will be concurred in by the House.[566]

Organization Meeting

Before a committee can begin to consider its work at the beginning of a parliamentary session, it must be properly constituted, that is, its members must be appointed and a Chair designated. Where the Chair has not been appointed by the House or named by the Speaker, the election of the Chair takes place at a committee’s first meeting, which is called the “organization meeting”.[567]

Legislative committees must meet to begin their work within two sitting days of the naming of the Chair and the appointment by the House of their membership or the referral of a bill to the committee.[568]

*   Routine Motions

As they begin their work, committees often find it useful to adopt a series of motions to deal with items of day-to-day business, called “routine” motions. Since each committee is free to organize its work as it sees fit, there is no official list of routine motions which every committee must adopt. Routine motions may vary from one session of Parliament to another. Their provisions may be influenced by the relative proportion of the recognized parties in the House. The following is a list of the principal routine motions. In many instances, a committee will adapt these motions in order to suit its own particular circumstances. The examples shown in the boxes are for purposes of illustration only.

Analyst Services

In order to carry out their work, committees seek the assistance of analysts from the Library of Parliament. The usual motion leaves the control and coordination of these individuals to the Chair of the committee.

That the Committee retain, as needed and at the discretion of the Chair, the services of one or more analysts from the Library of Parliament to assist it in its work.[569]

 

Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure

Committees that can and wish to have a subcommittee on agenda and procedure, or “steering committee”, adopt a routine motion establishing the subcommittee and specifying its composition.

That the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure be established and composed of the Chair, the two Vice-Chairs and a member of the other opposition party.[570]

 

Meeting Without a Quorum

Committees may authorize the Chair to hold meetings for the sole purpose of hearing evidence when a quorum is not present.[571] As a general rule, however, committees stipulate in a routine motion that a minimum number of members must be present in order for the committee to hear witnesses.[572]

That the Chair be authorized to hold meetings and to receive and publish evidence when a quorum is not present, provided that at least three (3) members are present, including a member of the opposition.[573]

 

Time for Opening Remarks and Questioning of Witnesses

Committees normally set limits on the time each witness is given to make an opening statement. They also establish the length of time that will be devoted to questioning by committee members and how that time will be divided among the members of the various parties represented on the committee. As well, some committees adopt special rules for the questioning of Ministers.

That witnesses be given ten (10) minutes to make their opening statement; that, at the discretion of the Chair, during the questioning of witnesses, there be allocated ten (10) minutes for the first questioner of each party when a Minister appears before the Committee and five (5) minutes for the other meetings and that thereafter, five (5) minutes be allocated to each subsequent questioner alternating between Government and Opposition parties.[574]

 

Document Distribution

The public has the right to communicate with a parliamentary committee in either official language, as stipulated in the Constitution Act, 1982 and the Official Languages Act.[575] However, Members sitting on a committee are entitled to receive documents in the official language of their choice. Committees usually adopt a routine motion to ensure that all documents distributed to committee members will be in both official languages. When a committee receives a document in one official language, the clerk of the committee has it translated into the other official language before it is distributed to committee members. Some committees specify in the motion that witnesses are to be advised of this rule. Some committees further prescribe that only the clerk of the committee is authorized to distribute documents to committee members.[576]

That only the clerk of the Committee be authorized to distribute to the members of the Committee and only when the documents are available in both official languages.[577]

 

Working Meals

Committee members may occasionally choose to continue their deliberations during meal times. Consequently, the majority of committees adopt a routine motion authorizing the clerk of the committee to order meals and charge them to the committee’s budget.

That the clerk of the Committee be authorized to make the necessary arrangements to provide working meals for the Committee and its subcommittees.[578]

 

Travel, Accommodation and Living Expenses of Witnesses

Many witnesses incur expenses in travelling to appear before committees, whether they attend meetings held in the Parliamentary Precinct or in other parts of Canada. As no expenditure can be made from committee funds without committee approval, it is necessary that a motion be adopted setting out the conditions under which witness expenses are to be reimbursed. The Board of Internal Economy has established guidelines for acceptable levels of reimbursement, but it is up to each committee to decide in which cases it will agree to reimburse witnesses.[579]

That, if requested, reasonable travel, accommodation and living expenses be reimbursed to witnesses not exceeding two (2) representatives per organization; and that, in exceptional circumstances, payment for more representatives be made at the discretion of the Chair.[580]

 

Access to In Camera Meetings

In camera meetings are normally closed to everyone except members, committee staff and invited witnesses.[581] However, committees may wish to interpret the in camera rule more narrowly or more broadly, and adopt a motion providing for specific inclusions (such as a member of each committee member’s staff) or exclusions.[582]

That, unless otherwise ordered, each Committee member be allowed to have one staff member present at in camera meetings.[583]

 

Transcripts of In Camera Meetings

While no public transcript (Evidence) is produced of what is said during in camera proceedings, committees generally decide to have a transcript produced for the private consultation of committee members and staff. The transcript is retained by the clerk of the committee. Committees must also decide how such transcripts will be disposed of at the end of the session, that is whether they will be destroyed or made part of the permanent record for historical purposes.[584] Committees sometimes prefer to deal with the matter of the disposition of in camera transcripts on a case-by-case basis.[585]

That one copy of the transcript of each in camera meeting be kept in the Committee Clerk’s office for consultation by members of the Committee.[586]

 

Notice of Motion

Committees often find it appropriate to require members to give notice before presenting a motion. In imposing a notice requirement, committees must determine what types of motions will require notice, how notice is to be given (be it orally or in writing) and to whom (the committee clerk, for example). They must also determine how members will be informed of such notices, as committees, unlike the House, do not have a Notice Paper.

Committees may also decide to submit notices of motions to the steering committee for review.

That forty-eight (48) hours’ notice be required for any substantive motion to be considered by the Committee, unless the substantive motion relates directly to business then under consideration; and that the notice of motion be filed with the Clerk of the Committee and distributed to members in both official languages.[587]

 

In addition to the routine motions listed above, there is a wide range of motions related to procedure and administration that committees may adopt from time to time.[588]

Determination of Studies and Preparation of Work Schedules and Lists of Witnesses

In determining what studies a committee will undertake, its choice may be dictated by an order of reference from the House or the interests of its members, if it is in a position to initiate studies. A committee may ask its subcommittee on agenda and procedure to make recommendations regarding the studies to be carried out. Committees often study a number of questions at the same time.[589] Careful planning is required to ensure that their work is done efficiently and that any deadlines set by the House are met.

After deciding on the studies to be undertaken, a committee should agree on a work plan for conducting the studies as efficiently as possible. The work plan may include a work schedule, a calendar of meetings and a list of witnesses.

Witness selection may be carried out in a number of different ways. Generally, witnesses are proposed by individual committee members. The committee may also invite potential witnesses to indicate their interest in appearing. The selection is often delegated to the subcommittee on procedure and agenda, subject to ratification by the main committee.[590] In addition, groups and individuals who are aware of a forthcoming study by a committee may give notice of their interest in appearing. It is the committee’s responsibility to determine which witnesses it will hear.[591] Practical considerations, such as the length of time allocated for a study, may limit the number of witnesses the committee will be able to accommodate.

Figure 20.5 illustrates the process that is followed in the case of a study leading to the presentation of a substantive report to the House. This is the usual order of business; each committee decides how much time it will spend on each step, depending on its needs and any deadlines set by the House. A committee may decide to skip one or more steps. In some cases, it may choose to abandon a study before completing it.[592]

 

Usual Order of Business for Committee Study Leading to a Substantive Report

 

Briefings

When a committee undertakes a study, it may choose first to receive a briefing on the various aspects of the question to be explored. The briefing, which may be provided by the committee’s analysts, public servants or consultants, is sometimes held in camera.[593] In some cases, the committee’s analysts provide members with a briefing note instead of a briefing session. In the case of a study of a government bill, officials from the sponsoring department generally prepare a briefing book on the issues associated with the legislative measure.

Gathering Evidence and Soliciting Opinions

Committees generally obtain the opinions of persons well versed in or directly concerned with the issues before them. The consultation may be as narrow as a relatively small group of technical experts or as broad as the entire population of Canada.

Generally, committees gather information by hearing witnesses and receiving briefs. Ordinarily, they have the power to send for persons, papers and records.[594]

A committee may inform members of the public of its activities and solicit their views. To that end, it may issue news releases, send materials to interested groups by regular or electronic mail, place advertisements in newspapers, and post announcements on the CPAC network or the Parliament of Canada Web site.[595]

In recent years, committees have used other methods of hearing witnesses, such as panels,[596] “town halls”,[597] electronic polls and video conferences.[598] In addition, the development of new communications technologies such as the Internet has helped diversify the means used by committees to inform the public of their activities and receive their views on specific subjects.[599] For example, the Subcommittee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities held an electronic consultation in 2002‑03, spread over two sessions of the Thirty-Seventh Parliament.[600] Just before the dissolution of the Thirty-Eighth Parliament, in October and November 2005, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade also conducted an online consultation.[601]

*   Evidence

The House recommends that its committees advise witnesses of their rights and duties and of the penalties to which they are liable if they refuse to respond to committees’ requests.[602]

Swearing-in of Witnesses

Any witness appearing before a committee may be required to take an oath or make a solemn affirmation (Figure 20.6).[603] As a general rule, committees, which have full discretion in this matter, seldom require witnesses to be sworn in.[604] A witness who refuses to be sworn in might be charged with contempt of the House.[605] Likewise, refusal to answer questions or failure to reply truthfully may give rise to a charge of contempt of the House, whether the witness has been sworn in or not.[606]

 

Swearing-in of Witnesses

 

Testimony

Witnesses appearing before committees are usually asked to make a brief opening statement, summarizing their views or the views of the organization they represent, on the subject of the committee’s inquiry. Following this opening statement, there is a period for questioning.[607] The Chair may, on occasion, participate in the questioning of witnesses.[608]

Witnesses giving testimony may be assisted by counsel, but they must first seek the committee’s permission. Counsel, when permitted, is restricted to an advisory role and may neither ask questions nor reply on the witness’s behalf. Counsel is not noted in the Minutes of Proceedings as a witness, but rather as a participant or a person attending as an individual.[609]

There are no specific rules governing the nature of questions which may be put to witnesses appearing before committees, beyond the general requirement of relevance to the issue before the committee.[610] Witnesses must answer all questions which the committee puts to them.[611] A witness may object to a question asked by an individual committee member. However, if the committee agrees that the question be put to the witness, he or she is obliged to reply. On the other hand, members have been urged to display the “appropriate courtesy and fairness” when questioning witnesses.[612] The actions of a witness who refuses to answer questions may be reported to the House.[613]

Particular attention is paid to the questioning of public servants.[614] The obligation of a witness to answer all questions put by the committee must be balanced against the role that public servants play in providing confidential advice to their Ministers. The role of the public servant has traditionally been viewed in relation to the implementation and administration of government policy, rather than the determination of what that policy should be. Consequently, public servants have been excused from commenting on the policy decisions made by the government.[615] In addition, committees ordinarily accept the reasons that a public servant gives for declining to answer a specific question or series of questions which involve the giving of a legal opinion, which may be perceived as a conflict with the witness’ responsibility to the Minister, which are outside of their own area of responsibility, or which might affect business transactions.[616]

Moreover, the proclamation in December 2006 of the Act providing for conflict of interest rules, restrictions on election financing and measures respecting administrative transparency, oversight and accountability had an impact on the work of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. This legislation, which amended the Financial Administration Act, specifies the persons designated as accounting officers for departments and prescribes the matters for which they are accountable to the Committee. This led the Committee to establish a protocol in March 2007 that describes and explains the ground rules for the appearance of Ministers and senior officials before the Committee.[617]

Witnesses appearing before committees enjoy the same freedom of speech and protection from arrest and molestation as do Members of Parliament.[618] At the committee’s discretion, witnesses may be allowed to testify in camera when dealing with confidential matters of state or sensitive commercial or personal information.[619] Under special circumstances, witnesses have been permitted to appear anonymously or under a pseudonym.[620]

Tampering with a witness or in any way attempting to deter a witness from giving evidence may constitute a breach of parliamentary privilege. Similarly, any interference with or threats against witnesses who have already testified may be treated as a breach of privilege by the House.[621]

In light of the protection afforded witnesses by Parliament, they are expected to exercise judgement and restraint in presenting their views to committees. Where witnesses persist in making comments which a committee deems inappropriate, their testimony has been expunged from the record.[622]

Briefs and Other Papers

A brief is any document presenting the position of an individual, group, organization or government department with respect to a particular issue.

Federal departments and agencies are required to submit documents to committees in both official languages. Everyone else, including Members of the House of Commons, may submit written material in either official language. On occasion, a committee will consider a document to be of sufficient importance that it will agree to treat it either as an “appendix” or an “exhibit”. An appendix is a document which the committee has ordered to be appended to the published Evidence of a particular meeting.[623] An exhibit is any document or item classified as such by the committee. It is therefore part of the committee’s permanent records for the duration of the session, before being archived at Library and Archives Canada under a formal agreement between Library and Archives Canada and the House of Commons.[624] Exhibits are neither published nor distributed to committee members; they are kept by the clerk for consultation. When a committee decides to designate a document as an appendix or exhibit, the appropriate entry is made in the committee’s Minutes of Proceedings.

A document submitted to a committee becomes the property of the committee and forms part of the committee’s records. Each committee must decide whether such documents will be made public or kept confidential. Confidential documents are for the exclusive use of the committee’s members and staff for the duration of the session.[625] Confidential documents of committees are to be classified as Secret Records by the Library and Archives Canada for a period of 30 years from the end of the session in which they were received.

Deliberations for the Production of a Report

Once a committee has heard all the witnesses and reviewed the documents submitted in the course of a study, it normally turns its attention to drafting the report that will be presented to the House. Deliberations on a draft report usually proceed in camera,[626] although the committee may decide to hold its proceedings in public.[627] If a report is short, it can be amended and adopted immediately. If the report is a lengthy substantive report, committee staff is normally given drafting instructions by the committee. The draft report is then considered and possibly amended by the members in one or more meetings.[628]

Adoption of a Report by a Committee

Once a majority of the members have agreed on a final version of a report, the committee adopts one or more motions to approve the report and directs the Chair to present it to the House.[629] For longer substantive reports, these motions may include:

*      adoption of the draft report, with or without amendments;

*      adoption of the title of the report;[630]

*      a request for a government response, if applicable (in the case of standing or special committees);

*      authorization for the committee Chair and staff to correct typographical and stylistic errors in the report as needed;

*      authorization to append to the report any supplementary or dissenting opinions, as well as their length and format, deadlines and languages in which they must be submitted;

*      the number of copies to be printed, if applicable;

*      authorization for the committee Chair to present the report to the House; and

*      instructions to the clerk of the committee to arrange a press conference, if applicable, after the report is presented to the House.

Presentation to the House

Committee reports are presented during Routine Proceedings, when the Speaker calls “Presenting Reports from Committees”.[631] Reports are ordinarily presented by the Chair, on instruction from the committee.[632] In the absence of the Chair, a report may be presented by another member of the committee.[633]

The Member presenting the report may offer a brief explanation of its subject matter.[634] Where a report has supplementary or dissenting opinions appended to it, a committee member from the Official Opposition may offer a succinct explanation thereof.[635] The Standing Orders do not permit any other Member to comment on the report at this time. However, the House may, by unanimous consent, authorize another Member to give an opinion on the report itself or on a supplementary or dissenting opinion.[636]

The House sometimes makes provision for the presentation of committee reports during adjournment periods, by having them filed with the Clerk of the House. This has been done both for specific reports, and as a general provision for any committee reports completed during an adjournment period.[637]

Committee reports must be presented to the House before they can be released to the public. Even when a report is concurred in at a public meeting, the report itself is considered confidential until it has actually been presented to the House. In addition, any disclosure of the contents of a report prior to presentation, either by Members or non-Members, may be judged to be a breach of privilege.[638] Speakers have ruled that questions of privilege concerning leaked reports will not be considered unless a specific charge is made against an individual, organization or group, and that the charge must be levelled not only against those outside the House who have made the material public, but must also identify the source of the leak within the House itself.[639]

It is not in order for Members to allude to committee proceedings or evidence in the House until the committee has presented its report to the House.[640]

Government Response

When a report is presented to the House, a standing or special committee may request that the government table a comprehensive response to it within 120 calendar days.[641] The committee may request the response either to the whole report or to one or more parts.[642] The request is recorded in the Journals immediately after the entry regarding the presentation of the report. A request for a partial response does not prevent the government from responding to the entire report. Speakers have consistently refused to define “comprehensive” in this context, maintaining that the nature of the response must be left to the discretion of the government.[643] When the House is sitting, the response may be tabled by a Minister or a Parliamentary Secretary during Routine Proceedings under “Tabling of Documents” or filed with the Clerk.[644] When the House is adjourned, the response may be filed with the Clerk, or the Minister may wait until the House resumes sitting to table it.[645] The Standing Orders do not provide for any sanction should the government fail to comply with the requirement to present a response.[646]

Concurrence in a Report by the House

Recommendations in committee reports are normally drafted in the form of motions so that, if the reports are concurred in, the recommendations become clear orders or resolutions of the House.[647]

A Member who wishes to move a motion for concurrence in a committee report must give 48 hours’ notice of the motion.[648] The Member can then move the motion under the rubric “Motions” during Routine Proceedings. The motion can be debated for up to three hours.[649] In the case of a report for which a government response has been requested, no motion for concurrence in the report may be moved until the comprehensive response has been tabled or the 120-day period has expired, whichever comes first.[650]

When a motion to concur in a report is before the House, it is the concurrence in the report as a whole which the House is considering. No amendment may be presented to the text of the report.[651] An amendment to a motion for concurrence may, however, be proposed to recommit the report to the committee for re-examination.[652]

A motion to concur in a report on the estimates can only be debated on an allotted day under the Business of Supply.[653] The Standing Orders also provide a special procedure for reports containing a resolution to revoke a regulatory instrument made by the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations.[654] Reports containing a recommendation to not proceed with a private Member’s bill and reports requesting an extension to consider a private Member’s bill are also subject to specific concurrence procedures.[655] Reports on the membership of legislative committees and some reports concerning the selection of votable items of Private Members’ Business are deemed adopted upon presentation to the House.[656]

Where a bill has been reported back from committee, it is subject to the rules and practices governing the legislative process, rather than those relating to committee reports in general.

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*   Types of Meetings and Activities

Committees conduct their deliberations and make decisions within the framework of meetings. In order to accommodate the wide variety of subjects that they may be called upon to examine, committees have a range of meeting formats from which to choose. They sometimes engage in other types of activities in addition to regular meetings.

Public Meetings

Committee meetings are ordinarily open to the public and the media. Simultaneous interpretation services are offered to committee members, witnesses and members of the public.

In Camera Meetings

On occasion, a committee may decide to hold an in camera meeting to deal with administrative matters, to consider a draft report or to receive a briefing. Subcommittees on Agenda and Procedure usually meet in camera.[657] Committees also meet in camera to deal with documents or matters requiring confidentiality, such as national security.[658] Depending on the needs, a committee may conduct one part of a meeting in public and the other part in camera.

Committees usually switch from meeting in public to meeting in camera (and vice versa) at the suggestion of the Chair, with the implied consent of the members. If there is no such consent, a member may move a formal motion to meet in camera. The motion is decided immediately without debate or amendment.[659]

The committee decides, either on a case-by-case basis or as a routine motion, whether a transcript of in camera proceedings is to be kept.[660] Minutes of in camera meetings are publicly available, but certain information usually found in the minutes of committee meetings is not included.[661]

Neither the public nor the media is permitted at in camera meetings, and there is no broadcasting of the proceedings.[662] Usually, only the committee members, the committee staff and invited witnesses, if any, attend in camera meetings. Members of the House who are not members of the committee normally withdraw when the committee is meeting in camera. However, the committee may allow them to remain in the meeting room, just as it may allow any other individual to remain.[663] Divulging any part of the proceedings of an in camera committee meeting has been ruled by the Speaker to constitute a prima facie matter of privilege.[664]

Informal Meetings

Committees sometimes choose to meet informally with parliamentarians and government officials from other countries who are visiting Canada.[665] As an informal meeting is not, strictly speaking, a committee meeting, it may take place in a much more relaxed atmosphere. Members are not bound by the ordinary rules and practices that govern committee meetings. The proceedings are neither recorded nor transcribed,[666] nor is the committee entitled to any of the privileges associated with parliamentary proceedings or to exercise any of the powers which the House has conferred to it. No minutes of the meeting are produced. Frequently, informal meetings are not held in a committee room, but in a room that provides a more appropriate setting.

Meetings or Activities Outside the Parliamentary Precinct

From time to time, committees also travel for the purpose of gathering evidence, attending a conference[667] or visiting sites related to a study.[668] In order to hold such meetings or activities outside the Parliamentary Precinct, even if they involve travel within the National Capital Region, a committee must obtain the necessary travel funds and the permission of the House to travel.[669] The House may grant a committee permission to travel by adopting a motion to that effect or by concurring in a committee report recommending that such permission be given.[670]

Committees empowered to hold hearings elsewhere in Canada do so in the same manner as on Parliament Hill. The committee retains all of the powers accorded it by Standing Orders or special orders, and committee members and witnesses are protected by parliamentary privilege.

When travelling outside of Canada, committees usually have the opportunity to consult with groups and individuals and to tour facilities.[671] Outside the country, committees do not hold formal hearings.[672] The powers which the House delegates to committees are not in effect when a committee is outside of Canada, nor are committee proceedings protected by parliamentary privilege.

*   Physical Setting

During regular meetings in the Parliamentary Precinct, committees usually meet in specially equipped committee rooms provided by the House of Commons or, in the case of joint committees, the Senate.[673] Committees may also use other rooms in the Parliament Buildings for informal meetings and other activities.

As Figure 20.7 illustrates, meeting rooms are usually arranged in an open-rectangle configuration. The Chair sits at one end, flanked by the clerk and the analysts from the Library of Parliament. Government members are at the Chair’s right, while opposition members sit on the left. Witnesses, if any, sit at the end of the rectangle opposite the Chair. Committee members’ staff sit behind the members on either side of the room, and there is seating for the public and the media at the rear of the room, behind the witnesses. Figure 20.8 shows a photograph of a committee room in the Centre Block.

Committees often meet outside the Parliamentary Precinct in hotel conference rooms that are capable of accommodating their usual configuration.

 

Committee Room Configuration

 

 

Photograph of a typical committee room, showing several tables placed in a rectangular format, surrounded by chairs. At the front of the room is a large podium for the console operator.

 

*   Scheduling, Convening and Conduct of Meetings

Times of Meetings and Room Allocation

When the House is sitting, most committee meetings are held from Monday to Thursday. The average length of a meeting is two hours, but a committee may meet for a longer or shorter period, as it sees fit.[674]

As the number of meeting rooms provided by the House of Commons is limited, standing committees follow a system of priority access based on rotating blocks of time approved by the Whips of the recognized parties.[675] Standing committees are divided into four groups; each group is assigned one block of time, which consists of two periods per week. These periods are:

*      Mondays and Wednesdays, 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.;

*      Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.;

*      Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.; and

*      Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Normally, each group of standing committees is given a new block of time in September and January. Special committees are given priority during periods other than those allocated to standing committees, including after 5:30 p.m., and on Mondays from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Subcommittees may meet during the time normally reserved for their main committee if it is not meeting, and may meet at other times. Standing joint committees usually meet outside these blocks of time.

For committees which do not have priority in a given time period, access to meeting rooms is on a first-come, first-served basis, after those entitled to meet at that time. Committee room access practices notwithstanding, the Standing Orders provide that, when the House is sitting, committees considering legislation or estimates have priority over all other committees.[676] Moreover, standing committees are prohibited from sitting at the same time as a legislative committee studying a bill which emanates from or principally affects the department or agency for which they are responsible.[677]

Convening a Meeting

*   By the Chair

Committee meetings are convened by the Chair,[678] acting either on a decision made by the committee,[679] or on his or her own authority.[680] Meetings of joint committees are usually convened by one of the Joint-Chairs.[681] Only the Chair of a committee may convene a meeting; Vice-Chairs have no such power. However, the House may instruct a committee to meet at a specific time.[682]

*   At the Request of Four Committee Members

The Standing Orders provide that four members of a standing committee may make a request in writing that the committee meet.[683] The request is forwarded to the clerk of the committee. It specifies the reasons for which the meeting should be held.[684] A meeting must be held within five calendar days to consider the written request. The Chair may agree to consider the request at a regular meeting of the committee,[685] or call a special meeting for that purpose, particularly during an adjournment of the House.[686] Forty-eight hours’ notice of such a meeting must nevertheless be given to the members.[687]

In considering the request, the committee decides whether or not it wishes to take up the requested subject matter. There is no obligation on the committee to conclude debate.[688] If it decides to consider the matter, it may do so as and when it wishes. A committee meeting convened in response to a request by four members may be held in public or in camera.

*   Cancelling a Meeting

Circumstances sometimes arise which make it necessary to cancel a committee meeting, after a notice convening the meeting has been sent. Where a committee has agreed to adjourn to the call of the Chair, the Chair instructs the clerk to send an amendment to the notice to members, informing them of the cancellation. Where the meeting has been convened by order of the committee, the Chair usually consults with representatives of the various parties before sending the cancellation notice.[689] In the case of joint committees, the committee may decide whether a single Joint-Chair may convene or cancel meetings or whether both Joint-Chairs must act together.[690]

Conduct of Meetings

*   Quorum and Call to Order / “Reduced Quorum”

In order to exercise the powers granted to it by the House, the Standing Orders require a committee to have a quorum at its meetings.[691] In the case of standing, legislative and special committees, a majority of the members constitute a quorum.[692] The Chair of a legislative committee is not counted for the purpose of establishing a quorum.

Only regular members of a committee, or properly designated substitutes, are counted as part of the quorum. As a courtesy, most committees do not begin their meetings until at least one Member of the opposition is in attendance, even if a quorum is present.

The quorum for standing joint and special joint committees is not set out in the Standing Orders. Standing joint committees propose a quorum by means of a report presented to and concurred in by both Houses.[693] The quorum for a special joint committee is usually set out in the order of reference which establishes it. It is generally the case that the quorum of joint committees requires the presence of members from both Houses.[694] In the case of joint meetings of standing committees, each committee must achieve its own quorum in order to meet.

When a quorum is not present at the time set for the meeting to begin, the committee Chair may allow 15 minutes for other members to arrive.[695]

However, the Standing Orders do allow standing, special and legislative committees to authorize the Chair to hold meetings in order to receive evidence when a quorum is not present.[696] Committees normally specify in a routine motion the number of members they wish to be present in order for meetings to be held. This is referred to as a “reduced quorum”.[697] The motion often contains additional conditions.[698]

When only a reduced quorum is present, no motions may be moved, and no votes may be held. Committees do, however, retain the power to publish the evidence received at meetings held with a reduced quorum.[699]

At joint meetings, the reduced quorum for each committee must be present in order for witnesses to be heard. If it is not, the meeting may take place, but it is not considered to be a joint meeting, since one of the committees is without a quorum.

*   Suspension

Committees frequently suspend their meetings for various reasons, with the intention to resume later in the day.[700] Suspensions may last a few seconds, or several hours, depending on the circumstances, and a meeting may be suspended more than once. The committee Chair must clearly announce the suspension, so that transcription ceases until the meeting resumes. Meetings are suspended, for example, to change from public to in camera mode, or the reverse,[701] to enable witnesses to be seated or to hear witnesses by video conference,[702] to put an end to disorder,[703] to resolve a problem with the simultaneous interpretation system, or to move from one item on the agenda to the next.[704]

Pursuant to the Standing Orders, the Chair of a standing, special, legislative or joint committee is required to suspend the meeting when the bells are sounded to call in the Members to a recorded division in the House, unless there is unanimous consent of the members of the committee to continue to sit.[705]

*   Adjournment

Committees most often adjourn to the call of the Chair; that is, the decision as to the exact time of the next meeting is left to the discretion of the Chair.[706] This is done even when they have adopted a work plan that lays out a detailed schedule of meetings. In this way, the Chair is given the flexibility to respond effectively to changing events and to the availability of potential witnesses. Committees may also adjourn to a specific time,[707] as they usually do when the next meeting is scheduled for the immediate future, for example, the next day or later the same day. Committees may, on occasion, adjourn without making any provision for a future meeting, that is, to adjourn sine die (indefinitely).[708]

A committee meeting is normally adjourned by the adoption of a motion to that effect.[709] However, most meetings are adjourned more informally, when the Chair receives the implied consent of members to adjourn.[710] The committee Chair cannot adjourn the meeting without the consent of a majority of the members, unless the Chair decides that a case of disorder or misconduct is so serious as to prevent the committee from continuing its work.[711]

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*   Funding of Activities

While deliberating among themselves in rooms made available to them within the Parliamentary Precinct, committee members may perform numerous tasks without incurring direct expenses. The costs of many services required for their meetings to function well are generally assumed by various House of Commons services. However, nearly all committees incur expenses in, for example, reimbursing the travel costs of witnesses who appear before them. The Standing Orders provide parliamentary committees with limited interim spending authority.[712]

Key Authorities in the Financial Management of Committees

*   Board of Internal Economy

The Board of Internal Economy is responsible under the Parliament of Canada Act for all financial and administrative matters respecting the House of Commons and its Members.[713]

The Board approves the financial policies which apply to parliamentary committees. It also determines the budget envelope for committee activities within the main estimates voted annually by Parliament. The Board itself reviews the budget requests of legislative and special committees, but delegates to the Liaison Committee the responsibility of allocating available funds for standing and standing joint committees and managing their funding.

*   Liaison Committee and Subcommittee on Committee Budgets

The Liaison Committee is established under the Standing Orders[714] and returns from session to session, although it is not a standing committee as such. It is composed of all the Chairs of standing committees and Members who are Joint-Chairs of standing joint committees.[715]

The Liaison Committee reviews budget requests from standing and standing joint committees. It allocates and manages funds from the Board of Internal Economy.[716]

The Liaison Committee is also empowered under the Standing Orders to present reports to the House[717] and to strike subcommittees made up of members and associate members of the Liaison Committee.[718] Seven members constitute a quorum.[719] The Standing Orders further provide that the Whip, or his or her designate, of any recognized party not having a member on the Liaison Committee may take part in its proceedings but may not vote, move a motion or be counted as part of any quorum.[720]

At the beginning of each session and each fall when the House is sitting, the Clerk of the House convenes an organization meeting of the Liaison Committee to elect a Chair and a Vice-Chair. The meeting is convened within five sitting days of the meeting of the last standing committee to elect its Chair, but no later than the 20th sitting day after the House concurs in the report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs listing the members of standing committees and Members representing the House on standing joint committees.[721] The Chairs of all standing committees, and the members who have already been elected Joint-Chairs of standing joint committees, are called to this meeting.[722]

At this initial meeting, the Liaison Committee usually strikes its Subcommittee on Committee Budgets, responsible for the detailed review of budget requests from standing and standing joint committees, the allocation of funding, the review of budget provisions and the preparation of any supplementary budget requests. Decisions made by the Subcommittee within the mandate given to it by the Liaison Committee do not have to be approved individually by the latter in order to take effect.

The Subcommittee is usually composed of seven members, including the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Liaison Committee. They generally hold the same offices within the Subcommittee: they are elected by their peers at the first meeting, or so designated by the main committee in the order of reference establishing the Subcommittee.[723] The other members of the Subcommittee are normally drawn from the government party and the Official Opposition in a ratio that varies from session to session.

As a rule, both the Liaison Committee and its Subcommittee on Committee Budgets meet in camera.

*   Obtaining Funding for Committees

Standing committees obtain funding by presenting their budget requests to the Liaison Committee, whereas legislative and special committees and subcommittees established by order of the House present them to the Board of Internal Economy. Subcommittees created by standing committees present their budget requests to their main committee for approval before they are presented to the Liaison Committee.[724] In the case of standing joint and special joint committees, budget requests are presented for approval to the Senate Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budget and Administration, and the appropriate House of Commons bodies.[725]

Committees fund their activities through various types of budgets. Standing and standing joint committees are given basic operational budgets to cover routine committee expenses and those related to major projects pending approval. Legislative and special committees receive interim funding for the same types of expenditures. Operational budgets submitted by standing and standing joint committees are used to pay costs related to particular studies they intend to conduct. Lastly, travel budgets are submitted when a standing or standing joint committee intends to travel outside the Parliamentary Precinct. Legislative and special committees submit budgets over and above their interim funding, subject to certain conditions.

All expenditures covered by these budgets are subject to financial policies that regulate the type of expenditure eligible and the extent of coverage.[726] Moreover, although it can be interrupted by prorogation or dissolution,[727] the committee financial cycle is related to that of a traditional fiscal year. It begins on April 1 of a calendar year, and ends on the following March 31. The activities of special and legislative committees are likely to span more than one fiscal year, but their budgets and expenditures are nevertheless managed on a fiscal-year basis.

Basic Operational Budget or Interim Funding

At the beginning of a fiscal year, standing and standing joint committees are allocated a basic operational budget. Subcommittees may be given a basic operational budget on request by their clerk to the clerk of the Liaison Committee. These amounts are reset at their initial levels on September 1 of each year.

Once duly organized, legislative and special committees are granted interim funding in order to begin their work without delay. Interim funding is used until a budget, if necessary, is approved for them. The approved budget will include the amount of the interim funding.[728]

Supplementary Budget for Project-related Activities or Travel

When a standing or standing joint committee wishes to undertake a study that will require expenditures in excess of its basic operational budget, it must prepare an operational budget to seek the necessary funds. Figure 20.9 summarizes the process that is followed.

If a standing or standing joint committee wishes to travel outside the Parliamentary Precinct, it must submit a travel budget. Figure 20.9 illustrates the process followed in such a case. If the committee decides to alter its initial itinerary as approved by the Liaison Committee and the House, it submits a revised budget and the process is repeated from the beginning.

 

Approval Process for Operational and Travel Budgets for Standing Committees

 

Legislative and Special Committee Budgets

Legislative and special committees submit a budget to the Board of Internal Economy in the following cases:

*      the projected cost of completing their work will exceed their interim funding;

*      they have to travel outside the Parliamentary Precinct to do their work; and/or

*      they decide to retain the services of one or more outside experts.

In addition, special committees must present a budget for their operations within 30 days of being struck.

As Figure 20.10 illustrates, the approval process for these budgets is very similar to that followed by standing and standing joint committees, with a few exceptions.

Supplementary Funding and Unused Funds

If a parliamentary committee requires funding in addition to its approved budgets, it submits a request to the Board of Internal Economy or the Liaison Committee. Committees are not authorized to incur expenses in excess of their budgets.[729]

For standing committees, study or travel funds that are not used are usually returned to the Liaison Committee 30 calendar days after completion of the study or travel in question. Should the budget envelope allocated to the standing committees be exhausted, the Liaison Committee may reapportion allocated funds from committee to committee as required.

 

Approval Process for Special and Legislative Committee Budgets, Presented in Addition to Interim Funding

 

*   Financial Accountability

Parliamentary committees are responsible modern institutions whose financial practices include accountability and expenditure audit mechanisms. At the end of the fiscal year, the Board of Internal Economy lists the expenditure of each parliamentary committee in an annual financial report presented to the House of Commons.[730]

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*   Reporting of Activities and Deliberations

A Single Window for Information: the Committees Web Site

The House of Commons Committees Web site is the main source of information on the work of committees.[731] It contains almost everything committees publish, in English and in French, as well as administrative and procedural information, including the list of committee memberships. It is also possible to watch and listen to committee meetings on the site.

Written Information

*   Notice of Meeting

A committee meeting is announced by means of a notice of meeting issued by the clerk, at the request of the Chair. The notice is e-mailed to all committee members and the appropriate administrative services as soon as it is posted on the committees Web site. The notice generally indicates the following:[732]

*      the purpose of the meeting;

*      the scheduled start and end time;

*      the meeting number;

*      whether the meeting, or parts of it, will be public or in camera;

*      whether the meeting will be televised;

*      the names of any witnesses invited to appear; and

*      whether any witnesses will be appearing by video conference.

Notices of meetings must frequently be amended. An amended notice is posted on the Web site and e‑mailed to the same individuals and services that received the initial notice.[733]

If the meeting has to be cancelled, a notice of cancellation is posted on the Web site. Committee members and the appropriate administrative services are informed immediately by e-mail.

*   Minutes of Proceedings

The committee clerk prepares the Minutes of Proceedings for each committee meeting, and signs the original to attest to its accuracy and authenticity. The clerk retains the originals of all Minutes of Proceedings and archives them with the rest of the committee’s documents at the end of each session. The Minutes of Proceedings usually provide the following information:[734]

*      the meeting number;[735]

*      the date, start time and location;

*      the name of the Member who presided over the meeting;

*      whether the meeting was televised;

*      whether the meeting was held in camera;

*      the authority under which the committee met;

*      the names of those present (committee members or their substitutes, other Members of the House of Commons, Senators, Ministers or Parliamentary Secretaries, witnesses, Library of Parliament analysts, and so on) whether they attended the entire meeting or only a part of it;

*      matters addressed by the committee during the meeting (hearing of witnesses, motions, votes, consideration of a draft report, and so on);

*      the time of any suspension and resumption of the meeting;

*      the time of adjournment; and

*      the name of the committee clerk.

The Minutes of Proceedings may also contain the text of rulings made by the committee Chair on any procedural matter.[736]

*   Evidence

The Evidence is the transcript of the proceedings of a committee. An unedited and untranslated version of the Evidence, also known as the “blues”, is usually available on the internal network of the Committees Web site 24 to 48 hours after a meeting. The official version is posted on the Web site several days later.[737] Transcripts of in camera committee meetings are not published. A single hard copy is produced in the floor language. It is provided to the committee clerk for the exclusive use of committee members and staff.

*   Press Releases

Committees make frequent use of press releases to inform the public and the media about their work. Such releases announce, for example, the launch of a study, the holding of a press conference or the publication of a report.[738]

The instruction to the committee clerk to prepare and distribute the press release may result from the adoption of a motion by the committee,[739] or may be issued by the committee Chair with the implied consent of the committee. The clerk subsequently forwards the press release to the Press Gallery, which arranges distribution to its members. The release may also be available on the committee’s Web site.

*   Reports

Reports presented to the House and, where applicable, the government’s responses to these reports are available on the Committees Web site. Larger reports are usually also printed.[740]

Press Conferences

Committees hold press conferences from time to time to inform the public about their work, particularly after the presentation of a report to the House. When a committee wishes to hold a press conference, it adopts a motion to that effect, usually after adopting the report.[741]

Electronic Information

Radio and television broadcasts of committee proceedings have existed for a number of years. Webcasts of committee proceedings are also now available.

Broadcasting of committee proceedings is governed by guidelines approved by the House.[742] Only House of Commons Multimedia Services and members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery currently have the right to broadcast the proceedings.

Those interested may obtain video and audio recordings of committee proceedings from House of Commons Information Services, upon request.

*   Radio

The House provides committees with facilities for the broadcasting of all their public meetings, which can thus be heard live on the Parliamentary Radio Network at specified frequencies. Journalists wishing to make an audio recording of committee proceedings may do so on site or remotely, but may not place a recording device on the table in the meeting room.[743]

*   Television

Pursuant to the Standing Orders, committees may televise their hearings using facilities provided by the House and those used by members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery. When a committee wishes to have its meetings outside the Parliamentary Precinct broadcast on radio or television, it must seek special permission from the House.[744]

The decision to televise a committee meeting may take the form of a committee motion to that effect,[745] or may be made by the Chair with the implied consent of the members.

When televised, committee meetings are broadcast live on the internal House network available within the Parliamentary Precinct. Some meetings are televised live or recorded for subsequent broadcast on the Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC), available by cable or satellite across Canada.

The guidelines for the broadcasting of committee meetings by the electronic media set out the following principles, among others:

*      Video recording or broadcasting will be done from the commencement of the meeting and will end only at a “natural break” in or at the end of the proceedings. Recording shall be suspended during suspensions in the committee proceedings. (The media will be free to use the videotape in whole or in part.)

*      Video recording must respect the spirit of an “electronic Hansard”, and will be subject to the same general guidelines, rules and policies as applied to the broadcasting of the proceedings of the House itself. Generally, this means that only the individual recognized by the Chair is to be filmed. Close-up shots (of people or documents) and reaction shots, among others, are not permitted.

*      Video recording of committee meetings is subject to the express condition that the party so recording retain the original tape(s) for a period of 35 days, and upon receipt of a request in writing from the Speaker of the House of Commons, deliver forthwith the original tape(s) of any committee meeting videotaped pursuant to these rules.

*      The cameras must be in fixed positions while the committee is in session. Cameras will not be allowed to move around the room while the committee is in session. (Free roving cameras would continue for photo opportunities before the meeting starts, or after it has been adjourned.)

*      No more than three cameras will be permitted in a committee room at one time. Because of space limitations, some rooms will be designated for a maximum of two cameras. The electronic media will have to enter into reciprocal or pooling arrangements among themselves.

*      Cameras and other equipment must be set up and dismantled as quickly as possible to minimize the disruption to previous or subsequent meetings in the same room.

*      The existing room light and committee sound system are to be used.

*      Camera operators will be required to be members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

*      A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery wishing to video-record a committee meeting must provide the clerk of the committee with reasonable notice in all circumstances prior to the meeting (such reasonableness to be determined by the committee itself). Where the notice for the meeting is either issued or amended during the 24 hour period prior to the meeting, the clerk must be notified at least two hours in advance of the meeting.

*      The electronic media will not be permitted to film those committee meetings that are being filmed by the House of Commons Broadcasting Service, as they will continue to have access to the feed from the House.[746]

*   Webcasting

The public proceedings of committees are available live and on an archival basis by a webcasting service accessible via the Committees Web site. When meetings are televised, users have access to the video as well as the audio feeds of the meetings.

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[505] Constitution Act, 1867, R.S. 1985, s. 18.

[506] Constitution Act, 1867, R.S. 1985, s. 54.

[507] Constitution Act, 1982, R.S. 1985, ss. 16 to 22.

[508] See Part 1 of the Parliament of Canada Act, R.S. 1985, c. P.1.01.

[509] Parliament of Canada Act, R.S. 1985, c. P.1.01, ss. 16 and 41.

[510] For further information, see the section in this chapter entitled “Studies Conducted by Committees”.

[511] See Standing Orders 104 to 122.

[512] The following chapters of the Standing Orders contain provisions applicable to committees: Chapter IV (Daily Program), Chapter VIII (Motions), Chapter IX (Public Bills), Chapter X (Financial Procedures), Chapter XI (Private Members’ Business), Chapter XIV (Delegated Legislation) and Chapter XV (Private Bills).

[513] Standing Order 116. The Standing Orders contain three exceptions to this basic rule. For further information, see the section in this chapter entitled “Rules of Debate and the Decision‑making Process”.

[514] For an example of a rule adopted for a temporary situation, see Standing Committee on International Trade, Minutes of Proceedings, November 2, 2006, Meeting No. 35.

[515] For further information, see “Organization Meeting” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[516] For a ruling by the Speaker pertaining to committee proceedings and accompanied by provisos, see Debates, June 20, 1994, pp. 5582‑3. In that instance, the Speaker ruled that the votes cast by a Member during the committee’s proceedings on two bills were null and void because the Member did not have the right to vote.

[517] See the landmark ruling by Speaker Fraser on this subject (Debates, March 26, 1990, pp. 9756-8). The Speaker nevertheless acknowledged that he might have to rule on a committee-related issue in “very serious and special circumstances” even though the committee did not report to the House. See also Speaker Milliken’s observations (Debates, March 14, 2008, pp. 4181-3).

[518] For example, committees, as with the House, observe the sub judice convention. For a description of the convention, see Chapter 13, “Rules of Order and Decorum”. See, for example, Standing Committee on Miscellaneous Estimates, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, May 10, 1982, Issue No. 84, pp. 30, 34; Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Minutes of Proceedings, May 27, 1999, Meeting No. 146. However, the House is not prevented from referring a matter to a committee because the matter is before the courts. See the ruling by Speaker Sauvé, Debates, March 22, 1983, pp. 24027‑9.

[519] See, for example, Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, Evidence, November 20, 2007, pp. 8, 9. The Speaker of the House regularly refers to this notion in his or her rulings. See, for example, Debates, January 30, 2007, pp. 6174-5.

[520] See comments by Speaker Milliken (Debates, November 21, 2002, pp. 1738-40; November 25, 2002, pp. 1841-2; November 26, 2002, pp. 1912-3; November 27, 2002, pp. 1949-50).

[521] Beauchesne, 6th ed., p. 222; Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 464.

[522] For further information, see the section entitled “The Relationship Between Procedural Sources” in Chapter 5, “Parliamentary Procedure”.

[523] Standing Order 117. Unsolicited comments or disorder created by a witness or a member of the audience could lead to the person being ejected from the meeting room. See, for example, Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources, Evidence, April 8, 2003, Meeting No. 61; Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, Evidence, August 11, 2008, Meeting No. 46, p. 3.

[524] See, for example, Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, Minutes of Proceedings, August 14, 2008, Meeting No. 49, Evidence, pp. 31-2.

[525] See, for example, Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings, January 31, 2008, Meeting No. 13, Evidence, pp. 6-7.

[526] There have been occasions when a committee Chair has interrupted a member whose observations or questions were deemed repetitive or unrelated to the matter before the committee, and has given the floor to another member. See Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, Evidence, June 10, 2008, Meeting No. 40, pp. 13-4; as well as Speaker Milliken’s observations in this regard (Debates, June 20, 2008, pp. 7229‑30).

[527] Standing Order 117.

[528] See, for example, Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, Minutes of Proceedings, April 19, 2005, Meeting No. 30.

[529] See, for example, Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings, November 1, 2007, Meeting No. 2.

[530] See, for example, Standing Committee on Health, Minutes of Proceedings, February 21, 2005, Meeting No. 22.

[531] See, for example, Standing Committee on Health, Minutes of Proceedings, September 25, 2001, Meeting No. 23; September 26, 2001, Meeting No. 24; December 10, 2002, Meetings Nos. 15 and 16.

[532] Maingot, J.P.J., Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, 2nd ed., Montreal: House of Commons and McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1997, pp. 231‑2.

[533] For an example of a study of a draft report on a question of privilege, see the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings, March 31, 2004, Meeting No. 18; April 1, 2004, Meeting No. 19.

[534] For further information on questions of privilege in committee, see Chapter 3, “Privileges and Immunities”.

[535] Standing Order 116.

[536] See, for example, Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources, Minutes of Proceedings, April 2, 2003, Meeting No. 59.

[537] In some cases, 36 hours’ notice has been required. See, for example, Standing Committee on Finance, Minutes of Proceedings, November 13, 2007, Meeting No. 1.

[538] When they adopt rules on notice, some committees specify that notice be 24 or 48 actual hours.

[539] In practice, if they are given advance notice, Chairs often set aside time at the beginning or end of a meeting to debate motions with the implicit consent of their committee.

[540] See, for example, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Minutes of Proceedings, November 13, 2007, Meeting No. 1.

[541] Standing Order 116.

[542] Standing Order 118(2). For further information, see “Quorum and Call to Order / "Reduced Quorum"” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[543] Since the overall atmosphere in which committee meetings are conducted is less formal than in the House, motions are sometimes carried without being read by the Chair.

[544] There are no procedures in committee for deferring a vote as there are in the House, but a committee can decide to defer a matter for further study at a specific time rather than put it to an immediate vote.

[545] See, for example, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Minutes of Proceedings, May 3, 2005, Meeting No. 36.

[546] See, for example, Standing Committee on Natural Resources, Minutes of Proceedings, April 16, 2008, Meeting No. 26. When a vote is held during an in camera meeting, only the fact that a motion was carried is recorded in the Minutes of Proceedings. The number of members voting for or against the motion is not recorded.

[547] The request must be made before the result of the vote is announced. Once the Chair has announced the result, requests for a recorded vote on the question that was subject to the vote are inadmissible.

[548] See, for example, Standing Committee on the Status of Women, Minutes of Proceedings, April 3, 2008, Meeting No. 25.

[549] However, when a committee is studying a private bill, the Chair votes as a regular member and casts the deciding vote in the event of an equality of voices. Standing Order 141(3). For further information on private bills, see Chapter 23, “Private Bills Practice”.

[550] See, for example, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Minutes of Proceedings, March 8, 2005, Meeting No. 26. For further information on casting votes, see Chapter 7, “The Speaker and Other Presiding Officers of the House”.

[551] This reflects the rule applicable to motions moved in the House (see Standing Order 64). This can be done even if the member moving the motion is absent. See, for example, Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, Minutes of Proceedings, December 9, 2004, Meeting No. 16.

[552] Standing Order 115(5).

[553] Unless the person moving the motion is replacing the regular member who gave notice. For further information, see the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Membership, Leadership and Staff”.

[554] For further information, see Chapter 12, “The Process of Debate”.

[555] See, for example, Legislative Committee on Bill C-2, Minutes of Proceedings, May 9, 2006, Meeting No. 4.

[556] Standing Order 79(1).

[557] It is important to differentiate between amendments to motions and amendments to bills. For further information on amendments and subamendments, and the rules governing their admissibility, see Chapter 12, “The Process of Debate”. For further information on amendments to bills, see “Legislative Measures” under the section in this chapter entitled “Studies Conducted by Committees”, and Chapter 16, “The Legislative Process”.

[558] For further information on dilatory motions, see Chapter 12, “The Process of Debate”.

[559] For example, if the words “until Monday” are added to the motion “That the Committee adjourn”, the motion becomes debatable and amendable. See, for example, Standing Committee on Finance, Minutes of Proceedings, April 13, 2000, Meeting No. 50.

[560] See, for example, Standing Committee on International Trade, Minutes of Proceedings, June 10, 2008, Meeting No. 35.

[561] See, for example, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Minutes of Proceedings, February 7, 2008, Meeting No. 14.

[562] See Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Minutes of Proceedings, March 10, 2005, Meeting No. 27, for a situation where the motion “That the Committee proceed to consider the next order of business” was moved in order to end the study of a bill and begin the consideration of the supplementary estimates.

[563] Standing Order 67(1)(c).

[564] For further information about the previous question in the House, see Chapter 12, “The Process of Debate”, and Chapter 14, “The Curtailment of Debate”.

[565] See, for example, Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, Minutes of Proceedings, November 23, 1999, Meeting No. 5; Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings, March 12, 2002, Meeting No. 43.

[566] Once a committee has been organized, studies undertaken during a session usually follow similar steps.

[567] For further information on the method of electing a committee Chair and methods of selecting Chairs, see “Methods of Designation” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Membership, Leadership and Staff”.

[568] Standing Order 113(3). When the Legislative Committee on Bill C‑72 failed to meet within the prescribed period, Speaker Fraser stated that it would not be appropriate for the Speaker to set a date for the first meeting of the Committee. See Debates, March 14, 1988, pp. 13706‑7.

[569] Standing Committee on Health, Minutes of Proceedings, November 15, 2007, Meeting No. 1.

[570] Standing Committee on Health, Minutes of Proceedings, November 15, 2007, Meeting No. 1.

[571] Standing Order 118(2).

[572] For further information on quorum and meetings without a quorum, see “Conduct of Meetings” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[573] Standing Committee on Finance, Minutes of Proceedings, November 13, 2007, Meeting No. 1.

[574] Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Minutes of Proceedings, October 14, 2004, Meeting No. 1.

[575] Section 4 of the Official Languages Act (R.S. 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.)) and section 17 of the Constitution Act, 1982 (R.S. 1985, Appendix II, No. 44, Schedule B) give everyone the right to use either English or French in their dealings with Parliament. However, the right to submit a document does not include the right to have it distributed and examined immediately. Howard P. Knopf, who appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on April 20, 2004, took legal action against the Speaker of the House on this point. Mr. Knopf maintained that his rights had been violated when the Chair of the Committee, in accordance with the Committee rule requiring that any document distributed to members be bilingual, refused to distribute the documents that he had submitted in English only. The Federal Court ruled on June 26, 2006, that Mr. Knopf’s linguistic rights had not been violated and that the work of the Committee was protected by parliamentary privilege. Mr. Knopf appealed the decision to the Federal Court of Appeal, which dismissed it on November 5, 2007. He then appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which also dismissed it on March 20, 2008.

[576] Standing Committee on International Trade, Minutes of Proceedings, November 15, 2007, Meeting No. 1.

[577] Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Minutes of Proceedings, November 13, 2007, Meeting No. 1.

[578] Standing Committee on National Defence, Minutes of Proceedings, November 13, 2007, Meeting No. 1.

[579] For further information, see the Financial Management and Policy Guide for Committees, prepared by the House of Commons Finance Services.

[580] Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Minutes of Proceedings, November 13, 2007, Meeting No. 1.

[581] For further information about in camera meetings, see “Types of Meetings and Activities” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[582] See, for example, Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, Minutes of Proceedings, November 15, 2007, Meeting No. 1.

[583] Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament, Minutes of Proceedings, February 26, 2004, Meeting No. 1.

[584] See, for example, Standing Committee on Natural Resources, Minutes of Proceedings, November 15, 2007, Meeting No. 1. A committee may also, at a later date, reconsider the disposition of transcripts of one or more in camera meetings. See, for example, Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, Minutes of Proceedings, November 3, 2003, Meeting No. 67.

[585] See, for example, Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings, June 18, 2002, Meeting No. 62.

[586] Standing Committee on Health, Minutes of Proceedings, November 15, 2007, Meeting No. 1.

[587] Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, Minutes of Proceedings, November 14, 2007, Meeting No. 1.

[588] For example, those regarding the use of video conferences (see, for example, Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, Minutes of Proceedings, May 8, 2008, Meeting No. 29); and the adoption of a meeting schedule (see, for example, Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, Minutes of Proceedings, April 8, 2008, Meeting No. 22). Joint committees must deal with a number of routine matters specific to Senate committees which are not applicable to standing, legislative and special committees of the House (see, for example, Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations, Minutes of Proceedings, November 15, 2007, Issue No. 1). Similarly, special and legislative committees must decide on the timing of their meetings, since they are not included in the “block system” for scheduling standing committee meetings (see, for example, Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan, Minutes of Proceedings, April 15, 2008, Meeting No. 1). For further information on the scheduling system, see “Scheduling, Convening and Conduct of Meetings” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[589] See, for example, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Minutes of Proceedings, May 10, 2007, Meeting No. 55.

[590] See, for example, Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Minutes of Proceedings, November 22, 2007, Meeting No. 2.

[591] Committees may opt to set aside a period of time for members of the audience to make brief comments without having formally arranged for their appearance in advance. See, for example, Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources, Evidence, March 31, 2003, Meeting No. 57.

[592] Committees may sometimes hold meetings not for the purpose of preparing recommendations for the House but simply in order to stay informed with respect to an important topic within their mandate.

[593] See, for example, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Minutes of Proceedings, January 29, 2003, Meeting No. 18.

[594] For further information, see the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Powers”.

[595] See, for example, Subcommittee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, news release entitled “Parliament’s First On-Line Consultation: The Future of the Canada Pension Plan Disability Program”, December 5, 2002, and Standing Committee on Finance, news release entitled “Pre-Budget Consultations 2008”, June 19, 2008.

[596] See, for example, Subcommittee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, Minutes of Proceedings, November 5, 2003, Meeting No. 18.

[597] Town hall meetings are held primarily when committees meet outside the Parliamentary Precinct. See, for example, Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, May 28, 1998, Meeting No. 68.

[598] Committees do not require special permission from the House to hold video conference meetings.

[599] See Bosc, M., “E-Democracy and the Work of Parliamentary Committees”, The Table, Vol. 72, 2004, pp. 26-35.

[600] The Subcommittee’s study dealt with the Canada Pension Plan Disability Program. The members of the Subcommittee wanted not only to fulfill the usual objectives of a parliamentary study but also to obtain the views of as many people as possible in order to improve the program and, at the same time, engage the Canadian public in the democratic process. The Subcommittee’s Web site gave all Canadians an opportunity to watch the progress of its work and to contribute to it in various ways. For example, the authors of briefs were able to submit them in electronic form so that they would be accessible to all visitors to the Web site. Visitors were also able to answer a poll on the Program. The Subcommittee received input from some 1,700 people from various walks of life. This pilot project involved a great deal of work and required a substantial investment of human and financial resources by several branches of the House of Commons and the Library of Parliament. The final report of this study was presented to the House in June 2003. See the Fifth Report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, presented to the House on June 12, 2003 (Journals, p. 914).

[601] The purpose of the consultation was to obtain Canadians’ views on the questions raised by the Government’s International Policy Statement (IPS). The consultation was based on an online form composed of multiple-choice and open questions. Respondents were able to complete the form on the Internet or print it and mail it to the Committee. More than 4,000 people participated. See Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, International Policy Statement (IPS) Online Consultation: Report of the E‑Consultation on the Government’s April 2005 International Policy Statement Conducted by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, October to November 2005, prepared by A. Goody, M. Pistor and G. Schmitz, Library of Parliament, April 13, 2006.

[602] First Report of the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons, presented to the House on June 1, 2001 (Journals, p. 465) and concurred in by the House on October 4, 2001 (Journals, pp. 691-3), following the adoption of a Special Order (Journals, October 3, 2001, p. 685).

[603] Parliament of Canada Act, R.S. 1985, c. P‑1, ss. 10(3) and 11. The forms of the oath and solemn affirmation are defined by section 13(2) of the Act, and are set out in the Schedule attached to it.

[604] At various times, committees have sworn in the Prime Minister, the Auditor General, senior public servants and members of the Privy Council. See, for example, Special Committee on Certain Charges and Allegations made by George N. Gordon, Minutes of Proceedings, March 3, 1932; Standing Committee on Labour, Employment and Immigration, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, January 28, 1987, Issue No. 20, pp. 3‑4, 9‑14, and Speaker Fraser’s ruling, Debates, March 17, 1987, pp. 4265‑6; Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings, May 3, 2004, Meeting No. 39; Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, Minutes of Proceedings, February 5, 2008, Meeting No. 13. A committee may also decide to swear in all witnesses appearing before it in connection with a particular study. See, for example, Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings, April 14 and 19, 2004, Meetings Nos. 24 and 25.

[605] See Speaker Fraser’s ruling, Debates, March 17, 1987, pp. 4265‑6.

[606] See, for example, the case of George Radwanski in the Ninth Report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, presented to the House on November 4, 2003 (Journals, p. 1225), and the motion agreed to by the House on November 6, 2003 (Journals, pp. 1245, 1249); the case of Barbara George in the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, presented to the House on February 12, 2008 (Journals, p. 423), and the motion agreed to by the House on April 10, 2008 (Journals, p. 685).

[607] The length of the question period and the order in which questions are posed are matters that are decided by the committee. See “Routine Motions” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”. In view of the less formal atmosphere that prevails in committee, committee members often exercise greater latitude with respect to these matters.

[608] See, for example, Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Evidence, February 19, 2004, Meeting No. 4. Committees have, on occasion, authorized committee staff to question witnesses. Such cases tend to arise when a technical subject matter is under consideration. See, for example, Standing Committee on Communications and Culture, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, December 3, 1986, Issue No. 8, p. 3.

[609] See, for example, Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings, March 19, 2004, Meeting No. 11; Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, Minutes of Proceedings, December 4, 2007, Meeting No. 6. The Standing Committee on Public Accounts also recommended that the government pay the legal fees of public servants called to testify in its study of the sponsorship program. The government stated that such a policy was already in place in the form of the Policy on the Indemnification of and Legal Assistance for Crown Servants. See the Second Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, presented to the House on October 28, 2004 (Journals, p. 164) and the government’s response to the Report, presented to the House on March 23, 2005 (Journals, p. 557).

[610] See, for example, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Evidence, March 19, 2002, Meeting No. 65; Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Evidence, June 6, 2007, Meeting No. 64, p. 13. However, the Standing Orders provide that, when a standing committee calls the appointee or nominee to a non‑judicial post to appear before it, the committee is restricted to examining matters relating to the individual’s ability to perform the duties of the position. For further information, see “Order‑in‑Council Appointments” under the section in this chapter entitled “Types of Studies Conducted”.

[611] See, for example, Standing Committee on Elections, Privileges and Procedure, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, February 3, 1988, Issue No. 20, pp. 25‑8.

[612] Debates, December 11, 1986, p. 1999.

[613] Journals, February 17, 1913, p. 254.

[614] For a discussion on this question, see Ontario Law Reform Commission, Report on Witnesses Before Legislative Committees, Toronto: Ministry of the Attorney General, 1981, pp. 25‑45; Bourgault, J., “Les relations entre l’administration publique et le Parlement”, Le parlementarisme canadien, 3rd ed., rev. and enlarged, edited by R. Pelletier and M. Tremblay, Saint‑Nicolas, Quebec: Les Presses de l’Université Laval, 2005, pp. 387-8.

[615] See, for example, Legislative Committee on Bill C-2, Minutes of Proceedings, May 4, 2006, Meeting No. 2.

[616] See, for example, Standing Committee on National Resources and Public Works, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, November 27, 1979, Issue No. 6, p. 4; Standing Committee on Communications and Culture, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, February 4, 1988, Issue No. 73, pp. 7, 45; Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, June 18, 1996, Issue No. 2, p. 7; Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, Evidence, March 17, 2003, Meeting No. 14; Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Evidence, June 6, 2007, Meeting No. 64, pp. 12-3.

[617] See the Thirteenth Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts entitled “Protocol for the Appearance of Accounting Officers as Witnesses Before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts”, p. 4, presented to the House on March 27, 2007 (Journals, pp. 1161-2); Journals, May 15, 2007, pp. 1409-10. See also Murphy, S., “The Appearance of Accounting Officers before the Public Accounts Committee”, Canadian Parliamentary Review, Vol. 30, No. 2, Summer 2007, pp. 4-6. In the article, Mr. Murphy notes the government’s reaction to the protocol.

[618] As with Members, freedom of speech is extended to the testimony given by witnesses before committees and has been held to include protection from any possible prosecution. The House may waive this protection if it sees fit (see, for example, Journals, April 12, 1892, pp. 234‑5). It is the responsibility of each committee to see that witnesses do not take advantage of this protection to utter defamatory remarks which might give rise to legal proceedings were they made elsewhere. See Speaker Fraser’s ruling, Debates, March 16, 1993, pp. 17071‑2. The question of parliamentary privilege relating to the protection of statements made by witnesses in committee was raised in connection with the study of the sponsorship program by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (see the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, presented to the House on November 5, 2004 (Journals, p. 202), and the Fourteenth Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House on November 18, 2004 (Journals, pp. 232-3)); and in connection with the testimony of Barbara George, Deputy Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, in the Twentieth Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, presented to the House on June 15, 2007 (Journals, p. 1543). In both cases, the House concurred in the recommendations of the committees reaffirming the protection of testimony under parliamentary privilege (Journals, November 15, 2004, pp. 212-4; November 18, 2004, pp. 232-3; June 15, 2007, p. 1543). See also Chapter 3, “Privileges and Immunities”.

[619] See, for example, Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, Minutes of Proceedings, June 12, 2003, Meeting No. 52.

[620] See, for example, Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, Minutes of Proceedings, June 17, 2003, Meeting No. 54; Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Minutes of Proceedings, March 15, 2005, Meeting No. 12.

[621] See, for example, Journals, December 4, 1992, p. 2284; February 18, 1993, p. 2528; February 25, 1993, p. 2568; Standing Committee on House Management, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, February 18, 1993, Issue No. 46, pp. 7‑11.

[622] See Speaker Fraser’s ruling, Debates, March 16, 1993, pp. 17071‑2.

[623] See, for example, Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, Minutes of Proceedings, October 26, 2004, Meeting No. 4.

[624] See, for example, Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings, April 18, 2002, Meeting No. 48, Evidence. The agreement with the National Archives (now Library and Archives Canada) is recorded in the Journals of April 13, 1994, pp. 339‑40.

[625] See, for example, Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, Minutes of Proceedings, March 29, 2004, Meeting No. 11.

[626] See, for example, Standing Committee on International Trade, Minutes of Proceedings, June 16, 2008, Meeting No. 36.

[627] See, for example, Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, Minutes of Proceedings, April 12, 2005, Meeting No. 32.

[628] See, for example, Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, Minutes of Proceedings, May 1, 2007, Meeting No. 41. To assist it in drafting a report on a complex study, a committee may wish to retain the services of a consultant, who will normally have been present when the witnesses appeared. See, for example, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Minutes of Proceedings, May 6, 2003, Meeting No. 38.

[629] See, for example, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Minutes of Proceedings, May 6, 2003, Meeting No. 38; June 12, 2008, Meeting No. 36.

[630] Reports presented by a committee are numbered consecutively from the beginning of each session. Standing committees do not usually give official titles to their reports, except in the case of substantive reports of more than 10 pages.

[631] Standing Orders 30(3) and 35. For further information on the Daily Routine of Business, see Chapter 10, “The Daily Program”. If the report deals with the main estimates of a department or agency and the period allotted for its consideration has been extended at the request of the Leader of the Opposition, the House may, on the final day allotted for presentation of the report, interrupt its deliberations and return to the rubric “Presentation of Committee Reports” for that purpose (Standing Order 81(4)(c)). The Centennial Flame Research Award Act, passed in 1991, requires an annual report by the previous year’s recipient of the award to be presented to Parliament. The report is tabled by the Chair of the committee responsible for considering the application of the Act (currently the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities), but is not deemed to be a report of that committee. Since the Standing Orders do not provide for the tabling of documents by Members of the House other than Ministers and the Speaker, presentation of this annual report has varied. It has been presented under “Tabling of Documents” and “Presentation of Committee Reports”, and has been tabled with the Clerk pursuant to Standing Order 32(1). See S.C. 1991, c. 17, s. 7(1); Journals, June 14, 1993, p. 3204; December 13, 1994, p. 1043; April 23, 1997, pp. 1515‑6; May 12, 1998, p. 775; June 10, 1999, p. 2090; November 28, 2005, p. 1349; April 30, 2007, p. 1294.

[632] See, for example, Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings, May 13, 2008, Meeting No. 25; Journals, May 28, 2008, p. 858. Joint committees present their reports to both Houses. See, for example, Journals, December 4, 2007, p. 256, Journals of the Senate, p. 215.

[633] Typically, this is done by one of the Vice-Chairs (see, for example, Journals, April 2, 2008, p. 631). It can also be done by a regular member of the committee (see, for example, Journals, June 13, 2008, p. 986). The Chair of a subcommittee conducting a special study presented the resulting report by the main committee to the House. See, for example, Debates, December 3, 1998, p. 10825.

[634] Standing Order 35(1). See, for example, Debates, May 26, 2008, p. 6002. That rule resulted from a recommendation of the McGrath Committee that “there should be a better method of bringing [reports] to the attention of the House”. See the Third Report of the Special Committee on House of Commons Reform, p. 24, presented to the House on June 18, 1985 (Journals, p. 839).

[635] Standing Order 35(2). See, for example, Debates, April 2, 1998, p. 5675.

[636] See, for example, Debates, February 21, 2002, pp. 9064-5.

[637] See, for example, Journals, December 10, 2004, p. 337; June 20, 2008, p. 1032. By permitting presentation in this manner, the House enables committees to make their reports public at completion without breaching the privileges of the House or its Members. The House has, on occasion, made specific provisions for releasing a report to the public prior to its presentation in the House (see, for example, Journals, December 22, 1982, pp. 5495‑6).

[638] A question of privilege was raised after a committee member disclosed the content of a draft report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. Speaker Parent reserved his decision after the committee made a report to that effect. A week later, Speaker Parent ruled that the disclosure constituted a prima facie question of privilege. A motion to refer the question of privilege to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs was moved, but the Member concerned apologized and the motion was defeated (Debates, March 17, 2000, pp. 4805-6; March 21, 2000, pp. 4959-62; March 28, 2000, pp. 5368-9, 5384-6; Journals, March 29, 2000, pp. 1503-4; First Report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, presented to the House on March 21, 2000 (Journals, p. 1413)).

[639] The issue of leaked committee reports has been addressed many times. See, for example, the ruling by Speaker Parent, Debates, November 26, 1998, pp. 10467‑8; December 3, 1998, p. 10866. The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs studied the issue of confidentiality with respect to in camera proceedings and confidential committee documents and made recommendations in its Seventy-Third Report, presented to the House on April 29, 1999 (Journals, p. 1785). The issue has nevertheless been brought up several times since, and questions of privilege have been raised. See, for example, Debates, March 21, 2002, pp. 9957-60; April 16, 2002, pp. 10463-4; December 12, 2002, pp. 2639-40; January 27, 2003, pp. 2734-5, February 6, 2003, pp. 3256-8; February 10, 2003, pp. 3361-3; February 13, 2003, pp. 3505-6, February 25, 2003, pp. 3986-7; October 19, 2006, pp. 3970‑2; October 25, 2006, p. 4235; June 12, 2008, pp. 6893-5. In other cases, committees reported on the issue to the House. See, for example, Journals, February 27, 2007, p. 1073; March 2, 2007, p. 1096; March 28, 2007, p. 1171.

[640] See, for example, Debates, September 29, 1994, p. 6314; April 19, 1996, p. 1711; December 4, 2001, p. 7841.

[641] Standing Order 109. This provision was added to the Standing Orders following a recommendation in the Third Report of the Lefebvre Committee. See Special Committee on Standing Orders and Procedure, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, November 4, 1982, Issue No. 7, pp. 21, 29; Journals, November 29, 1982, p. 5400. Amendments to the Standing Orders in 2005 changed the initial period of 150 days to 120 days. There have been cases where a Member obtained the unanimous consent of the House to present a revised committee report requesting a response from the government. See, for example, Journals, June 22, 2005, p. 958, Debates, p. 7624. Further, as a result of an administrative omission to include the request for a government response in a report, the Chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development raised a point of order to obtain permission from the Speaker to table a new copy of the report. The Speaker directed the Clerk of the House to make appropriate administrative arrangements (Journals, May 9, 2007, p. 1375, Debates, p. 9253). One committee presented a report withdrawing the request for a government response to a previously tabled report (Fifth Report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, presented to the House on June 22, 2006 (Journals, pp. 345-6)).

[642] Debates, May 13, 1986, p. 13232.

[643] See, for example, Debates, April 21, 1986, p. 12480; June 29, 1987, pp. 7749‑50; September 24, 1987, pp. 9266‑8. The Standing Committee on Public Accounts studied the government’s responses to recommendations it made and the impact those recommendations had on what departments do (Sixth Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, presented to the House on February 25, 2008 (Journals, p. 461)).

[644] Standing Order 32(1). See, for example, Journals, April 10, 2008, p. 685; June 6, 2008, p. 939.

[645] See, for example, Journals, February 2, 2004, p. 5; September 18, 2006, p. 379. For further information on the tabling of documents, see Chapter 10, “The Daily Program”.

[646] See, for example, Debates, September 10, 1992, p. 12977.

[647] Recommendations not clearly in the form of motions may require further action in order to be implemented. See Speaker Parent’s ruling, Debates, November 5, 1998, p. 9923.

[648] Standing Orders 54 and 109. See Journals, February 18, 2005, pp. 454-5. The House often agrees to waive the 48 hours’ notice required by the Standing Orders in order to obtain unanimous consent to concur in certain reports, such as reports on changes to the membership of committees.

[649] Standing Order 66(2). For further information, see Chapter 10, “The Daily Program”.

[650] Standing Order 109.

[651] See ruling by Speaker Bosley, Debates, December 13, 1985, p. 9476.

[652] See, for example, Journals, March 18, 1987, p. 610; May 9, 2005, p. 721. Following Confederation, amendments to the text of committee reports were occasionally permitted in the House. See, for example, Journals, June 21, 1869, p. 304; March 26, 1884, p. 285. In 1919, Speaker Rhodes ruled that it was not in order for the House to amend the report itself. See Journals, May 22, 1919, pp. 293‑4.

[653] Standing Order 81(9).

[654] For further information, see Chapter 17, “Delegated Legislation”.

[655] Standing Order 97.1. For further information, see Chapter 21, “Private Members’ Business”.

[656] Standing Orders 92 and 113(1).

[657] See, for example, Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Minutes of Proceedings, June 4, 2008, Meeting No. 48.

[658] See, for example, Journals, August 1, 1940, pp. 310‑6; Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings, May 31, 2005, Meeting No. 40.

[659] See, for example, Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings, October 25, 2005, Meeting No. 49; November 27, 2007, Meeting No. 7.

[660] In April 2004, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts released, with the witness’ consent, evidence that had been given in camera during a previous session in 2002. A point of order was raised in the House questioning the Committee’s authority in that regard. Speaker Milliken ruled that it was the responsibility of the Committee to take such measures as it saw fit (Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings, April 1, 2004, Meeting No. 19, Debates, pp. 1944-5, 1968-9).

[661] Only the text of motions adopted by a committee during in camera meetings appear in the committee’s Minutes of Proceedings; neither the names nor the number of members who voted for or against the motion is recorded. Motions that have been negatived are not recorded. See, for example, Standing Committee on Health, Minutes of Proceedings, December 11, 2007, Meeting No. 7. Matters dealt with at in camera meetings may be recorded in the Minutes should the committee so decide. The clerk of the committee may also be requested to keep more detailed, confidential minutes for the exclusive use of the committee. These detailed minutes, usually referred to as in extenso minutes, do not form part of the public record of the committee’s proceedings.

[662] Simultaneous interpretation is nevertheless provided during these meetings.

[663] See, for example, Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, Minutes of Proceedings, June 28, 2005, Meeting No. 50; Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Minutes of Proceedings, May 10, 2007, Meeting No. 55. For further information, see “Routine Motions” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[664] See Speaker Fraser’s ruling, Debates, May 14, 1987, pp. 6108‑11, and the Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Elections, Privileges and Procedure, presented to the House on December 18, 1987 (Journals, pp. 2014‑6). The case in question involved the divulgation by John Parry (Kenora–Rainy River) of the results of a recorded vote held at an in camera meeting of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (Debates, March 25, 1987, p. 4540; April 28, 1987, pp. 5329‑30; May 5, 1987, pp. 5737‑42). See also Speaker Milliken’s ruling, Debates, May 31, 2005, pp. 6414-5; June 9, 2005, pp. 6902-3. A committee may itself decide that a meeting held in camera should be declared a public meeting. See, for example, Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations, Minutes of Proceedings, November 5, 1998, Meeting No. 15; Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings, June 18, 2002, Meeting No. 62.

[665] Committees may also meet in a regular committee setting with such delegations. Even in these cases, the usual format is relaxed. The proceedings are primarily an exchange of views rather than a gathering of evidence from witnesses. See, for example, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Minutes of Proceedings, March 19, 1998, Meeting No. 40; Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings, October 4, 2005, Meeting No. 46; Standing Committee on National Defence, Minutes of Proceedings, November 6, 2006, Meeting No. 21.

[666] A committee has met informally with witnesses after a regular meeting. After the Chair of the Standing Committee on International Trade interrupted a witness and the Committee overturned the decision on that interruption, the Chair adjourned the meeting. The Committee then continued to meet informally so that the witness could resume his testimony and the other witnesses who were to follow could address the Committee. A transcript of that informal part of the meeting was nevertheless produced. At the next meeting, the Committee agreed to append the evidence from that “informal” part of the meeting to the evidence from the official part of the meeting. See Standing Committee on International Trade, Minutes of Proceedings, May 10, 2007, Meeting No. 62; May 15, 2007, Meeting No. 63.

[667] Committee members may attend a conference or symposium on a subject related to the committee’s mandate. Such attendance is not an official committee activity. Consequently, neither the participating members nor the committee is required to make a report. See, for example, Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, Minutes of Proceedings, October 17, 2006, Meeting No. 13; Journals, October 20, 2006, p. 557; Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Minutes of Proceedings, April 8, 2008, Meeting No. 25; Journals, April 28, 2008, p. 733.

[668] Committee members may occasionally leave the committee room in order to tour a facility or observe a situation. For example, the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs visited veterans’ hospitals (Minutes of Proceedings, November 1, 2006, Meeting No. 15; Journals, November 6, 2006, p. 639), and the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security attended a “use of force” demonstration at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Headquarters (Minutes of Proceedings, March 3, 2008, Meeting No. 20; Journals, March 13, 2008, p. 599).

[669] See, for example, Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings, November 1, 2006, Meeting No. 15; Standing Committee on National Defence, Minutes of Proceedings, April 10, 2008, Meeting No. 21. For further information on obtaining the necessary funds, see “Funding of Activities” under the section in this chapter entitled “Committee Proceedings”.

[670] The motion ordinarily indicates the dates on which the committee is authorized to travel, the locations which it may visit and whether staff will accompany the committee. See, for example, Journals, February 8, 2005, p. 399; May 6, 2008, p. 767. Where it seems likely that a special committee will require this power, it is often included in the order of reference establishing the committee. See, for example, Journals, November 28, 2002, p. 236. In some cases, permission to travel has applied only to a member of a committee’s staff (see, for example, Journals, October 23, 2003, p. 1161) or the motion has not indicated the travel dates for security reasons (visit to a high-risk area of Afghanistan; see, for example, Journals, October 16, 2006, p. 523). Similarly, it has happened that the wording of a motion has been left vague about the places that will be visited. See, for example, Journals, December 4, 2001, p. 897; October 7, 2005, p. 1153. It is a rare occurrence, but some motions may provide more information on the members who will be travelling. See, for example, Journals, April 24, 2001, pp. 320-1. Permission to travel is usually given by adopting a motion with unanimous consent. However, if the House is not unanimous, Standing Order 56.2 provides a separate mechanism to authorize a committee to travel. The Standing Order was adopted in October 2001, on the recommendation of the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons, but it has never been used.

[671] See, for example, Journals, April 28, 2008, p. 733; June 4, 2008, p. 914.

[672] Exceptionally in 1996, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri‑Food held a formal meeting in the Canadian embassy in Washington. See Minutes of Proceedings, May 28, 1996, Meeting No. 23.

[673] A point of order was raised in the House after the Standing Committee on Transport held a meeting in a room in the Parliamentary Restaurant when it was unable to find a committee room free at the time required. The Government House Leader contested the admissibility of the report adopted at that meeting for various reasons, including the presumed lack of simultaneous interpretation and a recording of the proceedings. Deputy Speaker Kilger dismissed these arguments and ruled the report admissible, since the meeting was in camera and no member present at the meeting had objected (Debates, May 29, 2003, pp. 6643‑6; June 3, 2003, pp. 6773-5; Standing Committee on Transport, Minutes of Proceedings, May 28, 2003, Meeting No. 30).

[674] See, for example, Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations, Minutes of Proceedings, November 15, 2007, Issue No. 1; Subcommittee on Bill C-28 of the Standing Committee on Finance, Minutes of Proceedings, December 4, 2007, Meeting No. 1. A committee may meet more than once on the same day, or hold a meeting that extends over more than one calendar day. See, for example, Standing Committee on Health, Minutes of Proceedings, December 3, 2002, Meetings Nos. 10 and 11; Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources, Minutes of Proceedings, April 29, 2003, Meeting No. 65.

[675] Use of this system of rotating blocks of time began in the fall of 2001. See the First Report of the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Proceedings of the House of Commons, pp. 21-2, presented to the House on June 1, 2001 (Journals, p. 465) and concurred in on October 4, 2001 (Journals, pp. 691-3), pursuant to a Special Order (Journals, October 3, 2001, p. 685). Since the system has been in use, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has not reported to the House on issues concerning the use of committee rooms, as it is empowered to do pursuant to Standing Order 115(4). Committees meeting in locations other than the committee rooms on Parliament Hill are not bound by the room priorities established by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs or by the Whips of the recognized parties.

[676] Standing Order 115(2). When the House is not sitting, priority is given to meetings of standing, special and joint committees in accordance with a schedule established by the Chief Government Whip in consultation with the other parties (Standing Order 115(3)).

[677] Standing Order 115(1). This rule applies even when committees meet elsewhere than in a committee room in the Parliamentary Precinct.

[678] See Speaker Macnaughton’s ruling, Debates, October 28, 1963, pp. 4283-4.

[679] The decision may be made through the adoption of a motion by the committee or the adoption of the recommendations of its subcommittee on agenda and procedure. See, for example, Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Minutes of Proceedings, June 4, 2008, Meeting No. 48.

[680] The Chair may consult committee members on this point. See, for example, Standing Committee on Official Languages, Minutes of Proceedings, June 10, 2008, Meeting No. 38. See also Speaker Lamoureux’s decision, Debates, March 3, 1967, p. 13704. The exception to the convening of a committee by its Chair is the organization meeting for a standing or special committee, which is convened by the Clerk of the House.

[681] A joint committee may, if it wishes, adopt a motion to regulate the convening or cancellation of its meetings, as the case may be. See, for example, Special Joint Committee on Official Languages, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, March 9‑11, 1982, Issue No. 37, pp. 3‑4, 6‑13.

[682] See, for example, Journals, April 2, 1957, p. 362; April 18, 1957, p. 421.

[683] Standing Order 106(4). The practice has been not to apply this Standing Order to standing joint committees.

[684] The request must bear the original signatures of the Members.

[685] See Speaker Parent’s decision, Debates, March 15, 1999, pp. 12866-8.

[686] See, for example, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Minutes of Proceedings, August 26, 2008, Meeting No. 38.

[687] The 48 hours’ prior notice is included in the five calendar days. See, for example, Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Minutes of Proceedings, May 14, 2008, Meeting No. 26.

[688] See, for example, Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings, February 12, 2008, Meeting No. 15. Such a meeting has been convened on a question of confidence in the Chair of the committee, and the meeting concluded with the contested election of a new Chair (Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings, March 6, 2008, Meeting No. 19).

[689] When a Member complained to the House that the Chair of the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations had cancelled a meeting without consulting committee members, Speaker Milliken ruled that the Committee was master of its own proceedings and had to resolve the issue itself (Debates, March 19, 2001, pp. 1836-7). The Standing Committee on Official Languages dismissed its Chair after he cancelled a meeting unilaterally (Minutes of Proceedings, May 15, 2007, Meeting No. 54).

[690] See, for example, Special Joint Committee on Official Languages, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, March 11, 1982, Issue No. 37, p. 4.

[691] As in the House, members need not be in their places in order to be counted. For further information on quorum in the House, see Chapter 9, “Sittings of the House”. Attendance via teleconference or video conference does not count for