After hearing witnesses, a committee charged with studying a bill proceeds to clause-by-clause consideration. It is during this phase of the committee’s deliberations that Members may propose amendments to the bill.
The elements of a bill must be considered in a prescribed order defined in Standing Order 75(1):
New clauses and new schedules, as well as amendments to clauses, are proposed in the order in which they would appear in the bill. Once all the provisions have been decided, the committee returns to consider clause 1, the preamble and finally the title.
An amendment is proposed to amend the text of the clause under consideration or to propose a new text to the committee. An amendment must be relevant to the clause and must therefore relate to only one clause at a time. A subamendment must relate to the amendment and it may not enlarge upon the scope of the amendment by bringing up a separate matter.
A committee may consider only one amendment to a clause and one subamendment to the amendment at a time. Once an amendment has been moved, it may be withdrawn only at the request of the Member who moved it and with the unanimous consent of the members of the committee.
Only a member of the committee, or his or her substitute, is entitled to move an amendment or to vote on an amendment (Standing Order 119). Each amendment must be submitted in writing to the Chair of the committee and may be moved in either official language. Unlike the case under the rules that apply to motions presented in the House, a seconder of a motion moved in a committee is not required (Standing Order 116).
Although a Member who intends to move an amendment to a bill does not have to provide notice, the normal practice is for the Member to communicate with the Chair and clerk of the committee in order to arrange for the translation, compilation and circulation of the amendments to the other members of the committee. To ensure that clause-by-clause consideration proceeds in an orderly manner, a committee may pass a motion setting a deadline for the submission of proposed amendments.
The committee Chair calls each clause successively by its number inviting debate and, after discussion, if no amendment is proposed, puts the question on the clause to a vote. If an amendment is proposed, the Chair gives the floor to the member, who reads the amendment. When debate on the amendment has concluded, the Chair puts the question first on the amendment to the clause and, once the amendment is decided, on the clause itself. Once the clause is carried, it may not be discussed again without unanimous consent.
A committee may consider an amendment to a clause and a subamendment to the amendment at the same time. The committee Chair calls the proposed amendments in the order in which they should appear in the bill. However, when several amendments to the same clause are moved, an amendment to leave out words and insert other words takes precedence over an amendment to leave out words. The Chair may rule that an amendment is not moved in the right place, or that it should be moved as a new clause.
The committee may, by motion, decide to stand (postpone) consideration of a clause, provided the committee has not already adopted or negatived (defeated) an amendment to the clause in question. A committee may also stand part of a bill, or a consecutive group of clauses en bloc.
Amendments and subamendments that are moved in committee must conform to certain rules. It is up to the Chair of the committee to decide on the admissibility of amendments.
Three types of amendments may be moved during consideration of a clause of a bill:
If a member of the committee disagrees with the decision of the Chair, he or she may appeal it by way of a motion pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 117. The Chair’s decision may be appealed and reversed only by a majority vote. This possibility is in contrast with the rules of the House, under which there is no appeal of the Speaker’s decisions.
Most of the rules concerning the admissibility of amendments are essentially the same whether a bill has been referred to a committee before or after second reading or at report stage. However, in the case of a bill referred to committee before second reading, the rules respecting the scope do not apply since the principle of the bill has not yet been adopted by the House.
After all the clauses have been considered and the bill is adopted, the Chair asks the committee for leave to report the bill to the House. The standard formula is as follows: “Shall I report the bill (as amended) to the House?” If the committee agrees, the Chair or his or her designate reports the bill to the House during Routine Proceedings. Even if a committee does not agree to report the bill immediately it must eventually do so because it is bound by the Order of Reference from the House. The committee decides when to report the bill to the House unless a deadline is imposed by order of the House or a provision in the Standing Orders.
The committee is restricted by its Order of Reference—the bill—and may only report the bill with or without amendment to the House. Consequently, the committee may not include substantive recommendations in its report. On the other hand, pursuant to the Standing Orders, a committee may present an additional report in which it sets out substantive recommendations, after a bill has been reported.