The power to report their findings to the House is essential to the role of committees. Standing Order 108(1)(a) provides standing committees with the power to report to the House as often as they see fit. A similar provision is usually included in the order of reference that establishes a special committee. In accordance with Standing Order 113(5), legislative committees are empowered only to report the bill or bills referred to them with or without amendment.
Committees are entitled to report to the House only with respect to matters within their mandate. When reporting to the House, committees must indicate the authority under which the study was done (i.e., the Standing Order or the order of reference).
Committees may present different types of reports, including those related to:
Subcommittees present their reports to the main committee in conformity with Standing Order 108(1)(a). The main committee may adopt the subcommittee report as is or may amend it before doing so. The report is then presented to the House as a report from the main committee. The main committee may also choose not to concur in the subcommittee report.
A committee may receive an order of reference that includes a reporting deadline. Both main and supplementary estimates, as well as private Members’ bills, are deemed reported back to the House if the committee does not present its report within the time period set out in Standing Orders 81(4), (5) and 97.1. While a committee ordinarily reports on any matter referred to it by the House, unless the House sets out a specific deadline, the committee may report when it sees fit.
Once a majority of committee members have agreed on the contents of a report, it is formally adopted by motion. The committee then specifies clearly and explicitly, by way of a motion, the format of the report. In addition, the committee adopts another motion instructing the Chair to report it to the House. The committee may also adopt a motion requesting that the government provide a response to the report within 120 days, pursuant to Standing Order 109.
When members of a recognized party on a committee disagree with a committee report or wish to make supplementary comments, their opinions may be appended to the report once the Chair has signed it, pursuant to Standing Order 108(1)(b). The text must be the shorter of either 10 pages or the length of the original report and must be filed with the committee clerk by a deadline set by the committee.
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 days. A request for a government response survives a prorogation of a session but dies on the Order Paper with the dissolution of Parliament. The Standing Orders do not provide for any sanction should the government fail to comply with the requirement to present a response.
Any Member of the House can put forward a motion for the House to concur in a committee report during Routine Proceedings, after giving 48 hours’ notice. Recommendations in committee reports are drafted in the form of motions so that if the report is concurred in, the recommendations become clear orders or resolutions of the House. Committee recommendations cannot exceed the authority of the House and, most importantly, committees can only recommend that the government “consider the advisability” of expending funds or introducing legislation.