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Powers of Committees

Powers are granted to committees either through the Standing Orders or by order of the House. Committees may act only in conformity with the powers they have been given.

Standing Committees

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(1), standing committees have the power to:

In addition, standing committees are empowered, by the terms of Standing Order 119.1(2), to broadcast their proceedings in accordance with guidelines prepared by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Pursuant to Standing Order 120, committees may retain the services of expert, professional, technical, and clerical staff.

Finally, standing committees are empowered to meet without a quorum to hear evidence and to publish that evidence. At such meetings, no vote, resolution or other decision may be taken.

Should a standing committee require additional powers to carry out a particular study, the House may confer these either by concurring in a report of the committee that contains a request for powers or by simply adopting a motion to confer the desired power. All requests for travel funds must be part of a separate budget request, just as the permission to travel must be specially sought from the House.

Liaison Committee

The Liaison Committee has the authority of the House to disperse funds to standing committees from the money allocated to it for that purpose by the Board of Internal Economy. It meets in camera to deliberate on administrative matters relating to the standing committee system and has a quorum of seven members, as set out in Standing Order 107(4). It is empowered, pursuant to Standing Order 107(3), to report to the House from time to time and has carried out studies on the effectiveness of the committees of the House.

Legislative Committees

A legislative committee is empowered to examine and inquire into the bill referred to it and to report the same with or without amendments. It is not empowered to present a report containing substantive recommendations concerning the bill. A legislative committee may also be created to prepare and bring in a bill. During its study, the committee may send for officials of government departments, agencies and Crown corporations and other competent technical witnesses. It may send for papers and records, sit while the House is sitting, sit while the House stands adjourned, and print papers and evidence, pursuant to Standing Order 113(5).

A legislative committee may also delegate to a subcommittee on agenda and procedure the power to schedule meetings, send for witnesses, papers and records, subject to approval by the full committee, as provided for in Standing Order 113(6). The Board of Internal Economy may provide spending authority to legislative committees and a legislative committee may hire expert, professional, technical, and clerical staff as required pursuant to Standing Orders 120 and 121.

Should a legislative committee require additional powers, they may only be obtained by having the House adopt a motion to that effect.

Special Committees

Special committees have only those powers that are set out in the order of reference of the House that establishes each committee. The powers granted to special committees vary, depending on the mandate given to them. They may be granted powers similar to those granted to standing committees by the Standing Orders. They are often granted additional powers with respect to travel and the broadcasting of their proceedings.

Joint Committees

Because a joint committee exists only by order of both Houses, the powers provided to a joint committee by the House of Commons can be exercised only if a similar empowerment is provided by the Senate.

The powers accorded to standing joint committees by the House are the same as those accorded to other standing committees of the House.

The House that wishes to initiate a special joint committee first adopts a motion to establish it and includes the list of powers that are being delegated to it.

The motions conferring powers on a joint committee may vary in their terms as a result of differences in the rules of the two Houses, but in order for a power to be exercised by a joint committee, it must receive the power through orders of both Houses.

Special joint committees have only those powers that are set out in their orders of reference. The powers granted to special joint committees vary, depending on the mandate given to them. They may be granted powers similar to those granted to standing joint committees by the Standing Orders. They are often granted additional powers with respect to travel and the broadcasting of their proceedings.

Subcommittees

Subcommittees possess only those powers that are conferred on them by the main committee. Subcommittees to which part of a committee’s permanent mandate is delegated, or those undertaking special studies, are usually given the full powers of the main committee. Where the House brings in a special order granting additional powers to a standing committee, the main committee may, in turn, grant these powers to a subcommittee. However, pursuant to Standing Order 108(1)(a), subcommittees are not permitted to report directly to the House.

If the powers sought are beyond those that the main committee can delegate, the main committee may request them in a report to the House, or the House may adopt a motion granting them directly.

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