A quorum is the minimum number of committee members who must be present in order for a committee to make decisions. In the case of standing, legislative or special committees, a quorum, in conformity with Standing Order 118(1), is a majority of the members.
Members of the House who are present at committees are not counted for the purposes of a quorum unless they are either voting members of the committee or properly-designated substitutes. Parliamentary Secretaries who are appointed as non-voting members pursuant to Standing Order 104(5) are likewise not counted for the purposes of a quorum.
The Chair of a legislative committee, who is named by the Speaker from the Panel of Chairs, is not counted for the purposes of a quorum.
The quorum of the Liaison Committee is set at seven members pursuant to Standing Order 107(4).
As a courtesy, most committees do not begin their meetings until at least one member of the opposition is present, even if a quorum is present. However, committees may meet and adopt motions in the absence of one or all opposition parties, if quorum is present.
Standing Order 118(2) allows standing and legislative committees to authorize the Chair of the committee to hold meetings when a quorum is not present, for the purpose of taking evidence. A similar provision is often included in the order by which a special committee is established.
In granting permission for such meetings, a committee usually stipulates the number of members it wishes to be present in order for the meeting to take place. The motion granting permission to meet with what is called a “reduced quorum” also usually indicates any other conditions the committee wishes to have met. No motions may be moved at such meetings nor may any votes be held. Committees do, however, retain the power to publish the evidence received at meetings held with a reduced quorum.
The quorum for joint committees is not provided for in the Standing Orders but is established separately. Standing joint committees usually present reports to both the House and the Senate recommending the number of their members that should constitute a quorum. The quorum is set when the House and the Senate concur in the reports. The quorum for a special joint committee is usually set out in the order of reference that establishes it. For all joint committees, it is common to stipulate that the quorum requires the presence of members from both Houses.