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Role of Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs

Chair

Chairs of standing and special committees play a leadership role in planning and coordinating the committee’s work and in conducting its investigations.

The Chair of a committee is responsible for recognizing members and witnesses who seek the floor to speak during a meeting and for ensuring that any rules established by the committee concerning the apportioning of speaking time be respected. Furthermore, the Chair is also responsible for maintaining order in the committee’s proceedings. However, the Chair does not have the power to censure disorder or decide questions of privilege; this can be done only by the House upon receiving a report from the committee pursuant to Standing Order 117.

As the presiding officer of the committee, the Chair does not move motions. Furthermore, the Chair does not vote, except in two situations: where there is an equality of votes, in which case the Chair has a casting vote; and when a committee is considering a private bill.

Committee reports are signed and usually presented to the House by the Chair, who must ensure that the text presented in the House is the one agreed to by the committee. During Question Period in the House, a committee Chair may respond to questions provided they deal with the proceedings or schedule of the committee and not with the substance of its work.

Standing Order 107 provides that the Chairs of standing committees (and House Joint Chairs of standing joint committees) form the Liaison Committee, which is responsible for the allocation of funds to standing committees.

Chairs of legislative committees have a role analogous to that of the Chair of Committees of the Whole. Unlike the Chairs of other committees, and, in conformity with the provisions of Standing Order 118(1), the Chair of a legislative committee is not considered a member of the committee for the purpose of quorum.

The Chair of a subcommittee has the same role as the Chair of the main committee. In practice, the Chair of the main committee serves as Chair of the subcommittee on agenda and procedure (the steering committee).

Vice-Chair

The Vice-Chairs of committees may serve as replacements for the Chair, presiding over meetings when the Chair is unable to attend. All of the Chair’s powers can be delegated to the Vice-Chair, but the Vice-Chair cannot preside over a committee meeting while the office of Chair is vacant. Normally, Vice-Chairs also serve as members of the subcommittee on agenda and procedure.

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