Subcommittees are to committees what committees are to the House: the parent body is relieved of a portion of its workload by delegating some part of its mandate or a particular task to a smaller group.
Standing committees (including standing joint committees) are empowered, according to Standing Order 108(1)(a), to establish subcommittees. The membership of subcommittees is not always proportional to the party representation on the main committee, and Members other than government Members may be selected to chair them.
In forming subcommittees, standing committees may draw not only upon the members of the main committee but also upon associate members, as provided for in Standing Order 108(1)(c). Alternatively, the committee may instruct the Whips to determine the membership.
A special committee may establish subcommittees only if empowered to do so by the order of reference by which it was established. The Liaison Committee, despite its limited mandate, is empowered to create subcommittees, drawing their membership both from the main committee and from the list of associate members, pursuant to Standing Order 107(6).
Most standing and special committees find it convenient, for planning purposes, to establish a subcommittee on agenda and procedure, also called the steering committee. Decisions reached by this subcommittee are subject to ratification by the full committee. This is done by means of concurrence in a report from the subcommittee containing its recommendations on the organization of the committee’s work.
Standing Order 113(6) stipulates that a legislative committee is permitted to establish only a subcommittee on agenda and procedure, to which it may delegate the power to schedule meetings, to call for government officials and technical witnesses, and to send for papers and records, subject to the approval of the main committee.