Committee Rooms

The House of Commons delegates much of its work to committees which are composed of Members (and in the case of joint committees, Members and Senators).103 Aside from Committees of the Whole House which meet in the Chamber,104 committees meet in rooms outside the Chamber, often while the House is sitting. Committee rooms historically have been located principally in the Centre, East and West Blocks. Due to the expansion of the number of standing committees over time, and, more recently, to restoration work, other buildings within the parliamentary precinct have also housed committee rooms. They are outfitted with sound amplification systems as well as the necessary equipment to record the proceedings and to provide simultaneous interpretation in both official languages. Several rooms are set up for video conferencing and television broadcasting, with an adjoining control room and cameras operated by remote control.105 Webcasting of all committee meetings takes place.106 Although certain rooms are designated and equipped as committee rooms, many are multi-functional and can be used for other purposes. Committees may meet anywhere in the Parliamentary Precinct provided that certain requirements are met.107

Typically a committee room is set up with several tables placed in a rectangular formation. The Chair sits at the centre of one end with the committee clerk and other committee staff. The Members take seats on either side; as in the House, the government Members normally sit to the Chair’s right and the opposition Members to the left. Witnesses are seated at the end opposite the Chair. Tables are available for representatives of the press, usually behind the witnesses’ chairs, together with additional seating for individuals viewing the proceedings.

While a committee may tend to hold its meetings in a particular room, no such formal room assignments are made. In the years immediately following Confederation, committees were fewer and larger and much business was conducted in Committees of the Whole. Certain rooms were set aside for committee meetings. For example, the room known informally as the Railway Committee Room came to be so called because (although it was used by other committees) it was the home of the standing committee dealing with railways.108 Committees book rooms as needed; priority of use may be established from time to time by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.109