The House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage has the power to review and report on the policies, programs and expenditure plans of the Department of Canadian Heritage and most of the agencies and Crown corporations within the Portfolio.
The mandate of the Department and these cultural institutions is to promote culture, the arts, heritage, audiovisual, sport, official languages, citizenship and participation as well as Aboriginal, youth and sport initiatives.
The Committee on Canadian Heritage studies matters referred to it by the House of Commons or topics the Committee chooses to examine. It holds public meetings and considers evidence from witnesses. At the end of a study, the Committee usually reports on its findings and makes recommendations. The Committee may request a Government response.
Between 1979 and 1993, cultural matters were the responsibility of the Standing Committee on Communications and Culture. In 1993, responsibility for telecommunications was moved to Industry Canada; cultural matters, including broadcasting, were moved to the new Department of Canadian Heritage. Consequently, in 1994 the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage was established.
Since then, there have been a couple of government changes that have affected the Committee’s mandate. In 2003, the responsibility for national parks was transferred from the Department of Canadian Heritage to the Department of Environment. In 2008, responsibility for multiculturalism was transferred from the Department of Canadian Heritage to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration.
Over the years, the Committee has conducted a number of major studies in areas such as culture, sport, broadcasting, film and television. Some recent were:
In the execution of its functions, each committee is normally assisted by a committee clerk, an analyst and a committee assistant. Occasional assistance is also provided by legislative clerks and lawyers from the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel. All of these individuals are non-partisan and serve all members of the committee and representatives of all parties equally.
The clerk performs his or her duties and responsibilities under the direction of the committee and its Chair. As an expert in the rules of the House of Commons, the clerk may be requested to give advice to the Chair and members of the committee should a question of procedure arise. The clerk is the coordinator, organizer and liaison officer for the committee and as such will be in frequent contact with members’ staff. He or she is also responsible to invite witnesses and to deal with all the details regarding their appearance before the committee.
The committee assistant provides a wide range of specialized administrative services for, in particular, the organization of committee meetings and the publishing of documents on the committees’ website. The committee assistant works with the clerk to meet the needs of committees.
The Library of Parliament’s analysts provide authoritative, substantive, and timely research, analysis and information to all members of the Committee. They are part of the Committee’s institutional memory and are a unique resource for parliamentarians. Supported by research librarians, the analyst works individually or in multidisciplinary teams.
Analysts can prepare: briefing notes on the subjects being examined; detailed study plans; lists of proposed witnesses; analyses of an issue with a list of suggested questions; background papers; draft reports; news releases; and/or formal correspondence. Analysts with legal training can assist the Committee regarding any substantive issues that may arise during the consideration of bills.
OTHER RESOURCES AVAILABLE AS REQUIRED
Within the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, Parliamentary Counsel (Legislation) are available to assist Members who are not in Cabinet in the preparation of private Members’ bills or of amendments to Government bills or others.
At various stages of the legislative process, Members may propose amendments to bills. Amendments may first be proposed at the Committee Stage, during a committee’s clause-by-clause review of a bill. Amendments may also be proposed at the Report Stage, once a bill returns to the House.
Once bill is sent to Committee, the clerk of the Committee provides the name of the Parliamentary Counsel (Legislation) responsible for the drafting of the amendments for a particular bill to the Members.
The legislative clerk serves all members of the Committee as a specialist of the process by which a bill becomes law. They are available to give, upon request from Members and their staff, advice on the admissibility of amendments when bills are referred to Committee. The legislative clerk organizes the amendments into packages for committee stage, reviews all the committee amendments for procedural admissibility and prepares draft rulings for the Chair. During clause-by-clause consideration of bills in committee, a legislative clerk is in attendance to assist the committee concerning any procedural issues that may arise. The legislative clerk can also provide Members with advice regarding the procedural admissibility of Report Stage amendments. When a bill is sent to committee, the clerk of the committee provides to the Members the name of the legislative clerk assigned to the bill.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO)
The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) has a mandate to support Parliament and parliamentarians in holding the government to account for the good stewardship of public resources. The Federal Accountability Act of 2006 mandates the PBO to provide independent analysis to the Senate and to the House of Commons regarding the state of the nation’s finances, the government estimates and trends in the national economy.
The enabling legislation also provides the PBO with a mandate to provide analytical support to any committee during its consideration of the estimates, as well as provide advice to any Member of Parliament regarding the financial cost of proposals.
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage examined a number of issues during the Forty-First Parliament. The main major reports are summarized below:
During the First Session of the Forty-First Parliament, the Committee undertook a study on the preparations for the Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations in 2017. The Committee tabled a report on 24 September 2012 that contained 19 recommendations on measures that the government could take to celebrate the country’s 150th anniversary. For example, recommendation 13 invited the government to explore incentives to encourage all Canadians to explore their country during 2017.
In report 6, tabled on 24 October 2012, the Committee conducted a review of national protocol procedures. The Committee examined current ceremonial protocol procedures used by federal government departments, the Parliament of Canada, provincial and municipal governments, and organizations such as fire services, emergency medical services, the Royal Canadian Legion, funeral companies, hotels, and venues. The Committee made eight recommendations, including the development of a national protocol framework that could be made available on Canadian Heritage’s website.
In report 8, tabled on 27 March 2013, the Committee reviewed the state of amateur coaching in Canada. It dealt mainly with incentives to encourage Canadians to participate in amateur coaching and pursue careers in competitive coaching.
In report 10, tabled on 30 April 2013, the Committee dealt with the success of the Canadian entertainment software industry, also known as the video game industry. The issues addressed by this study included the recruitment of foreign workers, the training of the work force and the role of tax credit plans.
During the Second Session of the Forty-First Parliament, the Committee undertook four major studies. First, the Committee studied Canada's preparations for the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi. The Committee’s report, tabled on 5 February 2014, made seven recommendations.
From March to June 2014, the Committee undertook an in-depth review of the Canadian music industry. There was extensive discussion of the digital revolution that is transforming the music industry in Canada and globally. The Committee heard testimony from numerous industry players – composers, performers, producers, distributors, publishers, record companies, live music venues and festival and concert promoters – who proposed various solutions that would allow the Canadian music industry to adapt to the new digital environment. Following its hearings, the Committee made 10 recommendations to strengthen the Canadian music industry. These touched on the Copyright Board of Canada, the musical knowledge and skills of Canadians, the negative impacts of illegal downloading and tourism.
From February to June 2015, the Committee undertook a review of the Canadian feature film industry. The report presents the main issues and challenges from the three principal links in the industry’s value chain: production, distribution and exhibition. There was consensus that the federal government continue its overall support for the Canadian feature film industry. Following its hearings, the Committee made 11 recommendations that touched on the financing, exhibition and promotion of Canadian feature films.
In May and June 2015, the Committee conducted a short study on dance in Canada. In its report, the Committee explored the contribution of dance to Canadian culture and to the development of young Canadians’ physical and musical skills. The Committee made seven recommendations to improve the situation of the dance professional sector and encourage Canadians’ involvement in dancing.