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. Fiscal Year 2015-2016 saw the transfer of the Multiculturalism Program from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to the Department of Canadian Heritage.
In the execution of its functions, each committee is normally assisted by a committee clerk, one or more analysts and a committee assistant. Occasional assistance is also provided by legislative clerks and lawyers from the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel. These individuals are non-partisan and serve all members of the committee and representatives of all parties equally.
The clerk performs their 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. They are also responsible for inviting witnesses and dealing with all the details regarding their appearance before the committee.
The committee assistant provides a wide range of specialized administrative services for 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, who are subject-matter experts, 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 analysts work 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 with 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 a 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 with 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) is an officer of Parliament created by the Parliament of Canada Act who supports Parliament by providing analysis, including analysis of macroeconomic and fiscal policy, for the purposes of raising the quality of parliamentary debate and promoting greater budget transparency and accountability.
The Parliament of Canada Act also provides the PBO with a mandate to, if requested by a committee, estimate the financial cost of any proposal over which Parliament has jurisdiction. Certain committees can also request research and analyses of the nation’s finances or economy, or of the estimates.
Further information on the PBO may be found at: http://www.pbo-dpb.gc.ca/en/.
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage undertook a number of studies during the 42nd Parliament. The Committee’s reports covered a range of subjects, including:
The Committee held four meetings during the First Session of the Forty-three Parliament. On March 13, 2020, given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, all scheduled committee meetings have been cancelled.