The mandate of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, which is established under Standing Order 104(2)(g) of the House of Commons, is to examine and enquire into all matters referred to it by the House of Commons, to report from time to time and, except when the House otherwise orders, to send for persons, papers and records, as it operates in accordance with its mandate.
Certain standing committees, including the Standing Committee on Finance, are empowered to study and report on all matters relating to the mandate, management and operation of the department or departments of government that are assigned to them from time to time by the House. For the Standing Committee on Finance, these departments include the Department of Finance and the Canada Revenue Agency.
Finally, the Standing Committee on Finance also has the responsibility to consider budgetary policy, as outlined in Standing Order 83.1. In particular, commencing on the first sitting day in September of each year, the Committee is authorized to consider and report on proposals regarding the budgetary policy of the government. The Committee normally presents its pre-budget report no later than the tenth sitting day before the last normal sitting day in December, as outlined in Standing Order 28(2).
In each parliamentary session, the Committee’s work may include:
briefing sessions by departmental officials on federal programs
examination of planned expenditures of the Department of Finance and the Canada Revenue Agency
a review of Order in Council appointments
a review of Monetary Policy Reports of the Governor of the Bank of Canada
a review of the Minister of Finance’s economic and fiscal update
consideration of proposed legislation
special studies on topics within the Committee’s mandate
The Standing Committee on Finance was previously known under different names:
1964-1985: Standing Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Affairs
1986-1988: Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs
1989-present: Standing Committee on Finance
1960s – 1970s
The December 1964 Fifteenth Report of the Special Committee on Procedure and Organization changed the parliamentary committee system in the House of Commons and created the Standing Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Affairs. The Committee had the power to examine issues in the areas of banking, currency, taxation, federal-provincial fiscal arrangements, trade and commerce, economic planning and statistics.
During this time, standing committees were given the power to examine the estimates of the federal departments and agencies referred to them. Those that were reviewable by the Standing Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Affairs included:
the Comptroller of the Treasury;
the Office of the Auditor General;
the Bank of Canada;
the Treasury Board;
the Royal Canadian Mint;
Trade and Commerce;
the Canadian Wheat Board; and
the Dominion Bureau of Statistics.
As well, the Committee could examine the administration of federal superannuation and retirement legislation, as well as of the Corporations and Labour Unions Returns Act.
In the 1970s, in addition to examining the estimates of the Department of Finance and of National Revenue, the Committee prepared reports on income tax reform, the Foreign Investment Review Act and conversion to the metric system.
1980s – 1990s
In 1985, the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs was created as a consequence of a recommendation in the June 1985 Report of the Special Committee on Reform of the House of Commons. The Committee had a broad mandate that included the examination of legislation, programs and expenditures relating to the Department of Finance, as well as other matters relating to economic affairs.
In the 1980s, the Committee prepared reports on the regulation of financial institutions, the Canadian Commercial Bank, bank profits, credit cards, the Special Import Measures Act and tax reform.
In April 1989, the Committee was renamed, becoming the Standing Committee on Finance.
Although the Committee has probably had the power to study the economic planning of the federal government since at least the 1960s, the Committee’s formal mandate was changed in 1994 through Standing Order 83.1, which requires the Committee to undertake annual public consultations on the items to be included in the next federal budget, with a report on these consultations tabled in the House of Commons.
In the 1990s, the Committee prepared reports on the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the Spending Control Act, the mandate and governance of the Bank of Canada, international financial institutions, replacing the GST with a harmonized value-added tax, pre-budget consultations, the Harmonized Sales Tax, tax fairness and the financial services sector.
2000 – Present
Over the 2000 to 2015 period, in addition to the report on its annual pre-budget consultations and reports on legislation and the estimates, the Standing Committee on Finance prepared reports on
a natural disaster reduction plan;
federal cost recovery;
the creation of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada;
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)
As defined in the Parliament of Canada Act, the PBO is an officer of Parliament who provides independent and non-partisan analysis to Parliament on the budget, the estimates and other documents and initiatives, as well as on matters of particular significance relating to the nation’s finances or economy listed in the PBO’s annual work plan.
At the request of the Committee, the PBO can estimate the financial cost of any proposal within the Committee’s mandate that relates to matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction and can conduct research and analysis of the estimates that have been referred to the Committee.
The Standing Committee on Finance can also request that the PBO provide research and analysis of matters relating to the nation’s finances or economy.
In recent years, in addition to its studies and reports on proposed legislation and estimates, the Standing Committee on Finance produced reports on a range of topics relating to its mandate, including:
41st Parliament, 2nd Session (16 October 2013 to XX September 2015)