The House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans (“the Committee”) studies and reports on matters referred to it by the House of Commons, or on topics the Committee itself chooses to examine. It is a permanent committee established by the Standing Orders of the House of Commons (S.O. 104(2)(h)). Legislation, departmental activities and spending, and other matters related to the general subject matter of the Committee may be referred to it from time to time. For a more detailed overview of parliamentary committees, see the Compendium of House of Commons Procedure.
Under Standing Order 108(1), standing committees can examine any matters referred to them by the House of Commons or as required by legislation. They can report to the House, send for persons or records, and delegate their powers to subcommittees. They can sit whether the House is sitting or adjourned, and may sit jointly with other standing committees. In general, committees can study and report on:
legislation relating to the department(s) under their purview;
program and policy objectives of the department (by reviewing the department’s annual Report on Plans and Priorities);
immediate, medium and long-term expenditure plans of the department, and the effectiveness of their implementation (by reviewing the Main Estimates and Supplementary Estimates throughout the budgetary cycle);
the relative success of the department, as measured by the results obtained as compared with its stated objectives (by reviewing the annual Departmental Performance Reports); and
other matters relating to the mandate, management, organization or operation of the department, as the committee deems fit.
Under Standing Order 108(2), the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans can study the policies, programs and legislation and any matter of interest, as they see fit, related to the department assigned to it, namely, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). Various independent agencies and Crown corporations are also assigned to the Committee:
When reviewing bills referred to it by the House of Commons, a committee may study each clause of the bill and report the bill back to the House, with or without amendment. When bills are referred to a committee after second reading, any amendments proposed must not run counter to the fundamental principle and scope of the bill. However, Standing Order 73 also allows for a bill to be referred to a committee before second reading, thus providing the committee with the opportunity to amend the draft legislation more substantially. Furthermore, committees may be asked by the House of Commons to review draft legislation before it is introduced in the House.
Standing committees are established under the Standing Orders of the House of Commons for the life of a Parliament. They generally reflect the departmental organization of government. Thus, the range of issues studied by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans parallels the mandate of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). Parliamentary reforms implemented in the early 1980s gave standing committees the power, as they see fit, to look into any matter of interest related to their departments.
Throughout recent Canadian parliamentary history, one or more standing committees of the House of Commons have addressed matters related to fisheries and oceans. Prior to the reforms of 1980, there was a Standing Committee on Marine and Fisheries that dated to the turn of the 20th Century. Following the reforms, the Committee went under several different titles, as the Standing Committee on:
Fisheries and Forestry (1984 – 1986)
Fisheries and Oceans (1986 – 1988)
Forestry and Fisheries (1989 – 1993)
Fisheries and Oceans (1994 - )
The current Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans was established in 1994 for the 35th Parliament. Some issues under the purview of Standing Committees assigned to fisheries and oceans issues have also been addressed in previous years through other committees, such as the Standing Committee on the Environment and the Standing Committee on Mines, Forests and Waters.
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.