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)(g)). 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 Our 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:
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), including the Canadian Coast Guard which operates as a special operating agency of 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:
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, 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 committee’s Website. The committee assistant works with the clerk to meet the needs of the committee.
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 Committee’s discussions have covered a wide range of topics. Over the last decade it has studied:
1. Fisheries Management Issues
2. Environmental Issues
3. Departmental Business
4. Canadian Coast Guard
6. Eco-certification and Seafood Labeling