Established pursuant to Standing Order 107, the Liaison Committee is a permanent committee, but not a standing committee. It is composed ex officio of the Chairs of all the standing committees and the House Chairs of standing joint committees. Vice-Chairs of all committees and Members of the House of Commons who are Vice-Chairs of joint committees are automatically associate members of the Liaison Committee. 1
The main responsibility of the Liaison Committee is to apportion funds to standing committees from the money allocated for that purpose by the Board of Internal Economy. Many of the routine operational expenses of committees are borne directly by the House of Commons administration. Standing committee budgets are drawn up on a project-by-project basis and each budget must be adopted by a committee before it is submitted to the Liaison Committee for approval. Although committees are provided with limited interim spending authority, they require approval of the Liaison Committee for any expenditure which exceeds the amount initially allocated, though certain project budgets are automatically approved. In addition to project funds, all requests for travel funds must be part of a separate budget request and must be approved by the Liaison Committee before a committee can travel. (A committee must also receive approval from the House of Commons before it is empowered to travel.) The Liaison Committee usually establishes a Subcommittee on Committee Budgets charged with apportioning the funds to the various standing committees.
The Liaison Committee has a quorum of seven members and usually meets in camera to deliberate on administrative matters relating to the standing committee system.
1. The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs may also name other Associate Members from among other members from all parties. The Liaison Committee’s subcommittee members may be drawn from the list of Members and Associate Members of the Committee. Also, the Whip, or his or her designate, of any recognized party not having a member on the Liaison Committee, may take part in the proceedings of the Committee, but may not vote or move any motion, nor be part of any quorum (see Standing Order 107).
The Liaison Committee was established following the adoption of a recommendation of the Special Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons (the McGrath Committee) in the mid-1980s.
While the Committee’s primary responsibility is the allocation of committee budgets, it has, from time to time, also dealt with other administrative matters concerning committees, such as the use of committee rooms.
At the end of the 34th Parliament in 1993, the Liaison Committee released a report on committee effectiveness, describing how its members felt that committees had used the powers they had gained during the 32nd and 33rd Parliaments. It also made a number of recommendations for members to improve the functioning of committees in the 35th Parliament.
In the execution of its functions, each committee is normally assisted by a committee clerk, an analyst and a committee assistant. 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.