The mandate of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates focuses on the estimates process as well as on the effectiveness and proper functioning of government operations.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(c), the Committee’s mandate includes primarily the study of:
The Committee is mandated to examine and conduct studies related to the following organizations:
Central Departments and Agencies
Organizations Related to Human Resources Matters
The Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates was formed following the 1998 report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, entitled The Business of Supply: Completing the Circle of Control. The report recommended the creation of a committee to monitor and review government estimates, the business of supply and related matters.
Following its creation, the Committee undertook initiatives that examined how to improve the estimates process. Consequently, in 2003, it released a report entitled Meaningful Scrutiny: Practical Improvements to the Estimates Process. Other Committee reports on the estimates include Strengthening Parliamentary Scrutiny of Estimates and Supply in 2012 and Improving Transparency and Parliamentary Oversight of the Government’s Spending Plans in 2019.
Other studies undertaken and hearings held by the Committee in recent years include the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, hiring veterans in the public service, the Greening Government Strategy, the hiring process in the public service, the Phoenix pay system, the federal procurement process, the review of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, and the future of Canada Post Corporation.
The Committee has examined various documents in the estimates process and the annual reports tabled by the organizations relating to its mandate. In addition, it has studied votes in the estimates that have been referred to it.
Staff Assigned to the committee
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, including the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, 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/
During the 1st Session of the 43rd Parliament, the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates examined the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the Committee focused its study on the procurement and distribution of personal protective equipment and medical supplies, as well as the National Emergency Strategic Stockpile, and other aspects of the government’s response.
The Committee undertook several studies during the 42nd Parliament. Some notable reports include:
The Committee studied the priority hiring system and other measures put in place to improve veterans’ access to employment in the federal public service through the Veterans Hiring Act. It examined the difficulties veterans face in transitioning to civilian employment and looked at federal veteran transition programs. In addition, it examined the federal public service hiring process and recommended changes to help veterans secure employment within the federal government. In particular, it recommended the establishment of clear targets for the implementation of the Veterans Hiring Act for each department and agency along with sub-targets for various position levels, and that senior managers be made accountable for meeting these targets.
The Committee reviewed the Greening Government Strategy introduced in December 2017 and the related commitments. It examined the Government of Canada’s efforts in meeting those commitments through its real property assets, fleets, green procurement, climate change adaptation initiatives, and oversight and performance measurements. It recommended that the Government of Canada include specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely objectives throughout the entire Greening Government Strategy, and add specific targets to the Strategy’s adaptation to climate change, oversight and performance measurement sections. It also recommended that the government provide small and medium enterprises with additional opportunities in the clean technology sector to demonstrate their products.
This report examined the federal public service hiring process. The Committee found that public service positions are often limited to public service employees and that hiring processes are often extremely long. It recommended that all public service positions be advertised externally, while respecting the requirements of collective agreements, and that the length of the hiring process be reduced by at least 50%.
The Committee studied the temporary changes made to the estimates process during the 42nd Parliament and in particular, measures to include all budget initiatives in the main estimates, namely the new timeline for tabling the main estimates and the introduction of a new vote under the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat for budget initiatives. It recommended that the changes be referred to the Committee for study before they are made permanent, a recommendation the government supported. In addition, it examined the accounting methods used in the main fiscal documents, the results of a pilot project on a purpose-based vote structure, and the departmental results framework.
The Committee reviewed the Government of Canada’s procurement process. It examined the main challenges and barriers preventing small and medium enterprises, women-owned and Indigenous business from accessing federal contracts. It recommended a simplification of the procurement process and a modernization of the Government of Canada’s policies and procedures for contracting. It emphasized the importance of achieving the best value for Canadians. It also recommended establishing targets for federal contracts awarded to small and medium enterprises, and improving how the federal government tracks and evaluates the impact of its Procurement Strategy for Aboriginal Business.
The Committee examined changes made in 2016 to the federal government’s policy on communications and procedures for advertising and explored the best ways to ensure that government communications and advertising effectively reach Canadians. It outlined changes designed to avoid partisanship in government communications and advertising. It also offered ways to provide proper and relevant oversight of government advertising activities and to increase transparency.
In 2016, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement asked the Committee to consult Canadians on the future of the Canada Post Corporation as part of a major review of the Corporation. The Committee held public consultations across Canada and online. It heard a wide range of viewpoints and concluded that the Corporation must make significant changes to honour its mandate and provide quality services that meet the needs of Canadians at a reasonable price and on a self-sustaining financial basis. It made several recommendations, including the reinstatement of door-to-door mail delivery for communities that were converted to community mailboxes after 3 August 2015.