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 on the estimates with a mandate to monitor and review the estimates, the business of supply and related matters.
The Committee has conducted studies and held hearings on a number of topics related to its mandate, including the parliamentary precinct, energy efficiency of federal buildings, public-private partnerships, the greening of government operations, budget reductions, federal real property, new information technology, the economic stimulus package and the federal procurement process.
The Committee has also focused on the 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.
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 Government Operations and Estimates can also request that the PBO provide research and analysis of matters relating to the nation’s finances or economy.
The Committee’s study reviewed the effectiveness and efficiency of the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB). The CGSB, a component of Public Services and Procurement Canada (formerly named Public Works and Government Services Canada), establishes technical committees to develop standards. It also provides conformity assessment services, accredits laboratories that then tests the conformity of products to standards and manages employee certification programs. Most of the CGSB’s clients are federal departments or agencies. In its report, the Committee highlighted issues related to standards harmonization and the review of obsolete standards by the CGSB.
The Committee reviewed the bill to introduce a new statute that would establish rules for federal departments and agencies with respect to the amendment or the introduction of regulations in order to control the administrative cost to businesses of complying with regulations. The bill enshrines in legislation a rule referred to as the one-for-one rule. The Committee’s report was presented without amendment and the bill received Royal Assent in April 2015.
This report summarizes the testimony and organizes it around the following themes: open data by default, quantity and quality of open data, data formats and discoverability, the release of data for improved governance, and the release of data for innovation. In its report, the Committee made a number of recommendations for improving open data and open data services, in particular related to the federal government’s implementation of its G8 Open Data Charter commitments and its directive on open government.
In this report, the Committee noted several avenues for increasing the energy efficiency of federally-owned or -operated buildings, and encouraged the federal government to enhance its efforts in exploring energy-efficient building designs and codes, assessments and certifications, and green leases. The Committee also expressed the view that financing measures are important, and that the government should consider the use of energy performance contracts, and tax and other federal supports for energy-efficient buildings. Finally, the Committee recommended the establishment of clear targets, policies and processes, an improved strategic planning approach, better coordination among departments, improved education and training, and ongoing monitoring of federal buildings.
This report summarizes the testimony and organizes it around the following themes: federal public-private partnerships (P3s), value-for-money analysis, planning considerations, financing considerations, building capacity and expertise for better contracting, and transparency and monitoring considerations. In its report, the Committee recommended that the federal government continue to make further progress in relation to the aforementioned themes, in particular, the transparency, monitoring and reporting mechanisms in relation to P3s.
The Committee focused its study on the estimates process by examining the process on three levels – procedures, structure, and support – in an effort to identify ways to strengthen parliamentary scrutiny of the estimates and supply. The report presents a brief history of the business of supply in Canada, followed by a number of recommendations with respect to the estimates process, including a change to estimates votes by strategic outcome instead of by the nature of the expenditure (i.e., operating, capital, grants and contributions). Following the tabling of the Committee’s report, the government introduced a searchable online expenditure database that includes spending information in three categories: by authorities and expenditures, which compares the amount of funding that was authorized to what was actually spent, by standard object, which details itemized government spending, and by program, which represents spending on a particular departmental activity.
The Committee studied the effectiveness of the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises (OSME) and the Canadian Innovation Commercialization Program (CICP). In its report, the Committee recommended that the government study the possibility of ensuring greater independence in the governance of the OSME, that Public Works and Government Services Canada (renamed Public Services and Procurement Canada) and the OSME consider developing a policy framework for the bundling of contracts, that the government consider making the CICP permanent, and that Public Works and Government Services Canada take appropriate measures to find a balance among members of the Innovation Selection Committee, who come from various backgrounds, in order to ensure that perceptions of conflict of interest are mitigated.
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