The mandate of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (the “Committee”) is set out in section 108(3)(a) of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. The Committee also acts as a striking committee for House standing committees under section 104 of the Standing Orders, and possesses the powers of examination and inquiry common to all standing committees under section 108(1)(a) of the Standing Orders.
Under its mandate, the Committee may review and report about the following matters:
In addition to its mandate as outlined in the Standing Orders, the Committee is responsible for all matters related to referendums, possesses a role in the electoral boundaries readjustment process, and is the House of Commons committee to which questions of privilege are referred.
The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (the “Committee”) traces its origins back to the earliest days of the Confederation. On 7 November 1867, the second sitting day of Canada’s Parliament, the House of Commons established ten select standing committees, three of which possessed mandates that are now included under the Committee’s current mandate. These committees were the Select Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections, the Select Standing Committee on Miscellaneous Private Bills, and the Select Standing Committee on Standing Orders
Various committees have, in the past, shared part of the Committee’s current mandate. In 1991, the Standing Committee on House Management was established by merging the Standing Committee on Management and Members’ Services with the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections (previously named the Standing Committee on Elections, Privileges, Procedure and Private Members’ Business). At the time, the Standing Committee on House Management was also entrusted to act as the Striking Committee for the membership of other committees.
In 1994, the Standing Committee on House Management was replaced by the Committee. In 1995, the Committee was designated as the committee responsible for matters related to the Referendum Act, and, in 2004, the mandate of the Committee was expanded to include all matters relating to the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons.
Each session, the Committee undertakes numerous studies and presents reports to the House of Commons on various matters related to its mandate, including:
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 his 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 is 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/
MEMBERS’ PARLIAMENTARY DUTIES AND THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
The Committee undertook two related studies about modifying the procedures and practices of the House of Commons to ensure that members could continue to carry out their parliamentary duties during the COVID-19 pandemic. Members’ duties included debating, legislating, representing constituents, the business of supply, committee work and holding the government to account. These studies resulted in Report 5 - Parliamentary Duties and the COVID-19 Pandemic, and Report 7 – Carrying Out Members’ Parliamentary Duties: The Challenges of Voting During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
LONG TERM VISION AND PLAN FOR THE PARLIMENTARY PRECINCT
The Committee received briefings and studied the Centre Block Rehabilitation Project and the Block 2 redevelopment, as part of the Long Term Vision and Plan (LTVP) for the Parliamentary Precinct.
REVIEW OF PARTY REPRESENTATION AMONG COMMITTEE VICE-CHAIRS
The Committee reviewed Standing Order 106(2) to determine the number of vice-chairs for House of Commons standing committees for the duration of the 43rd Parliament. The study resulted in Report 4 - Review of Standing Orders, Procedure and Practice of the House.
The Committee is responsible for the Main Estimates and Supplementary Estimates of the House of Commons, the Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS), and the Chief Electoral Officer. Generally, at least once per fiscal year the Committee will invite the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Clerk and the Chief Superintendent of the PPS to appear before the Committee to respond to questions in respect of budgetary planning, priorities and performance of the House and PPS. Likewise, the Chief Electoral Officer, along with members of his staff, generally appears before the Committee at least once per fiscal year, to respond to questions from members concerning budgetary planning, priorities and performance at Elections Canada.