The Standing Orders of the House of Commons give all standing committees the mandate to exercise certain general powers. Standing Order 108(2) gives committees the power “to study and report on all matters relating to the mandate, management and operation of the department or departments of government which are assigned to them.” For a more detailed overview of parliamentary committees, please consult the Compendium of House of Commons Procedure.
The Standing Committee on Natural Resources may examine issues related to the four industrial sectors that constitute the mandate of the Department of Natural Resources (NRCan): the energy sector, the forest sector, the minerals and metals sector and the earth sciences sector. In addition to considering bills referred to it, the Committee focuses on expenditures and activities of the organizations that are part of the Natural Resources portfolio:
Natural resources issues have been dealt with in various ways, as House of Commons’ standing committee structures have evolved. During the 34th Parliament (1988-1993), they fell under the mandate of two separate committees, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Forestry and Fisheries and the House of Commons Standing Committee on Energy, Mines and Resources.
As of the 35th Parliament (1994-1997), forestry, energy, mines and resources were under the mandate of a single committee, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources.
During the 36th Parliament (1997-2000), the House of Commons underwent changes that led to the creation of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Government Operations.
At the beginning of the 37th Parliament (2001-2004), the natural resources component was incorporated into the activities of the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Committee, which led to the creation of the new House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources.
During the 38th Parliament (2004-2005), responsibility for natural resources was moved again and merged with the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, which became the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology. Finally, early in the 39th Parliament in 2006, the natural resources component was moved from the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology and, as in 1994, placed under the purview of a single committee, the Standing Committee on Natural Resources.
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 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/
In recent years, the Committee has studied many issues related to the various industrial sectors that fall within the mandate of Natural Resources Canada. In particular, the Committee has presented the following reports to the House of Commons in the last two parliaments:
The Committee has also examined the following bills during the last two parliaments: