Established by the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, the mandate of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities is to examine the work of Transport Canada, Infrastructure Canada and their portfolio agencies and partners. The committee can study any aspect of the management and operations of these organisations, as well as any legislation, programs or policy areas administered by the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Infrastructure. The scope of issues related to transport, infrastructure and communities is quite broad and includes:
While many aspects of transportation, infrastructure and communities are exclusively the responsibility of the provinces, such as highways, public transit and municipal infrastructure, the federal government may have a role where it is perceived that the national interest is at stake.
Given Canada’s vast geography, sparse population and dependence on external trade – arguably as much a reality today as it was at the time of Confederation – having an efficient transportation system has always been of paramount importance. For this reason, there has been a parliamentary committee to examine transportation legislation, policy and related issues in Canada since Confederation in 1867. The committee has had various names since 1867 and has been known as the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities since 2006.
Under various names, the committee has studied and made recommendations concerning pivotal events in Canada’s transportation history, such as the creation of the Canadian National Railway as a Crown corporation in 1919 and its eventual privatization in 1995, and economic deregulation in the airline industry in 1987. The committee was instrumental in developing the Canada Transportation Act (1996) and more recently considered and reported on other issues of national importance such as competition in the airline industry and the airports system (2005), changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act (2008) and Navigation Protection Act (2019), as well as Canada’s ocean war graves (2018).
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 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/
Transport and Trade:
The Committee also examined a number of bills during the 42ndParliament, including the following: