House of Commons Procedure and Practice
Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit
2000 EditionMore information …
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In 1985, the McGrath Committee recommended that members be responsible for finding their own replacements when they were unable to attend committee meetings. [206]  When members of a standing or standing joint committee are unable to attend committee meetings, the Standing Orders provide for their replacement by designated substitutes. [207]  A substitute enjoys the same rights and privileges as the regular member of a committee being replaced. Substitutes are counted for purposes of establishing a quorum; they may participate in debate, move motions and vote. [208]  A substitution cannot be in effect while the committee member is present at the meeting. Thus, a member, such as the Parliamentary Secretary, who is called upon to appear as a witness before a committee of which he or she is a member, cannot be substituted at that meeting, but retains his or her right to participate and vote in any decisions the committee may take during the meeting. [209] 

Standing committee members may file with the clerk of the committee a list of the names of not more than 14 members of their party who may act as substitutes when required. The list is to be filed within five sitting days of the committee’s organization meeting, and amendments to it may be filed at later times as required. [210]  Notification of a proposed substitution from a list must be sent by the member to the party whip the day before it is to take effect. After signing the notification, the whip forwards it to the clerk of the committee. [211]  If no substitute list is filed with the clerk or no notice has been received by the clerk, the whip may initiate a substitution by filing a notice with the clerk of the committee. [212]  For the purpose of substitution, the whip may select any member of his or her party or the independent members listeas associate members of the committee. [213] 

The Standing Orders do not provide for substitutions in legislative committees. However, Members who are unable to carry out their duties on a legislative committee may be replaced by filing a change in membership, signed by the party whip, with the clerk of the committee. [214]  As there is no limit on the number and frequency of such changes, they serve both to make permanent changes to a committee’s membership and as a de facto substitution system.

Substitutions are permitted on special committees only where such a power is granted in their order of reference and only in the manner stipulated. The House has permitted substitutions on special committees in a manner similar to that used for standing committees [215]  and has also permitted special committee membership to be changed on signed notification of the Chief Whip of a party, as is done for legislative committees. [216]  As the order of reference of a special committee usually sets no limit on the number or frequency of such changes, they serve both to make permanent changes to the committee’s membership and as a de facto substitution system.

Committees do not normally make explicit provision for substitutions when establishing sub-committees. The membership of a sub-committee is often designated by indicating the number of members from each party who will form the sub-committee, rather than designating members by name. This permits any of the regular or associate members of a party on the main committee to attend a given meeting of the sub-committee, up to the maximum stipulated in its order of reference. [217] 

Associate Members

In addition to regular committee members, the Standing Orders also provide for associate members. Associate members are eligible to be named to sub-committees and to act as substitutes for regular members who are unable to attend committee meetings. While associate members are serving on sub-committees or as substitutes for regular members, they enjoy all of the rights of regular committee members: they are counted for purposes of establishing a quorum, they may participate in debate, they may move motions and vote. [218]  The use of associate members on sub-committees helps to reduce the workload of regular committee members. [219]  It also permits members with particular interest or expertise in the specific area being examined by the sub-committee to participate in its work, without being obliged to become a regular member of the main committee.

The Procedure and House Affairs Committee, in its capacity as striking committee, is responsible for preparing and bringing in a list of associate members for standing and standing joint committees. [220] 

Ex Officio Members

Some committees have appointed “ex officio members” who were not Members of the House to participate in various committee studies. These individuals, who represented groups specifically targeted by the studies, were permitted to pose questions to witnesses, participate in the committees’ deliberations and in the drafting of reports. They were not permitted to move motions or to vote, nor could they be counted for the purposes of quorum. [221] 

Changes in Membership

It is generally accepted that a Member is bound to serve on a committee to which he or she has been duly appointed. [222]  Members were formerly excused from service on a committee only if they could show some reason why they were unable to attend. [223]  As Members are named to committees by the House, they cannot simply resign. They may only be removed following a membership change or by a decision of the House. Committees themselves have no power to alter their own membership. In order to maintain the relative number of members of each party on a committee, the removal of a member is coupled with the naming of a replacement.

Where a Member wishes to resign from a standing committee, he or she may give notice of that intention in writing to the Procedure and House Affairs Committee. The Committee reports to the House indicating the names of the Member wishing to be removed from the standing committee and the new Member being named to it. The change takes effect when the House has concurred in the Committee’s report. [224] 

Changes in the membership of legislative committees are effected by having a notice thereof, signed by the Chief Whip of that member’s party, filed with the clerk of the committee. The notice indicates both the member being removed from the committee and the replacement. [225] 

Where the House makes provisions for changes to the membership of a special committee in the order of reference creating the committee, such provisions usually parallel those used for legislative committees. [226] 

Changes in the House membership of joint committees are made following the procedures used in the corresponding type of House committees (i.e., standing or special). [227] 

As the membership of sub-committees is normally established by designating a certain number of members from each party, rather than by naming specific individuals, no special provision is required for membership changes.

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