Skip to Content
Download as PDF

Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament
(Formerly Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders)

Issue 16 - Eleventh and Twelfth Reports of the Committee


Wednesday, March 20, 2002

The Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament (formerly entitled the Standing Committee on Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders) has the honour to present its

ELEVENTH REPORT

Your Committee, which was authorized by the Senate to examine the structure of Committees of the Senate has, in obedience to its orders of reference of March 15, 2001 and October 18, 2001, proceeded to that inquiry and now presents its report entitled: Modernizing the Senate Within: Updating the Senate Committee Structure.

Respectfully submitted,

JACK AUSTIN, P.C.

Chair


STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON
RULES, PROCEDURES AND THE
RIGHTS OF PARLIAMENT

 

MODERNIZING THE SENATE FROM WITHIN: UPDATING THE SENATE
COMMITTEE STRUCTURE

 

Eleventh Report: Operational Issues

 

Chair: The Honourable Jack Austin, P.C.

Deputy Chair: The Honourable Terry Stratton


Eleventh Report: Operational Issues

TABLE OF CONTENTS

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

INTRODUCTION 

A. Terms of Reference

B. How Your Committee Did Its Work 

C. This Report 

THE EXISTING STRUCTURE AND ITS CHALLENGES

A. The Current Committee System

B. Support Staff and Facilities

C. The Costs of Expansion 

D. Operational Challenges

IMPROVING THE EXISTING STRUCTURE

A. The Number and Size of Committees 

B .Scheduling of Committees 

C. Subcommittees 

D.Summoning Witnesses

E. Committee Mandates and Names 

CONCLUDING REMARKS 

ANNEXES

1. Recommendations and Proposed Rules

2. Current Schedule of Committee Sittings, With Data on Conflicts 


OPERATIONAL ISSUES

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Eleventh Report of the Senate Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament contains eight recommendations focused on bringing about improvements to the operational effectiveness of Senate committees.

Committee work is already widely regarded as one of the Senate's key strengths. Senate committees have an impressive track record, particularly in the refinement of government legislation and the production of innovative policy studies. The proposals contained in this report build on these strengths, and will enable the Senate committee system to use Senators' time more efficiently and effectively.

The central immediate challenge to Senate committee effectiveness is the tension between rapidly expanding committee workloads and the finite time of a constitutionally limited number of Senators. Workload problems are especially severe for the official Opposition, as a result of the declining number of Opposition Senators in recent years.

This report reflects the view that there are no magic structural solutions to the workload problem, because the central source of the problem is not structural. There are, however, a number of incremental improvements that can be made to the way in which the committee system works, reflecting two general themes. The first is greater flexibility. By maximizing the capacity of the Senate to adjust its committee structure to varying requirements, structurally imposed inefficiencies can be minimized. The second theme is strengthened coordination. By minimizing scheduling conflicts and other impediments for individual Senators, and by increasing the capacity of the Senate to ensure that committee activity reflects Senate priorities, the value obtained from the time and financial resources invested in the committee system can be maximized. Recommended reforms include reducing the size of committees, where possible; making better use of lightly used time-slots; closer attention to scheduling; and limiting the creation and ad hoc scheduling of subcommittees.

The measures proposed in this report will reinforce one another in enhancing the effectiveness of the Senate committee system. They respond to immediate operational problems such as growing committee workloads and scheduling conflicts. They also respond to the need to maintain a balance of partisan perspectives, and full participation by the Official Opposition, in circumstances that are seeing a growing imbalance in the numbers of Government and Opposition Senators.

INTRODUCTION

A. Terms of Reference

This report provides findings and recommendations relating to a series of issues concerning the structure and activity of committees of the Senate of Canada. The Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament (the Committee's present name) prepared the report in response to the following Order of Reference, adopted by the Senate on 15 March 2001:

That it be an instruction to the Standing Committee on Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders that it examine the structure of committees in the Senate, taking into consideration — inter alia — the following:

-available human resources

- the schedule of committees

- the mandate of each committee

- the total number of committees

- the number of Senators on each committee

And that the Committee report its findings to the Senate no later than Wednesday, October 31, 2001 (subsequently amended to March 29, 2002).

B. How Your Committee Did Its Work

In carrying out the work referred to it, your Committee held sixteen regular meetings to hear and consider evidence between March of 2001 and March of 2002, including wide-ranging all-day sessions on June 19 and 20 of 2001. Furthermore, to ensure that your Committee would fully benefit from the perspectives of current committee chairs and members, the Chair and Deputy Chair held a series of meetings with other committees that yielded advice your Committee has considered when developing recommendations.

In addition, an ad hoc working group was established to undertake a closer review of how committees can maximize their contribution to the Senate performance of key roles. This action reflects the recognition that the Order of Reference to which this report responds has two dimensions: it directs attention to immediate measures that can enhance the effectiveness of committees, and it requires that attention be paid to whether the committee system is broadly serving the priorities implied by the role of the Senate in Canada's political system.

C. This Report

This report begins with a review of key facts about the existing committee system, including an overview of the operational pressures that require attention at this time.

The review of the existing structure and immediate issues provides a reference point for the consideration of reform proposals relating to the operational issues raised in the Terms of Reference provided to your Committee. Following a general discussion of the adequacy of resources, which has implications for all issues, the report addresses the number and size of committees, scheduling issues, the structure of subcommittees, the summoning of witnesses, and committee mandates and names. A complete list of recommendations, accompanied by proposed rules where these are required, is provided in Annex 1.

THE EXISTING STRUCTURE AND ITS CHALLENGES

A. The Current Committee System

The current Senate committee system reflects the committee mandates set out in Rule 86, and consists of: permanent or standing committees, several of which have been established jointly with the House of Commons; and special committees periodically created by the Senate (or jointly by the Senate and the House of Commons) on a temporary basis to address single issues.

The 15 standing committees and the number of members provided for each by the existing Rules are presented in the following table.

Senate Standing Committees and Memberships

Aboriginal Peoples 12 Fisheries 12 National Finance 12
Agriculture and Forestry 12 Foreign Affairs 12 Rules, Procedures and Rights of Parliament 15
Banking, Trade and Commerce 12 Human Rights 9 Selection Committee 9
National Security and Defence 9 Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration 15 Social Affairs, Science and Technology 12
Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources 12 Legal and Constitutional Affairs 12 Transport and Communications 12

As well, there are three active standing joint committees, as illustrated in the table below. (Rule 86 also provides for joint committees on Printing and the Restaurant of Parliament, but these have not met for a number of years.)

Standing Joint Committees and Senate Memberships

Library of Parliament 17 Official Languages 9 Scrutiny of Regulations 8

In addition, there is one special committee of the Senate: the Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, a five-member committee mandated to report on or by August 31, 2002.

Standing or special committees have the authority to create subcommittees in the course of their work, and subcommittees have been increasingly used in recent years. These range in formality and permanence from the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, which has been created as a routine matter in each session of Parliament since 1984, to more temporary working groups established to pursue single issues.

B. Support Staff and Facilities

Senate committees require the services of:

- a Committee Clerk (who provides procedural assistance during sittings as well as general administrative and logistical coordination);

- one or more Library of Parliament Researchers (who provide research support during sittings as well as briefing materials, advice and report-drafting assistance);

- Debates and Publications staff who prepare committee transcripts; and

- Pages and support from Parliamentary Precincts and Services.

Senate committees require dedicated rooms equipped to provide simultaneous translation and, in some cases, the televising of meetings and the holding of video-conferences. Senate committees currently have seven rooms at their disposal, four of which are suitable for the use of the Airpac cameras that enable meetings to be taped for broadcasting. As well, one room in the East Block is equipped for video-conferencing, and a second room is in the process of being similarly equipped.

C. The Costs of Expansion

Support costs for clerks and researchers vary approximately in tandem with the number of committees. For example, a general rule of thumb has been that whenever two new committees are added to the structure, the creation of a new team consisting of a clerk and administrative assistant is required. The current cost of such a team is approximately $110,000. However, rising activity levels of individual committees have already resulted in requirements for a fully dedicated clerk in at least six committees. It is reasonable to assume that this trend will continue, making the $110,000 figure unrealistically low as a basis for projecting the cost of added committees.

Each committee or subcommittee normally requires the assistance of at least one researcher provided by the Library of Parliament. The cost of this research support averages approximately $60,000 per Senate committee in direct staff costs, but is not included in the Senate budget.

For other kinds of support, the costs associated with the addition of committees to the existing structure are significantly dependent upon the time-slots during which they would sit. For example, the cost of Debates and Publications staff would not increase for two to four new committees, unless the scheduling of new committees creates new simultaneous or back-to-back sittings. Four new committees sitting back-to-back would require the hiring of three new reporters and two scopists, at a cost of $292,840 per year, and simultaneous sittings would result in further increases in costs.

Similarly, an increase in the number of committees sitting Monday and Thursday would require the hiring of one new Page, at $10,000-12,000 per year.

With respect to facilities, the cost impacts of expansion vary considerably depending on the specific demands that would be made by new committees. For example, meeting times are an important variable. Although no more than four standing committees meet simultaneously at the present time, committee rooms are often fully booked during the core periods of committee sittings because of the requirements of subcommittees, special committees and caucus meetings. As a result, new committees scheduled to meet during the core period would require the creation of additional committee rooms, involving significant capital costs. On the other hand, existing facilities could accommodate new committees sitting outside the core meeting times.

Similarly, existing facilities could readily accommodate new committees as long as they are small enough to be compatible with all existing rooms, do not require the televising of their meetings, and do not increase the burden on video-conferencing capabilities. On the other hand, new committees with requirements in these areas might require the creation of additional committee rooms, or the re-equipping of existing rooms, at potentially significant cost.

Overall, the estimated cost to the Senate of creating one to two new Senate committees or subcommittees scheduled to sit outside the core timeslots (and where incremental costs of committees sitting back-to-back are avoided) would be upwards of $122,000 per year. Similarly, the creation of three to four new committees or subcommittees would cost the Senate upwards of $244,000 per year.

These estimates need to be viewed as no more than a starting point in projecting full expansion costs. They do not include costs to budgets other than that of the Senate, and they do not include the substantial additional costs that would be generated by studies that any new committees might be authorized to undertake, including items such as travel and the appearance of witnesses. Also, if the new committees were to be scheduled in the current time slots, resulting in an increase in the number of simultaneous committee meetings, the costs would increase substantially.

D. Operational Challenges

The current structure of Senate committees represents the most recent product of a series of trade-offs that dates back to 1894, and beyond. In 1894, the first Rule providing for Senate standing committees was adopted; however, between 1867 and that year, standing and select committees were required only to be included on a list posted in a conspicuous place in the Senate.

The Senate committee structure has taken a variety of forms over the years, in response to: constraints created by varying levels of party representation in the Senate; rising and falling workloads in individual policy fields; the emergence of new priority areas; and other circumstances.(1) The size of committees has ranged from a handful of Senators to as many as 50, and the number of standing committees has also varied, from limited numbers of widely mandated committees to larger numbers of committees with specific mandates. The long-term trend has seen an increasing number of committees and subcommittees, reflecting the migration of some functions from the Senate chamber to committees, and the gradual expansion in scope of government activity and of the range of legislative and policy fields.

_____________________________________________________

(1) The Senate, Companion to the Rules of the Senate of Canada, A Working Document Prepared Under the Direction of the Standing Committee on Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders, 1994, p. 273 ff.

The recommendations in this Report seek to maximize the system's effectiveness while responding to general pressures that are affecting, to various degrees, the work of all committees. Aside from workload and time pressures, the most immediate pressure results from the growing imbalance between Government and Opposition parties in the Senate, reflecting the fact that one party has governed continuously for almost a decade. The shrinking proportion of Official Opposition Senators (in October 2001, there were 30 as compared to 60 on the Government side) is making full and effective participation on all committees a growing challenge for the Progressive Conservatives. This poses a general threat to the effectiveness of the Senate, which relies upon the full participation of the Opposition on committees in order to ensure that a balance is reached among partisan interests.

The problem of imbalance between Government and Opposition sides is by no means a new one. During the 1970s and 1980s the imbalance was even more extreme than it is today, with Senate Liberals numbering in the sixties and low seventies, and the Progressive Conservatives ranging from the mid-teens to the mid-twenties. Prime Minister Trudeau responded to the problem by agreeing that, during that Parliament, where a Conservative Senator retired more than six months in advance of the retirement age and requested that a Conservative Senator be appointed in his/her place, he would make an appointment at his discretion after consulting with various members of the Progressive Conservative Party. Seven Progressive Conservative Senators were appointed in this way.

Because the appointment of Senators remains the prerogative of the Prime Minister, your Committee has confined its attention to Senate rules and practices, and how they might be adjusted in order to maximize the opportunities for effective participation by the Official Opposition.

In the proposals developed in this Report, your Committee has also attempted to respond to the following additional pressures that are affecting the Senate's effectiveness.

(1) Overall legislative and policy workloads are growing significantly. As of December 31, 2001, the number of meetings, reports and hours spent in committee had already exceeded the five-year average. By the end of March 2002, it is forecast that the five-year average will have been exceeded by 44% for meetings, 41% for reports and 55% for hours spent in committee. These workloads are placing unsustainable demands on the Senate committee system globally, and creating an immediate need for maximum efficiency in all Senate procedures.

(2) There are growing disparities among the legislative workloads of committees. Some committees have come to be precluded, for practical purposes, from undertaking policy studies and other non-legislative work.

IMPROVING THE EXISTING STRUCTURE

Your Committee has had extensive discussions on issues such as the number, size and scheduling of committees, along with the adequacy of resources, in an effort to find solutions to a number of widely recognized problems. As the number of committees and formal or informal subcommittees has grown over the years, and the Senate's overall workload has expanded in line with the growth of government, increasing numbers of Senators have come to be faced with unsustainable committee workloads and, in some cases, scheduling conflicts that prevent attendance at committees of central interest.

Your Committee believes that there is a general lesson to be learned from the experience of the House of Commons, which has attempted to address similar concerns with a series of experiments involving significant changes to the size of committees, their number and other parameters. These experiments with various committee forms — relatively numerous small committees, smaller numbers of relatively large committees (with in some cases subcommittees), committees combining legislative and policy mandates, and committees specializing in either legislation or policy — have not resulted in dramatic changes in the workload and scheduling issues perceived by Members of the House (as indicated most recently by the discussion of scheduling concerns in the June 2001 Report of the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons).

In the view of your Committee, the underlying reality is that there is an increasing volume of work that needs to be done, and a finite supply of the key resource that enables the work be done — the time of Senators. It is instructive to compare the Senate and the House of Commons, in terms of the constraints suggested by these basic parameters.

Numbers of Committees: Senate and House of Commons*

Type of Committee Senate  House of Commons
Standing 15 17
Policy Subcommittee 3 12
Standing Joint 3 3
Special 2 2
Total 23 34

*As listed on the respective web sites, February 2002.

The Senate and the House of Commons are each separately responsible for reviewing all proposed legislation, and rely on their committees for both legislative review and policy studies. The underlying workloads addressed by each committee system are thus comparable. In the Senate, this work is carried out by the approximately 90 Senators (105 minus independents and Senate leadership) who sit on the 23 committees and listed subcommittees while, in the House, a similar workload is shared among approximately 260 MPs (301 minus the Ministry and party leaders) who sit on the 34 committees and subcommittees. In the Senate, the ratio of available Senators to committees is 3.9:1 while, in the House, the comparable ratio is 7.6:1. Senators thus face close to double the burden, compared with their counterparts in the House of Commons, in meeting the basic demands of committee work.

Recognizing that major reductions in workload and scheduling frustrations are unlikely to occur in the absence of changes to the fundamental parameters of work volume and available time, your Committee has attempted to develop a series of changes which will have the effect of fine-tuning the committee system and, in combination, alleviating some of the pressures that Senators are experiencing in committee work. The central themes of the recommendations in this report are greater flexibility and strengthened coordination. By maximizing the capacity of the Senate to adjust its committee structure to varying requirements, your Committee believes that structurally imposed inefficiencies can be minimized, and the Senate committee system will use the time of Senators more effectively on behalf of Canadians. In addition, better coordination of scheduling and other demands on individual Senators, and of the activity of committees in relation to priorities agreed by the Senate, can also contribute to the effectiveness of the system.

A. The Number and Size of Committees

With the general caveats set out above in mind, your Committee has considered the possibility that alterations to the size and/or number of committees would mitigate pressures currently affecting the system.

With respect to the number of committees, continuing pressures for the creation of new committees are likely, as emerging issues or policy fields come to require attention. However, your Committee is convinced that a portion of existing frustration about workloads and scheduling conflicts is a virtually inevitable product of the operation of the existing number of committees within the confines of a parliamentary week. The creation of additional committees would almost certainly make these problems worse.

Your Committee has thus made every possible effort to address the various issues considered elsewhere in this report without producing an overall increase in the number of committees and subcommittees. At the same time, your Committee is not recommending a definite limit on the number of committees. A rigid limit could impede the overall effectiveness of the Senate committee system, by discouraging the creation of new committees in response to the emergence of new public issues (as occurred last year with the creation of new committees in the areas of national security and defence, and human rights), or by compelling reduced coverage of ongoing policy fields whenever a new committee is established.

Although your Committee is not recommending a ceiling to the number of committees, it wishes to caution the Senate about increasing the existing number. In addition to exacerbating the workload and scheduling problems of Senators, additional committees are likely to generate additional costs relating to facilities and staff (depending on when they are scheduled).

With respect to the size of committees, your Committee notes that Rule 86 currently specifies standing committee sizes, fixing them at 12 members for most committees. According to data provided by the Senate's Committees and Private Legislation Directorate, however, the average attendance of Senate committees during the second session of the 36th Parliament varied between 7 and 9 members per meeting (with the exceptions of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, attended by 13 and the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament attended by over 11).

These figures may suggest that committees with smaller memberships would be more compatible with existing demands on the time of Senators. The option of smaller committees may be especially feasible for those dealing with issues of a relatively technical or specialized nature, or which are of primary interest only to Senators from some regions. Your Committee believes that many of the Senate's existing standing committees could function effectively, in normal circumstances, with memberships reduced from their present level of 12 (on average) to between 6 and 9 Senators.

Your Committee has also given attention to implications of the fact that committee workloads rise and fall as the issues within their terms of reference are affected by cycles of public and governmental attention, and as the substance of the issues changes. This would suggest that a measure of flexibility in the sizes of committees could help to minimize demands on Senators' time generated by the committee structure rather than the real needs of committee work. At the same time, however, there is a need to balance the efficiency gains from flexibility against the administrative costs and potential disruption to Senators' schedules that could be created by repeated changes of committee size within a parliamentary session. As well, a rule permitting frequent changes of committee size could compromise their independence, and the capacity of committee members to persist in controversial work.

Your Committee believes that a rule permitting changes of committee sizes only at the outset of each session, when prospective workloads and issues can be taken into account, would strike a balance between the competing considerations just reviewed, and provide most of the efficiency benefits available from flexible sizes. There are, however, two committees for which arguments in favour of flexibility are offset by other considerations. The Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament; and the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration both require the participation of a representative cross-section of the Senate, in order to ensure that operational and procedural recommendations broadly reflect the will of the Senators. In the view of your Committee, the nature of the matters considered by these committees justifies the retention of their current 15-member size.

These considerations lead your Committee to recommend:

1. That, with the exception of the two committees currently consisting of 15 members (Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament; and Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration), references to the size of standing committees in Rule 86 be replaced with more open-ended references, such as "shall consist of between 6 and 12 Senators,'' and that, at the beginning of each parliamentary session, the sizes of these committees be established for that session by the Committee of Selection provided for in Rule 85.

(For proposed rule, see Annex I, "List of Recommendations and Proposed Rules.'')

B. Scheduling of Committees

The current meeting schedule creates problems of congestion is several time-slots (see Annex 2). On Wednesday afternoons, when the Senate rises, four standing committees are scheduled to meet, creating scheduling conflicts for three Senators (as of March 5, 2002). The most serious problems occur on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m., when four standing committees are scheduled to meet, creating scheduling conflicts for eight Senators. Such scheduling conflicts erode the attendance of committee members in two ways: (1) committee members may respond to scheduling overlaps by prioritizing conflicting committees and attending only those meetings of top priority; and (2) committee members may make only brief appearances at committees meeting within the same time slot in order to have their attendance recorded. In either case, committees lose the full contribution of their members, and the effectiveness of Senate committees is potentially reduced.

In the course of discussing the implications of the global considerations outlined above for the scheduling of committees, your Committee has developed a series of guidelines that it wishes to recommend be applied in the administration of the system. These are as follows:

- In a system where committees necessarily meet simultaneously, there will inevitably be some conflicts in scheduling, and the objective of a review of scheduling can only be to reduce these to a reasonable minimum, for committees meeting at their regularly scheduled times.

- In conjunction with a systematic effort by party Whips to accommodate the wishes of individuals, there needs to be a general recognition that the Senate has a corporate interest in the effective performance of its central roles, and that this will require Senators to serve from time to time on committees that do not reflect their central interest.

- Reducing the size of some committees, where possible, will also reduce the probability of scheduling conflicts relating to these committees.

- Expanding the length and number of time periods in which committees may sit would permit the number of committees sitting at any one time to be reduced, and lessen the likelihood of scheduling conflicts. This can be done by one or more of the following:

(1) permitting committees to sit at 5:00 p.m. Tuesday and 4:00 p.m. Wednesday even if the Senate is sitting (it should be noted that this would increase simultaneous demands on staff, and would require significant additional resources for Debates and Publications);

(2) scheduling committees on Mondays from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.; and from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.;

(3) scheduling committees on Tuesday evenings from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., because potential conflicts with regional caucuses in this time period have come to be minimal; and

(4) scheduling committees on Thursday afternoons, after the Senate rises.

- Continuity in the scheduling of committees has certain advantages, because the participation of existing members, witnesses and interested observers may erode if the committee is rescheduled at an unfamiliar time.

- Many of the scheduling conflicts that have arisen under current scheduling arrangements are occurring on Wednesday afternoons, when a disproportionate number of committees meet simultaneously. Reducing the jamming of the schedule during this period should therefore be a priority.

- The Standing Committee on National Security and Defence and the Standing Committee on Human Rights were established on the understanding that they would meet on Mondays and Fridays only, during this Parliament.

In the course of developing these guidelines, your Committee has considered the implementation of a block scheduling system, as proposed by Senator Colin Kenny. In the time available for consideration of the various matters addressed in this report, however, it has not been possible to subject this proposal to the full analysis required in order to arrive at satisfactory conclusions. In order to contribute to further discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of block scheduling arrangements, your Committee has developed a notional schedule in which committees have been organized in "blocks'' that separate those that have major related policy mandates. Such an arrangement could help to ensure that committees that are likely to be of interest to the same Senators would be scheduled so as not to conflict with one another. The following table provides an example of such an arrangement:

Possible Blocks, and Resulting Conflicts Among Existing Committee Assignments

BLOCK 1 BLOCK 2 BLOCK 3
Banking, Trade & Commerce Transport & Communications Fisheries
Foreign Affairs National Security & Defence Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs
Legal & Constitutional Affairs Human Rights Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament
Social Affairs, Science & Technology Aboriginal Peoples Agriculture & Forestry
National Finance Energy, Environment & Natural Resources Internal Economy, Budgets & Administration
Total Conflicts: 7 Total Conflicts: 11 Total Conflicts: 15

A block system, by definition, eliminates scheduling conflicts by requiring Senators to choose only one assignment within a given block. However, the number of conflicts among existing committee assignments within the blocks outlined above indicates that implementation of such a system would involve a significant disruption of existing assignments, as Senators were required to choose among the assignments in each block.

While a block arrangement would eliminate conflicts, your Committee remains concerned that such a system may be insufficiently flexible. If unpredicted numbers of Senators are interested in committees placed within one of the scheduling blocks, then the practical result of the system might be to avoid possible conflicts that would not have materialized in practice, while preventing a needlessly large number of Senators from combining their committees of choice. If it is the wish of the Senate, your Committee is ready to study the matter further, while monitoring the impact of recommendations 2 and 3 (below) on scheduling problems, should they be accepted by the Senate.

At this time, your Committee is not recommending changes to the scheduling of individual committees. Instead, your Committee wishes to affirm that party Whips are the appropriate parties to exercise the responsibility for the organization and scheduling of committees, because this function requires mediation between issues of general policy and more personal and circumstantial considerations that cannot be addressed at the policy level. Your Committee believes that the general paradigm set out above can assist party Whips and the Selection Committee in maximizing the effectiveness of the existing system, and in ensuring that scheduling conflicts are kept to a minimum.

Your Committee has developed two recommendations for the purpose of ensuring the workability of the scheduling paradigm provided above by: (1) minimizing the number of conflicts created by the regular schedule, and (2) controlling the number of ad hoc committee meetings, so as to limit the number of ad hoc conflicts that arise during each session of Parliament.

With respect to the regular schedule, conflicts can be minimized by ensuring that all parties to scheduling decisions are fully aware of conflicting committee times, so that conflicting assignments can be avoided. This primarily requires that a calendar of regularly scheduled committee times be developed at the outset of each session, and used in the course of establishing individual committee assignments. Your Committee therefore recommends:

2. That, at the outset of each session of Parliament, a calendar agreed by party Whips be distributed to Senators, indicating the days and times at which each Senate committee is regularly scheduled to meet during the parliamentary week; and that the Whips invite Senators to submit lists indicating committee interests in order of priority, so as to enable the Selection Committee to propose committee assignments that both respond to the interests of Senators and avoid creating scheduling conflicts for individuals.

Your Committee has also developed a recommendation for the purpose of minimizing the intrusion of ad hoc committee meetings on the activity of regularly scheduled committees during weeks when the Senate is sitting. Such intrusions, and the scheduling conflicts associated with them, can be held to a minimum if meetings outside the regular schedule are made subject to the agreement of Whips or, in the absence of agreement, to concurrence by the Senate in a Government motion. Such an arrangement would ensure that ad hoc meetings responding to genuine needs, such as the recent pre-study of bill C-36 or the review of urgently needed Government legislation, can occur. At the same time, the creation of needless scheduling conflicts could be avoided. Your Committee therefore recommends:

3. That committees not meet outside their assigned time periods during weeks when the Senate sits, unless prior agreement from the party Whips is obtained or, in the absence of agreement, a Government motion has been moved and concurred in by the Senate.

(For proposed rule see Annex I, "List of Recommendations and Proposed Rules.'')

C. Subcommittees

Under existing rules, Senate committees are entitled to create subcommittees as they perceive them to be needed, and a growing number of subcommittees has been one response to the general workload pressures discussed elsewhere in this report. Although your Committee recognizes that subcommittees have relieved pressures within certain committees, it has come to the view that the absence of a capacity in the Senate to manage the growth of subcommittees threatens to impede the overall effectiveness of the committee system. Some of the workload and scheduling pressures that are currently being experienced are almost certainly a result of the increase in the number of subcommittees, given that subcommittee demands on Senators are not greatly different from those of full committees. It is also noteworthy that the creation of subcommittees imposes additional demands on committee staff, and may already be eroding the capacity of staff to provide fully effective service to committees. With these considerations in mind, your Committee recommends:

4. That a new rule providing for the appointment by the Senate of all subcommittees except steering committees be added, and that consequential changes to the Rules be made as required.

(For proposed rule see Annex I, "List of Recommendations and Proposed Rules.'')

Your Committee has also concluded that, although the number of subcommittees should be restricted, those that are created could contribute more effectively if they were given greater operational flexibility. In particular, they should be able to draw their membership from outside the full committee to which they are attached. This would enable them to make use of those Senators whose experience and interests are best suited to their terms of reference, and also to divert workload pressures from the Senators who are already members of main committees, as required. Your Committee therefore recommends:

5. That new rules on the creation of subcommittees also provide that subcommittees on substantive matters may consist of up to six Senators, and that up to one half of the membership named in the motion to establish such a subcommittee may be drawn from outside the main committee to which it is attached.

(For proposed rule see Annex I, "List of Recommendations and Proposed Rules.'')

D. Summoning Witnesses and Compelling the Production of Papers

Your Committee has considered a problem that may arise when a standing committee exercises the power to summon witnesses to appear, or compel the production of documents, as now provided in the Rules. At present, there is no procedure to ensure that the Senate as a whole is aware of, and concurs in, a decision taken by a committee to summon a witness or compel the production of documents. Yet the Senate is implicated in such decisions because the failure of a witness to comply with an order will be reported to the Senate Chamber, and it is then up to the Senate to enforce the order. The failure to do so would imply acquiescence in the refusal of a witness or supplier of information to cooperate with a committee, and the erosion of a longstanding power of Parliament to compel the appearance of persons and the production of documents as required for its work.

In discussing this matter, members of your Committee agreed on the importance of the principle that committees continue to exercise, independently, the powers that are required for them to do their work effectively. The power to summon witnesses and compel the production of documents is an important element of these powers, not because it is frequently invoked but because its existence is normally all that is necessary to ensure the cooperation of witnesses and other sources of information. Discussion focused, therefore, on finding a procedure that would not dilute the power of committees, but would also ensure that the Senate is prepared to support a committee decision to summon or compel, where support is needed.

Your Committee believes that the existing power of committees to summon witnesses and compel the production of documents, set out in Rule 90, should not be changed. However, a procedure involving advance notice to the Senate of a committee's intention to issue such orders, and an opportunity for the Senate to object, would enable the Senate to be fully informed of such intentions. It would also ensure that an order from a committee would have the full weight of the Senate behind it when issued and thus, if anything, strengthen that power. Your Committee therefore recommends:

6. That Rule 90 be amended through the addition of requirements that,

(a) select committees notify the Senate of their intention to adopt a motion in committee to summon a witness or compel the production of documents, and that the Senate have two sitting days to object to the motion before the committee may proceed with its vote on the motion; or

(b) when the Senate stands adjourned for at least 14 days, select committees obtain the consent of the Leaders of the Government and Opposition before ordering the appearance of a witness or the production of documents.

(For proposed rule see Annex I, "List of Recommendations and Proposed Rules.'')

E.Committee Mandates and Names

During the course of its deliberations, the Chair and Deputy Chair of your Committee consulted the Chairs of other committees, or in some cases met with the committees themselves, concerning the adequacy of existing mandates. There was wide agreement that existing committee mandates are not creating problems of effectiveness, and that a consolidation of existing mandates would not reduce workloads or demands on Senators' time. The prevailing judgement was that, if anything, the replacement of existing committees by new ones possessing combined or widened mandates would exacerbate existing problems. Your Committee concurs in these findings and, therefore, is recommending only one change, requested by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, to recognize a distinct mandate concerning Francophonie relations in addition to mandates concerning Commonwealth relations and foreign relations. Your Committee recommends:

7. That, in the mandate of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs "foreign and Commonwealth relations'' be replaced with "foreign, Commonwealth and Francophonie relations.''

Discussions have also been held with the Chairs of committees in order to ascertain whether there is general satisfaction concerning the existing names of committees, and their accuracy in reflecting the mandates currently in effect. These discussions have identified three committee names that, in the view of current Chairs, require modification. Your Committee agrees that committee names need to reflect, as fully as possible, the policy mandates of committees (including changes that have emerged in the policy fields reflected in these mandates) in order to maximize the transparency of the committee system, and therefore recommends the following three substantive changes, along with a technical change to the name of your Committee:

8. That the following committee name changes be adopted:

(a) "Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs'' be replaced by "Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade;''

(b) "Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries'' be replaced by "Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans;''

(c) "Standing Senate Committee on National Finance'' be replaced by "Standing Senate Committee on National Finance and Government Operations;'' and

(d) "Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament'' be replaced with "Rules, Procedure and the Rights of Parliament.''

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Your Committee believes that the measures proposed above will reinforce one another in enhancing the effectiveness of the Senate committee system, while retaining the fundamental strengths that are reflected in the Senate's existing reputation for strong committee work.

The recommendations set out in this report reflect an incremental approach to change, and therefore avoid the risk of unintended consequences and the creation of new problems that inevitably accompanies more radical approaches. At the same time, they respond to the central operational problems that your Committee has identified: growing committee workloads and scheduling conflicts. They also respond to the need to maintain a balance of partisan perspectives, and full participation by the Official Opposition, in circumstances that are seeing a growing imbalance in the numbers of Government and Opposition Senators. Your Committee is confident that its recommendations can contribute significantly to maintaining and enhancing the effectiveness of Senate committees.


Annex 1

List of Recommendations and Proposed Rules

RECOMMENDATIONS

1. That, with the exception of the two committees currently consisting of 15 members (Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament; and Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration), references to the size of standing committees in Rule 86 be replaced with more open-ended references, such as "shall consist of between 6 and 12 Senators,'' and that, at the beginning of each parliamentary session, the sizes of these committees be established for that session by the Committee of Selection provided for in Rule 85.

2. That, at the outset of each session of Parliament, a calendar agreed by party Whips be distributed to Senators, indicating the days and times at which each Senate committee is regularly scheduled to meet during the parliamentary week; and that the Committee of Selection invite Senators to submit, to their Whips and to the Committee, lists indicating committee interests in order of priority, so as to enable the Selection Committee to propose committee assignments that both respond to the interests of Senators and avoid creating scheduling conflicts for individuals.

3. That committees not meet outside their assigned time periods during weeks when the Senate sits, unless prior agreement from party Whips is obtained or, in the absence of agreement, a Government motion has been moved and concurred in by the Senate.

4. That a new rule providing for the appointment by the Senate of all subcommittees except steering committees be added, and that consequential changes to the Rules be made as required.

5. That Rule 96(6), recommended above, also provide that subcommittees on substantive matters may consist of up to six Senators, and that up to one half of the membership named in the motion to establish such a subcommittee may be drawn from outside the main committee to which it is attached.

6. That Rule 90 be amended through the addition of requirements that,

(a) standing committees notify the Senate of their intention to adopt a motion in committee to summon a witness or compel the production of documents, and that the Senate have two sitting days to object to the motion before the committee may proceed with its vote on the motion; or

(b) when the Senate stands adjourned for at least 14 days, standing committees obtain the consent of the Leaders of the Government and Opposition before ordering the appearance of a witness or the production of documents.

7. That, in the mandate of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs "foreign and Commonwealth relations'' be replaced with "foreign, Commonwealth and Francophonie relations.''

8. That the following committee name changes be adopted:

(a) "Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs'' be replaced by "Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade;''

(b) "Standing Committee on the Fisheries'' be replaced by "Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans;''

(c) "Standing Committee on National Finance'' be replaced by "Standing Committee on National Finance and Government Operations;'' and

(d) "Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament'' be replaced with "Rules, Procedure and the Rights of Parliament.''

PROPOSED RULES

RE: RECOMMENDATION 1

THAT the Rules of the Senate be amended in rule 85

(a) by replacing subsection 85(1) with the following:

"Committee of Selection

85. (1) At the commencement of each session, a standing Committee of Selection consisting of nine Senators shall be appointed, whose duties shall be:

(a) to nominate a Senator to preside as Speaker pro tempore;

(b) to recommend, at the commencement of the session, the number of Senators to serve on each standing committee for which the exact number is not fixed by these rules, and to nominate the Senators to serve on all standing committees; and

(c) to recommend, when a special committee or a subcommittee other than a subcommittee on agenda and procedure is appointed, the number of senators to serve on it, and to nominate the Senators.''; and

(b) by renumbering any cross references to paragraph 85(1)(b) as references to paragraphs 85(1)(b) and (c).

RE: RECOMMENDATION 1

THAT the Rules of the Senate be amended, in rule 86,

(a) by replacing the opening words of rule 86(1) with the following:

"86. (1) In addition to the Committee of Selection, the standing committees shall be as follows:'';

(b) in each of paragraphs 86(1)(h) to (q), by replacing the words "composed of twelve members'' with the words "composed of between six and twelve members''; and

(c) in each of paragraphs 86(1)(r) and (s), by replacing the words "composed of nine members'' with the words "composed of between six and nine members''.

RE: RECOMMENDATION 3

THAT the Rules of the Senate be amended by adding the following after subsection 95(4):

"Meetings outside schedule

(5) A select committee shall not meet outside its scheduled days or times in a week on which the Senate sits, except

(a) as agreed to by the Government Whip and the Opposition Whip, or

(b) as approved by an order of the Senate moved without notice by the Government Leader in the Senate.''.

RE: RECOMMENDATIONS 4 AND 5

THAT the Rules of the Senate be amended, in rule 4 by adding after subparagraph 4(b)(vi) the following:

"(vii) "Subcommittee'' means a committee appointed by the Senate or a select committee to conduct proceedings in Parliament as the subcommittee of a select committee and, for greater certainty, does not include a task force, working group or study group.''.

RE: RECOMMENDATIONS 4 AND 5

THAT the Rules of the Senate be amended

(a) by replacing rule 57(1)(d) with the following:

"(d) for the appointment of a special committee or a subcommittee of a special committee;'';

(b) by replacing rule 58(1)(d) with the following:

"(d) for the appointment of a standing committee or a subcommittee of a standing committee;'';

(c) by renumbering rule 93 as 93(1) and by adding the following:

"Subcommittees appointed by Senate

(2) The Senate may appoint such subcommittees of select committees as it deems advisable and may set the terms of reference and indicate the powers to be exercised and the duties to be undertaken by any such subcommittee.

Subcommittees appointed by select committees

(3) A select committee may appoint a subcommittee on agenda and procedure to serve as its steering committee, but may not appoint any other subcommittee.

Composition

(4) A subcommittee shall be composed of not more than six Senators, three of whom shall constitute a quorum.

Outside members

(5) A subcommittee, other than a subcommittee on agenda and procedure, may be composed of Senators who are members of the select committee to which the subcommittee reports and Senators who are not members of that select committee, but the number of Senators who are members of the select committee shall equal or exceed half of the members of the subcommittee.

Report

(6) A subcommittee may only report to its select committee.

Application of other rules to subcommittees

(7) Rules 85(4) and (5) apply to subcommittees appointed by the Senate under this rule as if they were committees.

Rules applying in subcommittees

(8) The rules applicable in a committee apply in a subcommittee, with such modifications as the circumstances require.''; and

(d) by deleting rules 96(4) and (5) and renumbering rules 96(6), (7) and (8) and any cross references thereto accordingly.

RE: RECOMMENDATION 6

THAT the Rules of the Senate be amended by renumbering rule 90 as subsection 90(1) and by adding the following:

" Senate first informed

(2) A standing committee may not order the appearance of a person or the production of papers or records until a report advising of the motion in committee that proposes the order to appear or produce has been tabled in the Senate and the Senate has sat on two days since.

Exception

(3) Notwithstanding subsection (2), a standing committee may order the appearance of a person or the production of papers or records with the consent of the Government Leader in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition, if on the day the order is made the Senate stands adjourned for a period of fourteen days or more.''.

RE: RECOMMENDATIONS 7 AND 8

THAT the Rules of the Senate be amended in rule 86

(a) in the English version of paragraph 86(1)(f) by replacing "Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament'' with "Rules, Procedure and the Rights of Parliament'';

(b) in paragraph 86(1)(h),

(i) by replacing "Foreign Affairs'' with "Foreign Affairs and International Trade''; and

(ii) by replacing "foreign and Commonwealth relations'' with "foreign, Commonwealth and Francophonie relations'';

(c) in paragraph 86(1)(i) by replacing "National Finance'' with "National Finance and Government Operations''; and

(d) in paragraph 86(1)(o) by replacing "Fisheries'' with "Fisheries and Oceans''.




Tuesday, March 26, 2002

The Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament (formerly entitled the Standing Committee on Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders) has the honour to present its

TWELFTH REPORT

Pursuant to its Seventh Report, adopted by the Senate on February 5, 2002, your Committee has reviewed the Rules of the Senate with respect to the matter of officially recognizing a third party, and recommends the following:

1. That the Rules of the Senate be amended in rule 4

(a) by adding after subparagraph 4(d)(iii) the following:

``(iv) ``Leader of a recognized party in the Senate'' means a Senator who is the Government Leader in the Senate, the Leader of the Opposition or the leader of any recognized third party in the Senate.

(v) ``Leader of a recognized third party in the Senate'' means a Senator, other than the Government Leader in the Senate or the Leader of the Opposition, who is the leader of a recognized party in the Senate or a Senator acting for that Senator.'';.

(b) by adding after subparagraph (k)(v) the following:

``(vi) Recognized Party in the Senate

``Recognized party in the Senate'' means a political party that

(A) initially has five or more members in the Senate and is at the same time a registered party under the Canada Elections Act, and

(B) continues without interruption to have five or more members in the Senate, whether or not it ceases to be a registered party under the Canada Elections Act.''.

2. That the Rules of the Senate be amended in rule 17 by replacing paragraph 17(2)(a) with the following:

``(a) consult the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Leader of the Opposition, and the leaders of any recognized third parties in the Senate or in all cases, their designates;''.

3. That the Rules of the Senate be amended in rule 37 by replacing subsection 37(2) with the following:

`` (2) The Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition shall be permitted unlimited time for debate, and each leader of a recognized third party in the Senate shall be permitted no more than forty-five minutes for debate.''.

4. That the Rules of the Senate be amended in rule 40 by replacing subparagraph 40(2)(b), with the following:

``(b) the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition may each speak for no longer than thirty minutes, and each leader of a recognized third party in the Senate may speak for no longer than fifteen minutes;''.

5. That the Rules of the Senate be amended in rule 85(5)

(a) by deleting the word ``and'' after paragraph (a);

(b) by replacing the period at the end of paragraph (b) with a semi-colon followed by the word ``and''; and

(c) by adding after paragraph (b) the following:

``(c) with respect to members of a recognized third party in the Senate, by the leader of that party or any Senator named by that leader.''.

Respectfully submitted,

JACK AUSTIN, P.C.

Chair