Much of the valuable work done in
the Senate is accomplished by its committees. On average, over 40 bills are
examined and 50 special studies are undertaken each year by the Senate’s
standing, joint and special committees. The resulting reports are welcomed by a
variety of audiences including government departments, academics, professional
organizations, policy institutes, special interest groups, corporations, members
of the public and more.
Individuals who have appeared
before committees or who have followed the work of committees are among the
strongest supporters of the Senate;
“[W]hat the Canadian upper house does
rather than for whom it speaks is the major source of the Senate’s good report.
Even the sternest critics compliment the senators for their work in the
scrutiny, investigation and revision of legislation.”
This document outlines how
committees function and describes the role and work of both committee members
and committee staff. This document is intended for use as a reference tool for
parliamentarians, their staff and interested members of the public.
Background of Committees
Committees have been an integral
part of parliamentary work since long before the Canadian Parliament was
established. In fact, the earliest committees in the English House of Commons,
a system that Canada inherited, date to the beginning of the 1400s.
The Senate established its first
committee on the second day of the first Parliament in 1867. The committee was
struck “to consider of the Orders and Customs of this House, and Privileges of
In the first Rules of the Senate adopted a year later, two sections were
devoted to matters related to committees.
In 1894, the Senate revised its
Rules to establish ten standing committees, each with a fixed number of members.
For the next seventy-four years, these committees continued with only minor
In 1968, a major restructuring of
committees occurred, with some committees being renamed and others being
created. After this reorganization, there were eight Senate standing committees
and three standing joint committees of the Senate and House of Commons. In 1983,
the size of most standing committees was reduced from 20 to 12 members, with a
corresponding reduction in their quorums.
Revisions to the Rules of the
Senate were adopted in June, 2012. According to the first report of the
Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliaments presented
in the Senate in November, 2011, the major objective of the revision was to
clarify the Rules and reflect current practice while avoiding significant
changes in content.
The committees are governed by the
Rules of the Senate, Chapter 12 – which deals specifically with
committees. Since the Rules as a whole apply in committee meetings,
situations not provided for in Chapter 12 may be addressed in other parts of the
Rules. As in the Chamber as a whole, when the Rules are mute on a
specific subject or situation, Rule 1-1(2) provides that the customs, usages,
forms and proceeding of either House of Parliament of Canada shall be followed.
When determining the proper procedure to follow, various procedural authorities
may be consulted for guidance.
At the beginning of each new
session of Parliament, according to Rules 12-1, 12-2(1)(a), 12-2(2), the
Committee of Selection is formed to nominate a Speaker pro tempore
and to name senators to serve on committees. The Committee of Selection must
report within five sitting days regarding the nomination of the Speaker pro
tempore, and as the committee generally reports on both matters on the same
day, committee membership is usually set within the first week of a new
session. These committee reports are generally adopted the same day that they
In practice, prior to the Committee
of Selection’s first meeting, senators may indicate their preferences to sit on
a particular committee to the leadership of their political parties in the
Senate. These preferences may be taken into consideration when setting the
membership of the various committees. When new senators are appointed in
mid-session they may also express their interest in serving on a specific
committee to their leadership.
Under Rules 12-2(1)(b) and 12-2(3)
, once a senator’s membership on a committee is confirmed by the Senate, it
continues for the duration of the session. However, membership changes may be
made during a session by each party’s leadership, usually the whip.
Under Rule 12-5, the Clerk of the Senate must receive written notification of
any committee membership changes, signed by the leader (or delegate) of the
appropriate party. This change is then recorded in the Journals of the
Senate. Copies of membership changes are also forwarded to the appropriate
committee clerk and the statistics coordinator in the Committees Directorate.
may be appointed members of committees after consultation among the political
parties represented in the Senate. An independent senator may choose to be under
the responsibility of the whip of a political party for the purpose of
membership changes on a particular committee by indicating so in writing to the
Speaker. If they do not do so, unlike senators belonging to a recognized party,
an independent senator’s membership on a committee can only be removed through
the adoption of a report by the Committee of Selection.
Rule 12-3(3) states that the
Leaders of the Government and Opposition in the Senate, or in their absence
their respective Deputy Leaders, are members ex officio of all
committees,except for the Committee on the Conflict of Interest for Senators and
the joint committees.
As implied by the name, standing
committees exist for the duration of a session of Parliament. The Standing
Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration is even more
permanent, continuing to exist throughout periods of prorogation and dissolution
of Parliament, pursuant to the Parliament of Canada Act. This is
necessitated by its mandate to deal with “all matters of a financial or
administrative nature relating to the internal management of the Senate.” The
Rules of the Senate also provide for the intersessional authority of the
committee on Conflict of Interest for Senators.
There are currently sixteen
standing committees of the Senate. These are as follows:
Agriculture and Forestry
Banking, Trade and Commerce
Conflict of Interest for Senators
the Environment and Natural Resources
Fisheries and Oceans
Affairs and International Trade
Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration
and Constitutional Affairs
National Security and Defence
Procedures and the Rights of Parliament
Affairs, Science and Technology
Transport and Communications
The size of these committees, the
number of members required for quorum, and the general area of study of each
committee are set under Rules 12-3(1), 12-3(2), 12-4, 12-6 and 12-7. The
committees usually range from nine to fifteen members. Most committees are
composed of twelve members and require a quorum of four members. However, the
Committee on Conflict of Interest for Senators, has five members and a quorum of
and Legislative Committees
A special committee is established
to study either a specific piece of legislation or to undertake a study on a
particular issue. Recent examples are the Special Committee on Senate Reform (1st session,
39th Parliament), the Special Committee on Aging (1st and
2nd sessions, 39th Parliament), the Special Committee on
the Anti-terrorism Act (1st Session, 38th Parliament and 1st
session, 39th Parliament) and the Special Senate Committee on
Anti-Terrorism (1st Session, 41st Parliament). Unlike the
more permanent standing committees, once a special committee submits its final
report to the Senate, it ceases to exist.
The motion adopted by the Senate
that establishes a special committee usually sets out the parameters of the
committee’s study, from which it cannot deviate without permission from the
Chamber. It will commonly name the members of the committee and the date by
which the committee must report, and it will sometimes include other provisions
such as the power to travel and to contract professional services.
The Senate may also appoint
legislative committees, but these are rarely used. Special committees have been
the preferred option in recent years, even to study certain pieces of
legislation.Legislative committees are composed of up to
Committee of Selection
Pursuant to Rule 12-1, the
Committee of Selection is struck at the beginning of each session, and consists
of 9 members. It has two duties: 1) to nominate a senator to serve as Speaker
pro tempore; and 2) to nominate senators to serve on the standing and
standing joint committees.
The Committee of Selection may also, from time to time, propose changes to the
membership of committees. In accordance with Rule 12-2(5), it is neither a
standing nor a special committee.
Joint committees are made up of
both senators and members of the House of Commons. They have a proportionate
number of members from each House, reflecting their relative sizes. Such
committees may be established through the procedural rules of each House (a
standing joint committee) or by a motion adopted by each House (a special joint
committee). While joint committees may consider legislation,
they traditionally deal with issues of a non-legislative nature of common
interest to both Houses. Once senators have been appointed to serve on a joint
committee, a message is sent to the House of Commons indicating the Senate
members. Similarly, once the House of Commons membership is determined, a
message is sent from the House to the Senate. Joint committees have a Senate
chair and a House of Commons chair who alternately or jointly preside over
meetings. There are two standing joint committees: Scrutiny of Regulations and
Library of Parliament.
A subcommittee is a smaller
committee formed from among the members of a committee for the purpose of
relieving the larger body of the committee of a portion of its workload.
The most common example is the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure, typically
referred to as the “steering committee”, used by most committees. The size of
any subcommittee is limited to not more than half the number of members of the
main committee, three of whom shall constitute a quorum.
There are no ex officiomembers on a subcommittee, although ex
officio members are counted as members of the main committee for the purpose
of determining the maximum number of members of the subcommittee.
Committee of the Whole
Used on occasion, a Committee of
the Whole permits all senators to participate in one committee at once by
allowing the Senate Chamber to resolve itself into Committee of the Whole. A
Committee of the Whole can consider legislation, motions, resolutions and
addresses, and is most often formed to deliberate on a bill or other matter
before the Senate when expediency is necessary. A Committee of the Whole and
its proceedings are less formal than other work done in the Chamber and combine
elements of procedures followed in the Chamber and in committees.
A Committee of the Whole exists
only for the duration of the mandate given to it by motion of the Senate,
usually a matter of hours. No notice is required for the motion which
transforms the Senate into a Committee of the Whole.
The Speaker of the Senate does not
preside over the Committee of the Whole. The Speaker pro tempore is
usually chosen to preside, although the task may go to any senator. Witnesses
may be invited onto the floor of the Chamber to give testimony. A Minister who
is not a member of the Senate may be asked to take part in debate when the
Committee of the Whole is considering a bill or any other matter that is the
responsibility of their department.
The Rules of the Senate
apply in Committee of the Whole with the following exceptions:
·a senator may speak any number of times;
·each intervention by a senator is limited to
·any standing vote is taken immediately, without
bells to call in the senators;
·there can be no arguments against the principle
of a bill;
·there can be no motions for the previous
questionor for an adjournment.
Once a Committee of the Whole has
completed its work, the chair of the committee reports to the Senate and may
either ask for permission to sit again, or the committee ceases to exist.
Pursuant to Rule 12-13, once the
report on membership of the Committee of Selection has been adopted, the Clerk
of the Senate calls the organization meetings for all committees. In practice,
it is the committee clerk who organizes this first meeting, though notices for
organization meetings are issued in the name of the Clerk of the Senate and not
the committee clerk.
When quorum is present, the
organization meeting is called to order by the committee clerk. The clerk of
the committee conducts the first item of business, the election of the chair.
The senator elected as chair must be a member of the committee but does not have
to be present to be elected. The committee clerk will call for nominations for
the chair, and once satisfied that no other senators wish to make a nomination,
the question will be put on each nominee in the order they were received.
Nominations for a senator to be named chair of the committee are made in the
form of a motion. These motions are not debatable because the committee clerk
cannot preside over debate. A chair is elected by a majority of votes of the
committee members present, and once elected, the senator in question is invited
to take the chair and preside over the meeting. If the senator who is elected
as chair is absent, the committee clerk will conduct the election of an acting
chair who presides over the rest of the meeting.
The usual second item of business
at an organization meeting is the election of a deputy chair, which is
essentially the same process as that used for electing a chair, except that
motions nominating a senator as deputy chair of a committee are debatable since
the chair or acting chair presides over this election.
Another item of business that is
usually dealt with during an organization meeting is the creation of the
subcommittee on agenda and procedure, or “steering committee”. A committee may
choose not to have a steering committee, but this does not often happen. The
steering committee normally consists of the chair, the deputy chair and one
other member of the committee not specified in the motion creating the
subcommittee, but “designated after the usual consultation.”
The steering committee is empowered to make decisions with respect to the
committee’s agenda, to invite witnesses
and schedule meetings. The main committee can overrule a decision of the
steering committee by a majority vote.
After these items of business have
been accomplished, the committee will often pass a number of motions to allow
for the more effective functioning of the committee. Typical motions include
·a motion to publish committee proceedings;
·a motion for the authorization to hold meetings
and publish evidence when quorum is not present;
·a motion to ask the Library of Parliament to
assign an analyst (i.e., researcher);
·a motion to adopt the report concerning the
expenses and activities of the Committee during the previous session;
·a motion concerning the authority to commit
funds and certify accounts (a power usually conferred individually on the chair,
the deputy chair and the committee clerk);
·a motion empowering the steering committee to
designate members and staff to travel on assignment on behalf of the committee;
·a motion for the designation of members
traveling on committee business (this is in relation to the Senators’ Attendance
·a motion to reimburse the traveling and per
diem expenses of witnesses.
Once a committee has dealt with all
the items on the agenda for the organization meeting, the committee may adjourn
or may continue for the purposes of considering other business, such as
formulating a work plan for future meetings.
Committees receive their mandates
from orders of reference adopted in the Chamber. There are two types of orders
of references that a committee may receive: an order of reference to consider a
bill or Estimates, or an order of reference to carry out a special study.
Only three committees are empowered
by the Rules of the Senate to act on their own initiative without a prior
order of reference from the Senate. The Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures
and the Rights of Parliament is empowered to propose amendments to the Rules
of the Senate for consideration by the Senate, and to consider the orders
and customs of the Senate and privileges of Parliament. The Standing Committee
on Conflict of Interest for Senators is authorized on its own initiative to
exercise general direction over the Senate Ethics Officer and to be responsible
for all matters relating to the Conflict of Interest Code for Senators.
Similarly, the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and
Administration may consider, act on, interpret and determine all financial and
administrative matters concerning the internal administration of the Senate,
subject to the Senate Administrative Rules.
All other committees receive their
mandates from orders of reference adopted in the Chamber. No committee may
undertake the consideration of a bill or a special study prior to the Senate
adopting an order of reference authorizing it to do so. In the latter case, a
committee may request approval to undertake a special study on a topic it
suggests, or the Senate may refer a topic for study to a committee.
Examination of Bills
The motion to refer a bill to a
committee for study is typically moved immediately after the motion for second
reading of the bill has passed in the Chamber. No notice is required for a
motion to refer a bill to committee, and this motion usually does not include a
deadline for the committee to submit its report on the bill.
When considering a bill, the
calling of witnesses is at the discretion of the committee. Generally, when
studying a government bill, the Minister and/or officials from the department
sponsoring the bill appear first before the committee. At this first meeting,
the Minister and/or departmental officials explain the legislation in detail.
Briefing books are often provided by the department in support of this function.
When the legislation considered is
a private members’ public bill,
the parliamentarian who originally introduced the bill, also known as the
sponsor of the bill, usually appears first before the committee. While Senate
committees will hear from a Member of the House of Commons concerning his or her
private members’ bill, they usually do not hear from backbench MPs in other
When a committee is sent a private
members’ private bill
for consideration, the sponsor and representatives of the organization
requesting the bill are usually the first witnesses to be called.
Once a committee studying a bill
concludes its hearings, it will move to clause-by-clause consideration of the
bill. At this point, committee members may propose amendments to the bill. The
chair will call each clause of the bill separately and the committee will vote
on them successively. If an amendment to a clause is suggested, the senator
proposing it must read out his or her amendment, which will then be debated and
voted on by the committee. This will be followed by a vote on the same clause,
as amended, in order to allow for more amendments to the same clause. The
committee will proceed through the clauses until they have all been considered,
and will finish by voting on the preamble to the bill and its title. Rule
12-20(3)states that a committee cannot dispense with clause-by-clause
consideration of a bill unless it has leave (i.e. unanimous consent) of the
At times, a committee is given an
order of reference to study the subject-matter
of a bill, rather than the bill itself. This usually occurs when the motion for
second reading of a bill is being debated. Sending the subject-matter of a bill
to committee for consideration prior to the bill receiving second reading allows
the committee to study not only the provisions of the bill, but the principle as
well (when the Senate agrees to second reading of a bill, it effectively accepts
the principle of the bill).
Rules 10-11(1) and 10-11(2) allow
for the pre-study of bills that have been introduced in the House of Commons but
not read the first time in the Senate. This practice allows for a Senate
committee’s recommendations on a bill to be taken into account by the government
while the bill is still before the House of Commons and before the bill is sent
to the Senate.
Motions in the Chamber authorizing
a committee to undertake a special study are substantive motions and may only be
moved after one day’s notice. By convention, motions authorizing special
studies by committees explain the parameters of the study to be undertaken and
set the date by which the committee must table its final report. If it becomes
apparent that the committee will need additional time before tabling its final
report, a motion must be adopted by the Senate to extend the deadline for
While the Senate may refer any
matter to any committee for consideration, committees usually only undertake
studies of matters that fall within the general areas outlined in the Rules
for each committee.
The Standing Committee on National
Finance examines government Estimates and Supplementary Estimates for each
fiscal year. In this process, the committee reviews the Estimates and hears
from the President of the Treasury Board, officials from the Treasury Board
Secretariat, as well as officials of other departments of interest. The
Committee then presents a report on its review, and the report is debated and
voted upon in the Senate.
The committee usually does not make its final report on the initial Estimates
until the end of the fiscal year in question.
7. Powers of Committees
Rules 12-9(1) and 12-9(2) set out
various powers of standing committees. Once a committee has received an order
of reference from the Senate, it is empowered to inquire into and report on the
matter. When examining a bill or undertaking a special study, a standing
committee has the power to send for persons, papers and records. This includes
the power to issue a summons insisting that certain persons or material be made
available. This power is rarely exercised by committees as most witnesses
appear voluntarily. However, if a summons is used and a person refuses to
appear or deliver the material in question, this can constitute contempt of
A standing committee is empowered
to publish such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it; these include the
minutes of the committee and the committee proceedings.
In addition to the powers set out
in Rules 12-9(1) and 12-9(2), committees can form subcommittees under Rules
12-12(1), 12-12(4) and 12-12(6).
Committees are also authorized to
hold meetings in camera in certain situations under Rule 12-16(1), but
only when the agenda deals with any of the following:
wages, salaries and other employee benefits;
contracts and contract negotiations;
labour relations and personnel matters; and
a draft agenda or draft report
Committees can seek additional
powers by means of motions in the Senate: to adjourn from place to place (i.e.,
to travel); to engage services; and to table a report with the Clerk of the
Senate if the Senate is not sitting.
8. Role of the Chair
The role of the chair in committee
is to preside over meetings, guide deliberations and seek to maintain order and
decorum. As with the Speaker of the Senate, a committee chair has the authority
to rule on procedural issues, but any ruling can be appealed by a request of any
committee member and is then subject to a vote. As with votes in the Senate, a
tie vote results in the ruling being rejected; only a majority vote in favour
will sustain a ruling. In addition to calling meetings to order, it is usually
the chair that adjourns committee meetings.
The chair has several other roles
outside of committee meetings. In practice, it is the chair that represents the
committee when its budget requests are reviewed by the Standing Committee on
Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration. Pursuant to Rule 12-22(2), the
chair or a senator designated by the chair presents or tables reports of the
committee to the Senate. In practice, motions in the Senate related to the work
of the committee are usually moved by the chair or a designated senator. The
chair, in consultation with the steering committee, directs the committee clerk
in regard to arranging the scheduling of witnesses, meetings, and the
coordination of reports.
Each committee also has a deputy
chair who can preside over meetings of the committee in the absence of the
chair. In essence, the deputy chair becomes the chair for the duration of the
meeting with all the powers of the chair. If the position of chair of a
committee becomes vacant, the deputy chair does not automatically assume the
role; instead, an election is held in committee to fill the vacancy.
9. Role of committee
In many respects, the role of a
senator in a committee is similar to the role played in the Chamber: senators
may move motions, participate in debate and vote. Procedures in committee are
more informal than in the Chamber, and thus senators have more freedom in their
role as a committee member. Some key differences are that motions in committee
do not require a seconder,
and that notice is not required to move a motion. In addition, a senator may
speak more than once on a question in committee and there are no specific time
limits imposed on the length of interventions in debate.
While Rule 12-14 allows any senator
to attend and participate in the deliberations of any committee, only members of
each committee are allowed to vote on a motion before their committee, and count
towards a committee’s quorum.
An unwritten corollary to this rule is that non-members are not entitled to
move a motion.
A central function of a senator’s
role in committee is the questioning of witnesses. Typically, witnesses are
given time to make a brief statement, after which committee members pose
questions. There is no formal practice limiting the amount of time for
questions, but senators usually limit their questions to allow for the
participation of all committee members who wish to speak. If necessary, a
committee may pass a motion setting out specific procedures for questioning
witnesses including, but not limited to, restrictions on the number of
questions, length of time, or types of questions that may be posed.
of Interest Code for Senators
The Conflict of Interest Code
for Senators adopted by the Senate on May 18, 2005 and revised in 2008 and
2012, sets out the standards and practices that senators are expected to follow
with regard to the disclosure of private interests. The Code compels senators
to disclose any private interest likely to influence their judgment or their
impartiality on matters that are before the Senate or a committee. If a senator
is unsure, the Senate Ethics Officer must be consulted.
Subsection 12 (1) of the Code
stipulates the following:
·A Senator must determine if there are
reasonable grounds to believe that he or she, or a family member, has a private
interest that might be affected by a matter that is before the Senate or a
committee of which the Senator is a member;
·If the Senator believes there is such an
interest, the Senator shall, no later than the first occasion at which he or she
is present during consideration of the matter in the Senate or in committee,
make a declaration on the general nature of the private interest;
·The declaration can be made either orally on
the record in the Senate Chamber, or in writing to the Clerk of the Senate, or
in committee, orally on the record or in writing to the committee clerk;
·In the Senate, the Speaker shall cause the
declaration to be recorded in the Journals of the Senate; and
·In committee, the chair of the committee shall
cause the declaration to be recorded in the minutes of proceedings.
All declarations are submitted to
the Senate Ethics Officer, who files them with the individual senator’s public
disclosure summary. If a declaration is made during an in camera meeting of a
committee, the chair and the Senate Ethics Officer must seek the consent of its
steering committee to have the declaration recorded in the minutes of
proceedings or filed with the senator’s public disclosure summary.
Subsection 13(1) stipulates that:
·A Senator who has made a declaration under
section 12 regarding a matter that is before a committee of which the Senator is
a member may not participate in debate or deliberations on the matter, and must
withdraw from the committee during those proceedings, but they need not resign
from the committee.
Likewise, subsection 13(2)
stipulates that a Senator with a private interest in a matter being considered
who is not a member must also withdraw from the committee for the duration of
Pursuant to section 14, a Senator who
has made a declaration under section 12, or a Senator who is required to make
such a declaration but has not yet done so, may not vote on the matter but may
10. Committee Meetings
Committees gather much of the
evidence for their reports on legislation and special studies through public
hearings where they hear from witnesses. A typical public committee meeting
begins with opening remarks by the witness or witnesses, followed by questions
by the senators.
Committee meetings are scheduled
around Senate sittings and caucus meetings and therefore tend to take place in
the mornings, late afternoons and evenings.
The regular weekly times and
locations of committee meetings are decided at the beginning of each new session
of Parliament by the whips of the two main parties in the Senate. This
negotiation aims to avoid conflicts due to limited time slots. As most
committees sit twice a week, and many senators sit on two committees or more,
the party whips decide on a schedule that leads to as few meeting conflicts as
When a committee wishes to sit
outside its usual time slot (but not when the Senate is sitting), common
practice is to seek the approval of the whips. Meeting outside a normal time
slot is generally discouraged, as this often leads to conflicts for senators who
are members of other committees.
Restrictions on Committee Sittings
There are certain restrictions
imposed by the Rules regarding committee sittings. For example, under Rule
12-18(1), no committee may sit during a sitting of the Senate. Notwithstanding
that rule, occasionally, the Senate will adopt a motion allowing a committee to
meet during a sitting of the Senate. A situation warranting such an exception
might be if this were the only time that a Minister was available to appear
before the committee.
If the Senate is adjourned for a
period of time exceeding a week, Rule 12-18(2) permits a committee to meet
during the adjournment either by an order of the Senate (a motion adopted prior
to the adjournment) or by the signed consent of the Government and Opposition
Leaders, or their representatives, to a written request from the chair and
deputy chair of the committee.
When the Senate is adjourned for a
period of time of a week or less, committees are permitted to meet under Rules
12-18(1) and 12-18(2) only if notice of the intention to meet during the
adjournment was given to members of the committee at least one day before the
Rules 12-15(1) and 12-15(2) require
that public notice be given for all meetings of standing and special
committees. The notice includes the date, time and location of each meeting,
which orders of reference will be considered, the names and titles of any
witnesses who are scheduled to appear, and whether the meeting will be held in
camera. Such notices are sent by fax or email to all committee members, as well
as the government and opposition leadership, media and members of the public who
have requested to be informed of committee meetings. Notices of meetings are
also posted on the Senate channel of the Parliamentary Television Network, on
the Parliamentary Internet and intranet websites, at the interactive computer
monitors (KIOSK) installed at the Senate entrances and at other points within
the Senate precinct.
Motions may be moved in committee
without notice and without a seconder. Common motions moved in committee are
those to create a subcommittee, to adopt a report or to amend a clause of a bill
Debate in committee tends to be
much more informal than in the Senate Chamber. There are no formal time limits
on senators’ interventions in debate and a senator may participate more than
once. On rare occasions a committee may adopt more formal rules to govern the
in the Chamber, questions are decided by a majority of votes. It is important
to note that the chair does not have a casting vote, and is therefore not
permitted to break a tie vote with their vote. If the chair wishes to vote on a
question, he or she votes first; however, to preserve impartiality, a chair may
choose not to vote. A tie vote results in the motion being defeated.
Most votes in committee are
conducted by voice. However, if a member makes a request, a recorded vote must
be taken. When a recorded vote takes place, the names of the members are called
out by the committee clerk beginning with the chair and then in alphabetical
order for the remaining members present. As their names are called, each
senator then indicates either “yea”, “nay” or “abstain.” Once all senators
present have voted, the committee clerk tallies the votes and announces the
result. The chair then declares the question carried or defeated. No
interruptions may be made by any members during the vote. Points of order or
questions of privilege cannot be raised until after the vote has been completed.
of Order in Committee
Points of order may be raised when
a member feels that the committee has departed from normal practice or procedure
for a Senate committee. Examples of points of order that may be raised in
committee are ones concerning the appropriateness of remarks, the procedural
validity of a motion or whether quorum is present. Once a point of order has
been debated by the members of the committee, the chair will offer a decision on
its acceptability. As with Speaker’s rulings in the Senate, such decisions can
be appealed to the full committee and are only sustained by a majority of votes.
When undertaking their work,
committees incur a variety of expenses. Until it has a budget adopted by the
Senate, no committee may incur expenses or commit funds. Chapter 3:06 of the
Senate Administrative Rules outlines the financial rules and procedures
governing Senate committees. It includes information on emergency funds, the
budget approval process, the certification of payments, and financial monitoring
Not all expenses related to the
functioning of committees are charged directly to the committee’s budget.
Expenses for witness travel, videoconferences, postal charges, working meals,
committee travel immunization charges and the standard refreshments (coffee,
juice) served at committee meetings held within the parliamentary precincts are
charged to a central budget held by the Committees Directorate rather than to
Committees normally require two
types of budgets; legislative and special study. A committee usually adopts one
legislative budget to pay for the expenses that may be incurred in its work when
examining legislation within a fiscal year. A separate special study budget
must be adopted to pay for the expenses that may be incurred by a committee
undertaking a special study. Each order of reference for a special study
requires its own budget. New budgets are required every fiscal year or at the
beginning of a new session of Parliament.
Should a committee expect to
consider legislation and anticipate incurring any special expenses during a
given fiscal year, it must present a legislative budget to the Senate for
approval. A legislative budget is used for any expenses the committee expects to
incur in relation to the study of legislation, such as professional services and
courier services, which would not otherwise be paid for by the central budget
held by the Committees Directorate (see “Non-committee Expenditures” above). At
its organization meeting, the committee chair is authorized to seek from the
Senate a motion to give the committee the power to hire professional services
necessary for the study of legislation, if such authority has not already been
granted by a general motion in the Senate. This motion must be passed prior to
adopting a legislative budget.
This budget proposal is prepared by
the committee clerk as instructed by the committee and reviewed by the chair
and/or members of the steering committee. The budget proposal is then reviewed
and signed by both the Principal Clerk of the Committees Directorate and the
Director of Finance. The committee considers the budget and then either adopts
it as presented or adopts a modified version of the budget proposal.
Once a budget proposal has been
adopted by a committee, it is submitted to the Standing Committee on Internal
Economy, Budgets and Administration for review and adoption. Either the
Internal Economy Committee or one of its subcommittees will usually meet with
the chair of the committee to discuss the budget proposal. Typically, the
committee clerk will accompany the chair to such a meeting. If a subcommittee
reviews the budget proposal, it will make recommendations to the Internal
Economy Committee on the allocation of funds. The Internal Economy committee
can pass the budget as proposed, cut portions of the budget or reject it
altogether. The chair of the Internal Economy Committee, or a senator
designated by the chair, will present a report to the Senate containing its
recommendations for a committee’s legislative budget. Finally, the Senate will
adopt this report, which allows a committee to receive the funds requested. In
the rare case that the Senate rejects a proposed budget, the committee must
begin the process again with a new budget proposal.
Unlike the case with legislative
budgets, the Senate does not need to grant a committee any powers prior to the
adoption of a special study budget. Once the Senate adopts an order of
reference for a special study, the committee clerk is instructed to prepare the
budget proposal by either the chair, steering committee or the committee itself
based on its plans. The special study budget proposal then proceeds through the
same steps as the legislative budget proposal until it is adopted in its full
form, or a modified version, by the Internal Economy Committee. At this point,
the budget proposal and the recommendation for its approval by the Internal
Economy Committee are returned to the committee for which it was prepared. The
chair, or a senator designated by the chair, then presents a report to the
Senate. The budget report has three parts. The first is the actual report
which contains the request for funds and relevant powers such as the power to
travel or hire. The second, an appendix, contains the budget as approved by the
committee. The third, also an appendix, contains the amounts recommended for
release by the Internal Economy Committee.
When a committee needs to incur
expenses or commit funds and is unable to obtain a budget approval quickly
enough, Section 4 of Chapter 3:06 of the Senate Administrative Rules
empowers the steering committee of the Internal Economy Committee to allocate
upon request up to $10,000 to a committee so that it may operate until its
budget can be properly considered and approved.
Hearing from witnesses is an
important function of committees. On average, Senate committees hear from over
1,500 witnesses per year. In this way, committees provide a direct link between
Parliament and the Canadian public. Committee meetings provide a forum for
witnesses’ views to be heard by both parliamentarians and a larger audience
through their nation-wide broadcast on the Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC).
Transcripts of witness testimonies are also accessible to the public through the
publishing of committee proceedings, which are made available in hard copy form
and electronically on the committee’s website.
Rule 12-9(2) provides that
“standing committee shall be empowered: “(a) to send
for persons, papers and records; and (b) to publish from day to day such papers
and evidence as may be ordered by them. ” This power means that, as long as a
committee’s inquiry is related to one of its orders of reference, it has
virtually unlimited powers to compel the attendance of witnesses by way of a
Special committees do not have this power, but may be granted it by the Senate,
usually in the motion establishing the special committee.
The power to summon witnesses is
exercised by way of a motion in committee,
but is seldom used.
While it is rare that witnesses are
asked to testify under oath, the committee may move that a witness be sworn in
or that he or she make a solemn affirmation or declaration. This is done in
accordance with sub-section 10(3) of the Parliament of Canada Act, which
empowers committees to administer an oath to witnesses. The oath or affirmation
may be administered by the chair or clerk of a committee.
In an effort to make the appearance
of witnesses before committees as effective as possible, the Committees
Directorate provides, through the Parliamentary Internet site, A Guide for
Witnesses Appearing Before Senate Committees. This document lays out the
guidelines for the preparation of witnesses’ briefs to committee members and
provides information on what to expect during a committee meeting.
When examining a government bill,
the sponsoring Minister is typically invited to appear first when the committee
begins its deliberations on the legislation. Sometimes a Minister, or in some
cases the Parliamentary Secretary, will also request to appear last, prior to
the committee proceeding to the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill.
Ministers are also sometimes
invited to appear before committees on special studies that committees are
undertaking relating to matters that fall within the Minister’s responsibility.
and Territorial Governments
In accordance with Appendix II of
the Rules of the Senate, when a committee is examining a bill or the
subject-matter of a bill that is of special interest to one or more provinces or
territories, a committee should invite the government(s) in question to appear
or to submit a brief. If any government expresses an interest in appearing, the
committee should give it reasonable opportunity to do so.
Since official meetings of a
committee are part of the proceedings of Parliament, any person appearing before
a Senate committee is protected by parliamentary privilege. In practical terms,
this means that no legal action can be undertaken against a witness on the basis
of what they say during a committee meeting. This privilege only extends to
what is said during a meeting and not before the meeting begins or after its
Witnesses have the right to address
a Senate committee in either official language. Simultaneous interpretation is
provided at all official committee meetings, both within the parliamentary
precinct and during public hearings in other parts of Canada.
At the organization meeting of a
committee, a motion is usually adopted to reimburse the reasonable travelling
and living expenses for one witness per organization. The Internal Economy
Committee policy is to limit the number of witnesses from a given organization
to two. However, committees often choose to restrict the reimbursement of a
second witness’ expenses to cases with “exceptional circumstances.” Witnesses
may submit an expense claim to the committee clerk. Such claims must be
accompanied by valid original receipts and any boarding passes.
14. Committee Travel
When undertaking special studies,
committees will sometimes travel to more fully examine a particular issue and to
allow the committee to hear from a wider variety of witnesses.
Rules 12-19(1) and 12-19(2)
provide that a committee may adjourn from place to place by order of the
Senate, but committees do not automatically have the power to travel outside the
precincts of Parliament. Authorization to travel is obtained through a budget
report to the Senate which contains a request for the power and funds to
travel. Such requests tend to be general in nature, authorizing the committee
to travel to any place for the purpose of a particular study.
Hearings vs. Fact Finding
When travelling within Canada, a
committee may either hold public hearings or conduct fact-finding visits that
are related to the subject being studied. Public hearings involve all the
services and formalities of an official committee meeting in Ottawa. The
meetings are open to the public, and the proceedings are interpreted,
transcribed, translated and published in both official languages. When a
committee holds public hearings outside of Ottawa (but inside Canada), its
proceedings have the full protection of parliamentary privilege.
Fact-finding missions essentially
involve private meetings between committee members and organizations or
individuals outside of Ottawa. There are no transcripts published for
fact-finding meetings, but the information gathered is still valid to the
committee’s inquiry and can be used in a report of the committee. When a
committee travels outside Canada it may only conduct fact-finding missions; any
meetings outside Canada cannot be considered as official, and parliamentary
privilege therefore does not apply.
15. Committee Reports
Once a committee has finished its
hearings on a bill or special study, a report is drafted to reflect its findings
and recommendations. The report must be adopted by the committee before it can
be presented or tabled in the Senate. In the case of special studies, committees
may choose to produce a number of individual reports in the course of their work
(called “interim” reports), prior to a final report at the end of the study.
to the Senate
Committee reports to the Senate are
either substantive or administrative in nature. Substantive reports are any
reports on bills, the subject-matter of bills, government Estimates
or special studies. Administrative reports deal with matters such as budget
applications, which request the power to incur expenses, and may include other
powers such as the power to hire professional services or travel. Other
administrative reports may ask for an extension to a reporting date or
modifications to an order of reference.
When dealing with a bill, a
committee may report the bill without amendment, without amendment but with
observations, or with proposed amendment(s) (also with or without
observations). Observations are comments made by a committee on a bill without
making an amendment. In addition, Rule 12-23(5) also allows a committee to
present a report that recommends that the Senate not proceed further with the
legislation. If such a report is adopted by the Senate, the bill is dropped
from the Order Paper. When reporting on the subject-matter of a bill, the
committee may include suggested changes to the bill in its report. Reports on
the Estimates often include observations.
A report on a special study may
either be interim or final. Reports on special studies are routinely lengthy
and include the findings of the committee on the issue being studied, as well as
its recommendations. Given the impact that these reports may have, committee
members attempt to build a consensus on the analysis and recommendations to be
included in the report. Rule 12-22(1) states that a report shall contain the
conclusions agreed to by the majority. Occasionally, such a consensus is not
possible and a report may include the opinion of a minority of the members as a
result. The tabling of a separate minority report, as such, is not allowed in
Senate practice, so a committee must agree to include or append minority
opinions to a report.
In their reports on special
studies, committees make recommendations to the Senate that a particular course
of action be followed. If the Senate adopts such a report, the recommendations
become those of the Senate.
Reports to the Senate on bills
without amendment cannot include recommendations from the committee as, under
Rule 12-23(2), such reports are adopted automatically. Committees sometimes
attach “observations” to reports on bills to ensure that issues identified,
insights gained and commitments made during hearings are not lost even though
the committee does not wish to propose amendments to a bill.
Orders of reference for special
studies generally include the date by which the committee must table its final
report in the Senate. By decision of the Senate, it may be granted an extension.
Orders of reference for legislation
typically do not include a specific date by which a committee must report the
bill back to the Senate. However, Rule 12-23(1) requires that any bill sent to
committee for consideration be reported back to the Senate. If a committee is
taking too long to consider a bill, the Senate may order the committee to report
the bill by a certain date.
vs. Presenting a Report
Reports that must be adopted by the
Senate, such as those dealing with bills and budgets, must be “presented.”
Presented reports are read aloud in the Senate by a table officer and are
published in the Senate Journals and Debates.
Reports that are for the
information only of the Senate, and therefore need no decision of the Senate,
such as special study reports, are tabled. These reports are not read aloud and
are not published in the Journals or Debates. However, a motion
may be moved to have a tabled report considered and/or adopted by the Senate.
to Adopt Reports
While one day’s notice is required
for a motion to adopt a report of a standing committee, two days’ notice is
required for a motion to adopt a report of a special committee.
of Committee Reports
Committee reports are confidential
until they are presented or tabled in the Senate. As it is the Senate that
orders a committee to undertake a study, the Senate is entitled to be informed
first of the results of the study.
The disclosure of a confidential
committee report or part of a committee report prior to its being tabled or
presented in the Senate constitutes a breach of parliamentary privilege.
When dealing with such a disclosure, the committee concerned examines the
circumstances surrounding the unauthorized disclosure, as set-out in Appendix IV
of the Rules of the Senate. The committee is expected to report the
alleged breach to the Senate and to advise that it is commencing an inquiry into
the matter. When undertaking an investigation of the circumstances surrounding
the alleged breach, the committee is expected not only to attempt to determine
the source of the breach but also to address the issue of the seriousness and
implications (actual or potential) of the unauthorized disclosure.
Such an investigation does not
preclude any senator from raising a question of privilege
in the Senate regarding the breach.
However, the substance of the question of privilege is not dealt with by the
Senate until after the committee completes its investigation, even if the
Speaker finds that a prima facie
case exists. The question of privilege will not be prejudiced by awaiting the
results of the committee’s investigation. If a committee decides not to
investigate a leak, any senator can raise a question of privilege at the
earliest opportunity after the committee has determined not to proceed.
Whatever action is taken on a
question of privilege regarding a leaked committee report, if the committee’s
tabled report discloses that a breach has occurred and that it has caused
substantial damage to the operation of the committee or the Senate as a whole,
the matter is normally referred to the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures
and the Rights of Parliament for further consideration.
Rule 12-26 requires that committee
financial operations be governed by the Senate Administrative Rules. Each
committee must also table a report on all expenses incurred during the previous
session within the first 15 sitting days of a new session.
In June 2003, the Rules of the
Senate were amended to allow the Senate to request that the Government
provide a complete and detailed response to a report of a committee adopted by
the Senate. Under Rule 12-24, such a request can be included in the report or
in the motion for the adoption of the report, or it can be made by a separate
motion subsequent to the adoption of the report. The Government Leader in the
Senate then has 150 calendar days from the adoption of the report or motion to
either table the Government’s response, or give an explanation for not doing so
in the Senate. That response or explanation, along with
the committee report, are then referred to the appropriate
committee. Requests for a Government response lapse upon prorogation and
dissolution of a Parliament. However, the Senate can pass a motion to reinstate
the same request for a Government response in a new session, or a new
16. Administration of
The Committees Directorate provides
non-partisan procedural, information, and administrative services to all
committees, with the exception of the Committee on the Rules, Procedures and the
Rights of Parliament, which is supported by the Chamber Operations and Procedure
Office, and the Internal Economy Committee which has its own secretariat. The
directorate also ensures that the official records and documents of committees
are accurately maintained for archiving.
The directorate is managed by the
Principal Clerk and the Deputy Principal Clerk of Committees, both of whom also
serve as table officers
in the Senate Chamber. Their role is to ensure effective administration of the
directorate and proper implementation of Senate rules, regulations and
procedures relating to committees.
Staff provide information to the
public, government departments, media and others regarding committee
activities. The directorate also maintains statistical and other information
regarding the activities of committees, which is made public through the
directorate’s annual reports.
Each committee is assigned a clerk
and an administrative assistant. Additional staff in the directorate includes
legislative clerks, a statistical coordinator and a receptionist.
The committee clerk acts as the
chief administrative, procedural and information officer for committees or
subcommittees, and is responsible for ensuring that any organizational work is
effectively administered and that committee members have the necessary
information required for their deliberations. The committee clerk serves as an
advisor on parliamentary procedure and is a non-partisan employee of the Senate.
As such, the committee clerk performs duties independent of the political
affiliation of the members. The committee clerk relies on the Rules of the
Senate, parliamentary procedures, practices and jurisprudence to advise the
chair and members on the acceptability of motions, amendments and the conduct of
The committee clerk attends all
public and in camera meetings of the full committee and any subcommittee,
including the steering committee. As the recording secretary, the committee
clerk is responsible for drafting minutes which serve as the official record of
With respect to administration, the
committee clerk arranges and coordinates the work of the committee under the
direction of the chair and the steering committee. The committee clerk handles
relations and correspondence with interested parties and potential witnesses,
and ensures the translation and distribution of briefs, as required, to
members. The clerk also manages the preparation and scheduling of meetings,
arranges the appearance of witnesses, and coordinates all logistics, including
transportation and accommodation, when the committee travels.
Drafting the committee budget upon
instruction from the chair and other members is another responsibility of the
committee clerk. In addition, the committee clerk is involved in the
preparation of any contracts of the committee. All expenditures and
disbursements of the committee, particularly payments to witnesses and
consultants, are tracked by the committee clerk with the assistance of the
Senate Finance Directorate.
The committee clerk co-ordinates
the preparation, translation, editing, printing and distribution of committee
reports on special studies as well as on legislation considered by the
The legislative clerks assist one
or more committee clerks in providing administrative, procedural and information
support. The legislative clerk collaborates with the committee clerk in
ensuring that the organizational and procedural work of the committee is
effectively administered and that committee members have the necessary
information required for their deliberations.
Statistics Coordinator and Administrative Assistants
The statistics coordinator is
responsible for maintaining and producing key documents and statistics
concerning the activities of committees.
The administrative assistants
provide administrative and information services support to the committee clerk.
Most committees require research
support to accomplish their work. This is particularly true if a committee is
undertaking a major study or if it has a heavy legislative workload. Analysts
from the Library of Parliament assist the committees in their deliberations.
They are responsible for preparing briefing notes and suggested questions
pertaining to the current work of the committee during the hearings phase. As
well, analysts usually work with the chair, the steering committee and the
committee clerk in the selection of witnesses. When the committee hears
testimony, the analyst may also be required to summarize the evidence received.
If requested, they will assist the committee in drafting its reports to the
Senate, especially the longer reports associated with special studies.
Communications officers are
non-partisan, bilingual employees of the Senate. They focus on promoting the
institutional work of the Senate and provide communications advice to the
Speaker, Senate committees, senators and Senate administration.
Under the direction of the chair and
deputy chair, they develop communication strategies and plans for committees,
always taking into account the different perspectives represented on the
committee. They shape information products tailored to the needs of committee
audiences, in print or electronic form. They plan and organize news conferences,
respond to media calls and provide media analysis to committee members.
They travel with Senate committees when
needed, notify the media and public about hearings, and set up media interviews
and editorial boards.
They provide information for speaking
notes, speeches and articles.
Committees may also enter into
contracts with expert consultants who are not employed by Parliament. This
option is most often used when a committee is studying a topic of a very
specific or technical nature that may be outside the expertise of available
Library of Parliament analysts, or when a particular outside individual’s skills
Contracted individuals have the
freedom to conduct a wider variety of tasks for a committee than Library of
Parliament employees whose specific tasks are focused on writing and research.
A consultant may perform any tasks that the committee deems necessary to fulfil
its duties. If a committee decides that it must have the advice and assistance
of contracted research support, it must first obtain the permission of the
Senate to engage professional services as well as approval for the anticipated
17. Committee Documents
As the custodian of committee
documents during a session, the committee clerk is responsible for ensuring that
they are made available as necessary to parliamentarians and the public. Among
the items frequently distributed by the committee clerk upon request are its
reports and committee proceedings. Other documents related to the work of the
committee such as witness briefs or other papers filed with the committee clerk
can also be made available.
The Minutes of Proceedings
are the official record of the committee’s meetings and decisions. Prepared by
the committee clerk after every meeting, they include information about the
members present, the order of reference considered, decisions taken, and the
identity of the witnesses.
Transcripts (the blues) and Evidence
Public meetings of committees are
transcribed as evidence to create a record for publication. The draft version
of the transcript, “the blues,” is made available to senators and witnesses for
minor corrections before final editing and publishing. Normally, the rough text
is available within twenty-four hours following a meeting and a short time is
allowed for corrections. This time frame can be longer for meetings that occur
outside of Ottawa. The finished text is published with the minutes to form an
issue of the proceedings of the committee, which is posted on the committee’s
Most letters, briefs and
submissions received by the committee from interested parties and potential
witnesses are distributed to members of the committee, together with the
translation, by the committee clerk’s office. These documents are also made
available to the public. If the material is too voluminous, summaries of the
material can be prepared at the direction of the committee for the convenience
of members. All original copies of such documents are retained for inclusion in
the committee archives after the end of each parliamentary session.
Tabled with the Committee
Members or witnesses sometimes
request that material be tabled with the committee, filed as an exhibit or
appended to the proceedings of the committee. The last option is very seldom
used because of the considerable expense involved in publishing add-on texts
along with committee proceedings. Exhibits and other documents tabled in a
committee meeting are retained by the committee clerk and archived, and form
part of the official record.
Sometimes a senator will ask that a
specific document be recorded in the minutes of a committee meeting. The
committee must pass an appropriate motion for this, preferably at the time the
document is tabled, so that it can be properly recorded in the minutes.
Media coverage of Senate committee
work serves the vital role of informing the public and helping to shape opinions
about the Senate and senators. As such, the Senate Communications Directorate
works closely with committees to inform the media of the various committee
activities and to heighten the profile of the work of committees. The
Communications Directorate is also available to aid committee members with media
Committee clerks are only allowed
to provide the media with information concerning upcoming meetings and what
matters are currently being considered by a particular committee, as well as
copies of transcripts of meetings. Any questions of a political or partisan
nature can only be addressed by members of the committee.
The Senate has an agreement with
the Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC) to broadcast a fixed number of hours of
Senate committee meetings per week. Committees that wish to have its meetings
broadcast may make such a request, with all requests being made and considered
on a meeting-by-meeting basis. The Legislative Support Office is responsible
for all matters relating to the broadcasting of committees.
When a Senate committee meeting is
recorded for broadcast, it may be available live on the Parliamentary Television
Network (PTN). Such broadcasts are available in French, English and floor
languages to all offices on Parliament Hill through the PTN. Senate committee
meetings recorded for broadcast are also provided to CPAC for broadcast at a
later date. Please consult the weekly schedule available on the CPAC website (www.cpac.ca)
for information on when a particular meeting will be broadcast on CPAC.
ParlVU is a live
webcasting service that provides users access to the live stream
of video and audio of Senate
committees. The live webcast is of all televised
committees and the audio of all committees that are sitting in
public. Archived webcasts are also available for all televised committees. A
schedule of Senate committee meetings can be found at:
The Parliamentary Internet (www.parl.gc.ca)
and the Senate Portal (www.sen.parl.gc.ca)
provide information about committees and includes public websites for each
committee. The following information may be accessed via these websites:
·committee proceedings and reports
·current committee membership
·schedule of upcoming meetings
·press releases and other media-related
documents, such as backgrounders
Smith, D.E., The Canadian Senate in Bicameral Perspective,
Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003, p. 110.
Journals of the Senate, November 7th, 1867, p. 60.
Minimum number of senators needed to transact business. Each committee
has a specific number of senators needed to constitute a quorum (Rule 12-3 (1), 12-3 (2), 12-4, 12-6, 12-7) . Committees
may sit and hear evidence, and authorize the publishing
of evidence, when they do not have quorum, but only if they have been
authorized to do so by the committee. They may not vote or make any
decisions without quorum (Rule 12-17).
Journals of the Senate,
November 16th, 2011, p. 412
Bourinot, J.G., Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the Dominion
of Canada, 4th ed., edited by T.B. Flint, Toronto: Canada Law Book
Fraser, Alistair, Dawson, W.F. and Holtby, John A., Beauchesne’s
Parliamentary Rules and Forms, 6th Edition, Toronto:
Maingot, J.P. Joseph,
Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, 2nd ed., House of Commons and
McGill Queen's University Press, 1997.
O’Brien, A. and Bosc, M., House of
Commons Procedure and Practice, Ottawa: House of Commons, 2nd
May, T.E., Erskine May's
Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament,
23rd ed., London: Butterworths, 2004.
The Speaker pro tempore is, in essence, a deputy speaker who
presides over sittings of the Senate when the Speaker is absent from the
Chamber or is unable to perform duties in the chair. (Rule 2-4(2)).
Whip: A Member charged with keeping other Members of the same party
informed concerning House business and ensuring their attendance in the
House or in committee, especially when a vote is anticipated (Glossary
of Parliamentary Procedure, Ottawa, 2006)
Independent senators have no affiliation to any official political party
of the Senate.
Recent examples of special committees that have studied legislation are
the Special Committee on Bill C-36, the Anti-terrorism Act (2001) and
the Special Committee on Bill C-21, the Clarity Act (2000).
 Except for the
Conflict of Interest for Senators Committee, whose members are selected
by a distinct process under rule 12-27(1) and the Conflict of Interest
Code for Senators, subsections 35(4) and (5).
O’Brien, A. and
Bosc, M., House of Commons
Procedure and Practice, Ottawa: House of Commons, 2nd
O’Brien, A. and
Bosc, M., House of Commons
Procedure and Practice, Ottawa: House of Commons, 2nd
Pursuant to Rule 12-3(3)
the Leader of the Government in the
Senate or the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and the
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate or the Deputy Leader of the
Opposition in the Senate are ex officio (by virtue of the office
they hold) members of all committees.
A motion for the previous question calls for an immediate vote on the
question at hand.
The third member of the steering committee is normally a member of the
majority party in the Senate selected by the whip in consultation with
the majority member who is chair or deputy chair. Committees are
usually non-specific in the designation of this third member to allow a
certain degree of flexibility, so that if the third member is
unavailable, the steering committee can continue to operate with the
appointment of a different senator.
Witnesses are individuals invited by a committee to testify before it on
the subject it is studying and include public officials, representatives
of companies and interest groups, or members of the public of special
interest to the committee.
authorization for a committee to study a resolution, motion bill, or
subject matter of a bill, or to undertake an investigation or other work
according to the terms contained in the motion or as provided by the
Rules of the Senate. (Rules of the Senate, Appendix I)
“Public bills deal with matters of public policy under federal
jurisdiction, whereas private bills concern matters of a private or
special interest to specific corporations and individuals and are
confer special powers or benefits upon the beneficiary
or to exclude the beneficiary from the general application of the law.”
(O’Brian, A. and Bosc, M.,
House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Ottawa: House of
Commons, 2009, p. 1112).
“…a private bill relates directly to the affairs of an individual or
group of individuals, including a corporation, named in the bill; the
bill seeks something which cannot be obtained by means of the general
law and is founded on a petition from an individual or group of
individuals.” (O'Brien, A. and Bosc, M.House of Commons Procedure and
Practice, Ottawa: House of Commons,2nd ed., 2009, p. 1178).
Rules of the Senate, Chapter
Beauchesne’sParliamentary Rules and Forms, 6th ed., 1989,
O’Brien, A. and Bosc, M., House of
Commons Procedure and Practice, Ottawa: House of Commons,
It must be noted that the National Finance Committee only review the
Estimates and does not adopt them.
A meeting from which the public is excluded. Committees routinely meet
in this way to deal with administrative matters and to consider draft
Rules of the Senate, 12-20(1).
A senator moving a motion in the
Senate Chamber needs the backing of a second senator, a “seconder”, for
the motion to be considered by the Chamber.
Beauchesne’s Parliamentary Rules
and Forms, 6th ed., 1989, p. 223-224.
Beauchesne’sParliamentary Rules and Forms, 6th ed., 1989,
A. and Bosc, M., House of Commons
Procedure and Practice, Ottawa: House of Commons,
Beauchesne’sParliamentary Rules and Forms, 6th ed., 1989,
“The Estimates are the expenditure plans of all government departments,
consisting of main
estimates, tabled annually, and supplementary
estimates, tabled as
required.” (O’Brien, A. and Bosc, M.,
House of Commons Procedure and
Practice, Ottawa: House of Commons, 2nd ed.,
O’Brien, A. and Bosc, M., House
of Commons Procedure and Practice, Ottawa: House of Commons,
2nd ed., 2009,
Beauchesne’sParliamentary Rules and Forms, 6th ed., 1989,
A question of privilege can be raised by a senator whenever they feel
that the privileges of the Senate have been violated. “Parliamentary
privilege is the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House
collectively… and by members of each House individually, without which
they could not discharge their functions…” (Erskine May, Treatise on
the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usages of Parliament,
22nd ed., 1997).
“A prima facie case of privilege in the parliamentary sense is one where
the evidence on its face as outlined by the Member is sufficiently
strong for the House to be asked to debate the matter and to send it to
a committee to investigate whether the privileges of the House have been
breached or a contempt has occurred and report to the House” (Maingot,
J.P. Joseph, Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, 2nd ed., House of
Commons and McGill Queen's University Press, 1997, p. 221). A
prima facie case is such as will prevail until contradicted and overcome
by other evidence.
Table officers provide procedural advice to the Speaker and senators
with respect to their duties in the Chamber, and act as reading clerks
to record votes, decisions and times of debate in the Senate.