FUNDAMENTALS OF SENATE COMMITTEES
TABLE OF CONTENTS
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF COMMITTEES
TYPES OF COMMITTEES
Committee of Selection
Special and Legislative Committees
Committee of the Whole
Appointment of Members
Ex Officio Members
MANDATE — ORDERS OF REFERENCE
Examination of Bills
Pre-study of Bills Before the House of Commons and Study of the Subject Matter of Bills at Second Reading in the Senate
Disallowance of Regulations
Service Fee Proposals
POWERS OF COMMITTEES
In Camera Meetings
Motions of Instruction
General Restrictions on Committee Meetings
Role of the Chair and the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure
Points of Order and Questions of Privilege in Committee
Ministers and Public Servants
Provincial and Territorial Governments
Sending for Persons, Papers and Records
Steps to Exercise the Power to Send for Persons, Papers and Records
Committees Directorate Expenditures
Types of Budgets
Special Study Budgets
Report of Expenses
Power to Travel
Travel for Committee Meetings and Fact-Finding Work
Reporting to the Senate
Report with Observations or Recommendations
Tabling or Presenting a Report
Depositing a Report with the Clerk
Motions to Adopt Reports
Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators reports
Confidentiality of Committee Reports
Rule 12-26 Reports
Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence
Reports to the Senate
Briefs, Submissions, Correspondence and Other Documents
Other Documents and Exhibits
Senate of Canada Website
ADMINISTRATION OF COMMITTEES
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.
Much of the valuable work done in the Senate is accomplished by its committees. On average, over 40 bills are examined and 40 special studies are undertaken each year by the Senate’s standing, joint and special committees. The studies conducted and reports produced by committees are welcomed by a variety of audiences, including government departments, academics, professional organizations, interest groups, corporations and members of the public.
Committees are governed by the Rules of the Senate, mainly in Chapter 12, which deals specifically with committees. Since the Rules generally apply in committee meetings, situations not provided for in Chapter 12 may be addressed in other parts of the Rules, with such modifications as the circumstances require. In determining the proper procedure to follow, various procedural authorities may be consulted for guidance in addition to the Rules of the Senate and parliamentary practice and precedents.
Although the Rules and practices of the Senate broadly apply to committees, there is often considerable flexibility. “Proceedings in committees are more relaxed in nature than those in the [Senate,] as the requirements which must be observed in the Chamber are not so strictly enforced when Members sit as committees.”
Committees have been an integral part of parliamentary work since long before Confederation. Committees first emerged during the early 15th century in the British House of Commons.
The Senate of Canada established its first committee on the second day of the First Parliament in 1867, when a committee was struck “to consider of the Orders and Customs of this House, and Privileges of Parliament.” The first Rules of the Senate contained two sections devoted to committees. They had limited powers and no fixed quorum.
In 1894, the Senate revised its Rules to establish 10 standing committees (those established under the Rules). Two were joint committees with the House of Commons. Each committee was established with a fixed number of members. For the next 74 years, committees continued under this arrangement with only minor changes.
In 1968, a major restructuring of committees occurred. Some committees were renamed, new ones created and general areas of jurisdiction defined. After this reorganization, there were eight standing Senate committees and three standing joint committees. Over the years, this number gradually increased. In 1983, the size of most standing committees was reduced from 20 to 12 members, with a corresponding reduction in quorums.
The Committee of Selection is appointed when a motion to that effect is adopted by the Senate at the beginning of each session. The committee is composed of nine members, and six members constitute a quorum. To the extent possible, its membership should be proportionate to the membership of the recognized parties and recognized parliamentary groups. The committee’s main responsibilities are to nominate a senator to serve as Speaker pro tempore and to nominate members for the standing and joint committees. The report on the nomination of the Speaker pro tempore must be presented within the first five sitting days of a new session. The Committee of Selection may also, from time to time, propose changes to the membership of committees. In addition, the Committee of Selection is responsible for assigning offices to senators when these are not assigned by the caucuses or recognized parliamentary groups. Pursuant to rule 12-2(5), the Committee of Selection is neither a standing nor a special committee.
Standing committees are established by the Rules of the Senate and exist for the duration of each session of Parliament. They cease to operate upon prorogation or dissolution. There are three exceptions.The Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration continues to function until its successor is appointed in the new session or Parliament through a report of the Committee of Selection or a motion to that effect adopted by the Senate. In addition, the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators provides that the members of the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators form a new body known as the Intersessional Authority on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators during any period of prorogation or dissolution. The authority can provide general direction to the Senate Ethics Officer and carry out other functions that the committee delegated to it by resolution before prorogation or dissolution. The intersessional authority remains in place until the Senate establishes a new committee by adopting a motion. Finally, in the 43rd Parliament, the Standing Senate Committee on Audit and Oversight (AOVS) was formed by an amendment to the Rules of the Senate. The adoption of its Fourth report granted an intersessional Audit and Oversight Authority until the beginning of the 44th Parliament, composed of the members of AOVS at the end of the parliamentary session, with a mandate to maintain and continue some of the audit functions of the standing committee, as provided for in rule 12-7(17).
The 17 standing committees and two joint committees are as follows:
- Aboriginal Peoples;
- Agriculture and Forestry;
- Audit and Oversight
- Banking, Trade and Commerce;
- Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators;
- Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources;
- Fisheries and Oceans;
- Foreign Affairs and International Trade;
- Human Rights;
- Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration;
- Legal and Constitutional Affairs;
- Library of Parliament (joint);
- National Finance;
- National Security and Defence;
- Official Languages;
- Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament;
- Scrutiny of Regulations (joint);
- Social Affairs, Science and Technology; and
- Transport and Communications.
The size of the membership of these committees, the number of members required for quorum and the general areas of study of each committee are outlined in rules 12-3, 12-4, 12-6 and 12-7. Committees usually range in size from 9 to 15 members. Most committees are composed of 12 members and require a quorum of four.
Joint committees are composed of both senators and members of the House of Commons. Their membership typically reflects the relative size of the two houses. Such committees exist under the Rules of each house (standing joint committees) or are formed by a motion adopted by each house (special joint committees). Joint committees typically deal with non-legislative issues of interest to both houses. Once senators have been appointed to serve on a joint committee, a message containing the list of Senate members is sent to the House of Commons. Similarly, once the House of Commons membership is determined, the list should be sent from the House of Commons to the Senate by way of message. Joint committees have joint chairs from both the Senate and the House of Commons. The joint chairs may preside over a meeting together or alternately. The practices governing joint committees are a mixture of those of the two houses. There are two standing joint committees: the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations and the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament. Special joint committees may also be struck. The Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying is a recent example (second session of the 43rd Parliament).
Following the adoption of a motion, a special committee can be established to consider a specific bill or undertake a study on a particular issue. Recent examples include a number of special committees struck during the first session of the 42nd Parliament, such as the Special Committee on Senate Modernization, the Special Committee on the Charitable Sector and the Special Committee on the Arctic. Unlike standing committees, special committees cease to exist once they submit their final report to the Senate. If a session ends prior to the date that a special committee is to report, a new motion establishing the committee must be adopted in the new session if the Senate wishes the committee to complete its work.
A motion to establish a special committee requires two days’ notice and sets out the parameters of the committee’s study. The motion normally establishes the date by which the committee must submit its final report and sometimes includes other provisions (such as the power to travel and contract professional services). The membership of a special committee may be either set out in the motion establishing the committee or recommended to the Senate by the Committee of Selection. Subsequently, membership changes for special committees are made in the normal manner.
While the Rules also provide for legislative committees, there are no known cases of such a committee ever being formed. Instead, special committees have been set up to study bills. Some past examples include the Special Committee on Bill C‑36, the Anti‑terrorism Act, (first session of the 37th Parliament) and the Special Committee on Bill C-20, An Act to give effect to the requirement for clarity as set out in the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Quebec Secession Reference (second session of the 36th Parliament).  Under the Rules, legislative committees must have no more than 12 members.
A subcommittee is a smaller body formally established by a committee from among its membership to perform tasks or functions delegated to it by the full committee. The most common example is the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure (also called the “steering committee”) that most committees establish. Committees can establish subcommittees to deal with other business, including bills or special studies. For example, the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence often establishes the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs. The Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration also creates a number of subcommittees to study issues specific to the internal administration of the Senate, such as human resources, the long term vision and plan or the Senate estimates.
A subcommittee hears witnesses and receives evidence much like a regular committee. To do so, the parent committee usually delegates many of the powers it has received from the Senate to a subcommittee (e.g., the power to hire, publish evidence or broadcast). A subcommittee cannot, however, report to the Senate directly. Any report it adopts must first be adopted by the parent committee, which then reports it to the Senate. In addition, the budget of a subcommittee is the responsibility of its parent committee.
Practice is that the chair of the committee is also chair of the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure. The deputy chair is also normally a member of a steering committee, as well as one other senator. There have been instances where the Senate has authorized certain Senate committees to elect more than one deputy chair, in which case the second deputy chair has also been a member of the steering committee.
Other subcommittees typically have a formal organization meeting, similar to that for a full committee. The chair and deputy chair of the subcommittee are normally elected at this meeting, although they can be designated by the parent committee. The size of any subcommittee is limited to no more than half the number of members of the parent committee, three of whom constitute a quorum. Procedure in subcommittees generally follows that of committees. One notable distinction is that, while a full committee can in most cases meet in camera only in very restricted circumstances, subcommittees can do so at any time, except when conducting clause‑by-clause consideration of a bill. In practice, however, subcommittees always hear from witnesses in public.
A Committee of the Whole is a committee composed of all senators. A Committee of the Whole meets in the Senate Chamber, most often to deal with a bill or other matter when expediency is sought. Proceedings in a Committee of the Whole are less formal than other proceedings 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 the Senate, usually a matter of hours. Although no notice is required for a motion to resolve the Senate into a Committee of the Whole, the decision is usually made in advance, allowing for the necessary planning. Proceedings of a Committee of the Whole are recorded in the Journals of the Senate and published in the Debates of the Senate. The proceedings of the Committee of the Whole are broadcast in the same manner as committee proceedings and Senate meetings.
When the Senate begins proceedings in a Committee of the Whole, the mace is removed from the table and placed beneath it to highlight the fact that the Senate is sitting as a committee.
The Speaker of the Senate does not preside over the Committee of the Whole. Instead, another senator, usually the Speaker pro tempore, presides as the chair of the committee, sitting at the head of the table instead of in the Speaker’s chair. Witnesses may also be invited to appear before the committee. While a minister normally sits at one of the senators’ desks near the government leader’s place, all other witnesses usually sit at a convenient location in the central aisle.
The Rules of the Senate apply in a Committee of the Whole, with the following exceptions:
- senators address the chair if they wish to speak;
- senators are not obliged to stand or to speak from their designated places;
- senators may speak any number of times;
- each intervention by a senator is limited to 10 minutes;
- 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 question or for an adjournment; and
- except for substantive amendments to private bills, notice is not required for a motion or an amendment.
At any time, a senator may move either “that the chair do now leave the chair” or “that the chair do now report progress and ask leave to sit again.” These motions are decided without debate or amendment. If the first motion is adopted, the chair leaves the chair and does not make a report to the Senate. The bill or subject under consideration by the Committee of the Whole is dropped from the Order Paper. If the second motion is adopted, the chair reports progress and then requests authority to sit again. If this authority is granted, the committee will sit again either that day or on a later day. Once a Committee of the Whole has completed its work, the chair reports to the Senate and may ask for permission to sit again. If permission is not sought or not granted, the committee will not sit again on the matter, and the item will be dropped from the Order Paper.
If business arises requiring the attention of the Senate (notably Royal Assent), the Speaker takes the chair immediately, without awaiting a report, and the committee then continues after the business has been disposed of. A message from the House of Commons does not interrupt a Committee of the Whole. The message is read when the Senate resumes.
If a Committee of the Whole is still sitting at 6 p.m., its proceedings are interrupted, to resume at 8 p.m. An exception to this provision must be granted by the Senate itself, not by the Committee of the Whole.
The motion to appoint members to the Committee of Selection is normally moved after the Speaker reports the Speech from the Throne. This motion can be debated, amended and adjourned. In many cases, the motion is moved and adopted during the same sitting. The Committee of Selection must report to the Senate within five sitting days regarding the nomination of the Speaker pro tempore, but it often reports on both matters on the same day. The recommendations of the Committee of Selection take effect when its reports are adopted by the Senate.
In practice, leaders of recognized parties and recognized parliamentary groups negotiate the number of seats for each party or group on the various committees. Each recognized party or recognized parliamentary group is free to decide how it will allocate the seats among its members. In practice, senators indicate their preference to sit on a particular committee to their leader or facilitator in the Senate prior to the first meeting of the Committee of Selection. New senators who are appointed to the Senate mid-session may also express their interest in serving on a specific committee.
The membership of the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators is appointed in a manner totally different from that of other committees. The government and opposition caucuses each elect, by secret ballot, two senators to sit on the committee. These four senators together elect a fifth senator., Once all five members have been chosen, the Leader of the Government moves a motion in the Senate, seconded by the Leader of the Opposition, to appoint the members of the committee. This motion is deemed adopted without debate or a vote. A similar motion is moved for any substitution in the membership of the committee. If a vacancy occurs in the membership of the committee, the replacement member is elected by the same method as the former member being replaced.
Once senators are appointed to committees, rule 12-2(3) provides that their membership continues for the duration of the session. Nevertheless, under rule 12-5, membership changes may be made during a session by the leader or facilitator of a recognized party or recognized parliamentary group, or their delegate, for members of that party or group, except in the case of the Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest. The Clerk of the Senate must receive written notification of any committee membership changes signed by the leader, facilitator or representative. In practice, the Committees Directorate, acting on behalf of the Clerk of the Senate, receives these notices directly. The changes are then recorded in the Journals of the Senate. A copy of the notice is also forwarded to the appropriate committee clerk for inclusion in the committee’s official records.
Membership changes are not temporary. They result in the permanent removal and replacement of a senator from the membership of a committee. The senator removed in this way is no longer a member of the committee, unless another notice is submitted reinstating the senator’s membership on the committee. Once replaced, the senator loses all privileges of membership, including the right to vote, to move a motion in committee and to be counted as part of quorum.
The chair and deputy chair of a committee are normally not replaced. As noted in a report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament:
Upon being replaced, the chair is no longer a member of the committee and cannot, therefore, be its chair. It ensues that the committee is no longer properly constituted because it does not have a chair. The deputy chair cannot act for the chair since he or she may only replace the chair in his or her absence, but may not replace him or her if the chair position is vacant. Therefore, should the chair of a committee be replaced, the first item of business should be the election of a new chair. Such an election is presided over by the clerk of the committee. Should the former chair of the committee be re-appointed to the committee, he or she would have to be elected anew as chair of the committee before resuming his or her functions.
The replacement of a deputy chair can also be problematic. While a committee remains properly constituted when its deputy chair is replaced, the business of the committee may be stalled should he or she not be replaced. For example, steering committees, which are usually composed of three members: the chair, the deputy chair and another senator, would not be able to meet should the deputy chair be replaced on the committee and no senator elected in his or her place as deputy chair.
A membership change can indicate that the name of the replacement will follow. The committee can continue to function, as long as it has quorum.
Non‑affiliated senators, who are not members of a recognized party or recognized parliamentary group in the Senate, may be appointed to committees. However, rule 12-5 does not provide a process for non-affiliated senators to make changes to committee membership. A change involving a non-affiliated senator can be made only by a decision of the Senate (usually through the adoption of a report of the Committee of Selection).
The Leaders of the Government and the Opposition in the Senate or, in their absence, their respective Deputy Leaders, are ex officio members of the Committee of Selection and all standing and special committees, except the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators, joint committees and subcommittees. As such, they can count toward quorum, move motions and vote.. The leaders or deputy leaders of the parties can also sit as “regular” (non-ex officio) members, either by being recommended as a member in a report of the Committee of Selection or by replacing another member on the committee, in which case they vote like any other member.
Even if senators are not members of a committee, they can attend and participate in the meetings of most committees, whether the meetings are held in public or in camera. One exception is the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators. Only the members of the committee and, with the committee’s consent, a senator who is the subject of an inquiry report from the Senate Ethics Officer being considered by the committee, can attend and participate when it meets in camera.
The right of access to and participation in subcommittees is somewhat more limited. A Speaker’s ruling on June 7, 1999, sustained on appeal, stated the following:
… Senators retain the right to attend and participate in meetings of subcommittees whenever they are meeting publicly. It is less clear that Senators have that right when subcommittees are meeting in camera for the purpose of considering issues that are subsequently reviewed and endorsed by the committee.
… The opportunity for them to comment on the recommendations that are developed by subcommittees will come when they are considered by the committee.
An order of reference is an authorization from the Senate for a committee to undertake a study. It establishes the scope of the study and may confer other powers the committee needs to conduct the study.
While the Rules establish general mandates for committees, these serve only as guidelines regarding the type of matters that may be referred to each committee. They do not, in most cases, provide the authority to conduct work without a distinct order of reference from the Senate. Normally, the Senate only refers to a committee matters that fall within its general mandate as set out in the Rules. Unlike House of Commons committees, the mandates of Senate committees are not structured to focus on one government department. As such, a particular issue may fall within the general mandate of more than one committee. In these cases, the Senate will decide which committee should conduct the study. Despite a committee’s general mandate, the Senate can decide to refer any matter to any committee.
There are two broad types of orders of reference: (1) an order of reference for a bill, the subject matter of a bill or the expenditures set out in the estimates; and (2) an order of reference to study a particular topic (a “special study”).
Only five committees have permanent orders of reference and are empowered by the Rules to act on their own initiative without additional authority 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 and “to consider the orders and practices of the Senate and the privileges of Parliament.” The Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration may consider financial and administrative issues relating to the Senate’s internal administration, subject to the Senate Administrative Rules. The Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators exercises general direction over the Senate Ethics Officer and is responsible for all matters relating to the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators. The Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight may undertake on its own initiative a number of actions for the purposes of review and oversight of the Senate’s internal and external audits. The Selection Committee can propose changes to the membership of a committee. Another committee, the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations, has an ongoing mandate provided in the Statutory Instruments Act to review regulations made by order‑in‑council.
Other committees receive orders of reference through motions adopted by the Senate. A committee cannot begin formal work and hearings before the Senate adopts an order of reference authorizing it to do so. A bill is referred to a committee by means of a non-debatable procedural motion moved immediately after second reading. In the case of a special study, it is often the committee that develops the wording of the motion authorizing the study, which is then proposed in the Senate by the chair or another senator. Any senator may, however, take the initiative to move a motion for an order of reference without consulting the committee in question. Furthermore, a motion before the Senate may be referred to a committee by means of a superseding motion.
Committee consideration of bills is an important part of the legislative process. While not obligatory, virtually all bills are referred to committee after second reading, allowing senators the opportunity to study the bill in detail, to receive public input and to propose changes.
The motion to refer a bill to a committee for study is moved immediately after the motion for second reading is adopted. As already indicated, notice is not required for this motion, and it does not include a deadline for the committee to present its report on the bill.
Senate committees often invite ministers of the Crown, public servants, stakeholder groups, experts and individuals to appear before them to receive information relevant to bills under consideration. The invitation of witnesses is made at the discretion of the committee and usually delegated to the steering committee. In the case of a government bill, the sponsoring minister or the parliamentary secretary typically appears first, providing them with an opportunity to explain and defend the policy choices leading to the bill. Public servants, on the other hand, are present to respond to questions relating to the technical aspects of a bill, not the policy choices behind it. Other witnesses may also request to appear before a committee if they have a particular interest in the area of study. Witnesses appear only by invitation of the committee.
When the legislation being considered is a non-government public bill, the sponsor (the senator or member of the House of Commons who originally introduced the bill) usually appears first with representatives from the organization requesting the bill. Committees rarely hear from backbench members of the House of Commons in other circumstances. Further information on witnesses is available later in this document.
Special provisions govern committees’ work on private bills.
Once a committee has completed public hearings on a bill, it proceeds to clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. Amendments can be proposed, debated and voted upon. A committee may choose to consider a bill in a much less formal fashion, grouping large numbers of clauses and schedules, or the entire bill, into one motion, with leave. The committee may also choose to append observations on a bill. The final recommendations of the committee on the bill are presented to the Senate in a report.
Pre-study of Bills Before the House of Commons and Study of the Subject Matter of Bills at Second Reading in the Senate
As discussed in Chapter 7 of Senate Procedure in Practice, rule 10-11 provides for a process to authorize a committee to study the subject matter of bills that have been introduced in the House of Commons but have not received first reading in the Senate. This practice, often referred to as “pre-study,” allows a committee to begin hearings on a bill before it is received in the Senate, so that its recommendations on a bill can be taken into account while the bill is still before the House of Commons. The pre-study of a bill may sometimes be conducted by more than one committee, with some only being authorized to study specific parts of the bill. Pre-study reports are tabled in the Senate, not presented.
A committee is also sometimes given an order of reference to study the subject matter of a bill that is at second reading in the Senate. Sending the subject matter to committee for consideration before the bill receives second reading allows the committee to study not only the provisions of the bill, but its principle as well. General practice in the Senate is to specify in the motion referring the subject matter to committee that the bill remains on the Orders of the Day; otherwise the bill might be dropped from the Order Paper. While the subject matter of the bill is before the committee, the bill is usually not debated at second reading in the Senate Chamber, although it can be. Reports on the subject matter of bills already in the Senate are also tabled, not presented.
Despite having conducted a pre-study or having studied the subject matter of a bill, once the bill itself is referred to committee, that committee is still required to complete clause-by-clause study.
Special studies allow committees to play an investigative role in examining important social and political issues facing the country such as public health, housing for Indigenous communities, and veterans’ affairs. A motion moved in the Senate authorizing a committee to undertake a special study is a substantive motion and requires one day’s notice. This motion typically establishes the parameters of the study to be undertaken and sets 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 reporting. Committees sometimes submit one or more interim reports before their final report.
While the Senate may refer any matter to any committee for consideration, standing committees usually only undertake studies that fall within their general mandate as outlined in rule 12-7. When conducting a study, committees hear witnesses and may also travel, if the Senate authorizes them to do so. Although special studies, like most parliamentary work, end with a prorogation or dissolution, the Senate often agrees to re-authorize an order of reference in a new session. In this case the Senate typically refers back to the committee in question the papers and evidence received, and work already accomplished on that matter, thereby allowing the committee to build on its previous work.
The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance examines almost all expenditures set out in the government’s Main Estimates and supplementary estimates for each fiscal year. While engaged in the study of the expenditures set out in the estimates by order of the Senate, the committee usually hears from the President of the Treasury Board, officials and other witnesses. Since the estimates touch on all aspects of government operations, the National Finance Committee is able to review, in essence, all operations of the federal government and related matters. The committee usually makes an interim report to the Senate early in its study. This report is normally debated and adopted by the Senate, often before or at the same time as the related appropriation bill is being considered in the Senate. The committee then continues with its study of the expenditures set out in the estimates until the end of the fiscal year. It may make other interim reports before its final report. Unlike in the House of Commons, the estimates themselves are not referred to committee in the Senate. The role of the National Finance committee is to review the expenditures set out in the estimates; it then tables a report, which is typically adopted by the Senate. The estimates themselves are never adopted by the Senate.
A number of provisions exist in the Rules relating to certain specific types of work performed by committees. These include the study of regulations and service fee proposals as described in the following paragraphs. Other laws may have provisions indicating that committees should engage in reviews or other types of studies, but a separate order of reference from the Senate is required in these cases.
The Statutory Instruments Act provides the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations with a mandate to study most statutory instruments made since December 31, 1971. Since 2003, section 19.1 of the act also allows the committee to initiate a process that can lead to the disallowance of a regulation, in whole or in part, if a report of the committee containing a resolution to that effect is adopted by both houses. The section sets out specific processes to be followed in the committee and in the chamber, including provision for the automatic adoption of the report after 15 sitting days unless a minister requests that a motion for the non-adoption of the report be considered.
Since the act was amended to include this provision it has been used on two occasions. In both cases, the report was adopted by the Senate — in one case with debate and in the other without. However, neither report was adopted in the House of Commons, so the disallowance did not take place.
Service fee proposals are proposals for fees that government departments and agencies charge to Canadians. These proposals are tabled in both houses. Under rule 12-8(2), consultations must occur between the Leader or Deputy Leader of the Government, the Leader or deputy Leader of the Opposition, and the leader or facilitator of any other recognized party or recognized parliamentary group before tabling to designate the committee to which the proposal will be referred, since the referral to that committee is automatic at the time of tabling. The committee then has 20 sitting days to report on the proposal. If the committee fails to report within this period, it is considered to have recommended approval of the proposal. When the 20 days for committee consideration has been interrupted by a prorogation or dissolution, the service fee proposal must be tabled once again in both houses in the new session, and the process starts again.
Rule 12‑9 grants various powers to 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. While conducting a 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 a contempt of Parliament and could be reported to the Senate by the committee, with a recommendation as to how to proceed. Only the Senate itself can punish for contempt. A committee has neither the power to reprimand nor the power to enforce penalties.
Rule 12-9(2)(b) also empowers a standing committee to publish such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it. This includes the minutes of the committee and the transcripts of committee meetings. These documents are posted on the Senate website (sencanada.ca).
In addition to the powers set out in rule 12‑9, committees can create subcommittees.
Committees can seek additional powers by way of a motion in the Senate or a committee report. These may include the power to meet when the Senate is sitting, to adjourn from place to place (i.e., to travel within Canada for meetings), to travel either inside or outside Canada for fact-finding work, to engage professional and other services and to deposit a report with the Clerk of the Senate if the Senate is not sitting.
Joint committees, as bodies created by both houses of Parliament, can conduct work or exercise powers only if authorized to do so by both houses through their respective rules, orders and practices.
Committees are authorized to hold meetings in camera (i.e., meetings from which the public is excluded) when the agenda deals with one of the following items:
- wages, salaries and other employee benefits;
- contracts and contract negotiations;
- labour relations and personnel matters;
- a draft agenda; or
- a draft report of the committee.
All portions of a committee meeting not dealing with one of the above subjects must be in public. For example, while a committee may discuss a budget as a draft agenda item in camera, the adoption of the budget must occur in public. Similarly, while a committee may discuss draft observations to append to a bill in camera, clause-by-clause consideration of the bill must take place in public.
These restrictions on meeting in camera do not apply to joint committees.
Except when considering a bill clause by clause, a subcommittee may meet in camera whenever it so determines and without public notice.
In the case of the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators, meetings are always in camera unless a senator who is the subject of an inquiry report from the Senate Ethics Officer being considered by the committee requests that a meeting be in public and the committee agrees to that request.
Business conducted during in camera meetings is confidential, and the unauthorized release of such proceedings could be treated as a breach of privilege. Transcripts are not normally taken of such meetings. However, the committee may adopt a motion allowing transcripts during in camera meetings. The clerk of the committee will normally keep these confidential transcripts until the end of the session.
The Senate can give direction to a committee by means of a motion of instruction. “Instructions are intended to allow a committee to do something it would not otherwise have the power to do.” Instructions can be either mandatory or permissive. “A mandatory instruction orders a committee to consider a specific matter or to conduct its study in a particular way. A permissive instruction gives the committee the power to do something that it could not otherwise do, but does not require it to exercise that power.” A Speaker’s ruling noted that “[i]nstructions had to be in the permissive form if they were to apply to committees which already possessed some authority... . Instructions could be either permissive or mandatory if the committees involved possessed no powers because they were created on an ad hoc basis or if they concerned private bills.”
In practice, motions of instruction arise infrequently in the Senate. These motions have most often been used in relation to dividing a bill. A motion of instruction requires one day’s notice and is debatable. If related to a bill, such a motion should be moved “immediately after the committal of the bill, or, subsequently, as an independent motion. The Instruction should not be given while the bill is still in the possession of the House, but rather after it has come into the possession of the committee. If the bill has been partly considered in committee, it is not competent to propose an Instruction.”
Under rule 12-13, once a committee has been appointed, “the Clerk of the Senate shall, as soon as practicable, call an organization meeting of the committee.” The committee clerk organizes this first meeting, and the notice is issued in the name of the Clerk of the Senate. The term “as soon as practicable” has been understood to mean that the leadership of all recognized parties and recognized parliamentary groups have indicated their agreement to the organization meeting being called.
When a quorum is present, the committee clerk calls the meeting to order and presides over the election of the chair. To be elected chair, a senator must be a member of the committee, but does not have to be present at the organization meeting. The committee clerk calls for nominations, which are made by way of motion. There is no debate on a motion of nomination. Once there are no more nominations forthcoming, the committee clerk puts the question on each, in the order in which they were received, until a senator is elected. Once elected, the new chair presides over the remainder of the meeting. If the senator chosen as chair is absent, the committee clerk immediately conducts the election of an acting chair to preside over the rest of the meeting. If a committee is unable to elect a chair, it cannot proceed to other business and will disperse. Without an elected chair, the committee is not properly constituted and cannot function. Committee clerks have no authority to preside over any element of committee business other than the election of the chair, so they cannot recognize any senator for the purpose of debate, nor may they hear nor rule on a point of order.
The election of a deputy chair is usually the second item of business at an organization meeting and the first action for the new chair. Since the committee now has a chair and is properly constituted, there can be debate on this item of business. While not mandated in the Rules, the deputy chair is normally from a different recognized party or recognized parliamentary group than the chair.
After the election of the chair and deputy chair, the committee typically proceeds with a series of motions to facilitate its subsequent operations. One of these is the creation of the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure, or “steering committee.” The steering committee normally consists of the chair, the deputy chair and one other member “designated after the usual consultations.” The steering committee is usually empowered to make decisions with respect to the committee’s agenda, to invite witnesses and to schedule meetings. The parent committee can overrule or modify a decision of the steering committee by a majority vote.
Various other motions are also considered at an organization meeting. Typical motions include the following:
- a motion to publish committee proceedings;
- a motion authorizing the holding of meetings and the publishing of evidence when quorum is not present;
- a motion to ask the Library of Parliament to assign research personnel to the committee;
- a motion to adopt the report of expenses and activities from the previous session;
- a motion concerning the authority to commit funds and certify accounts, pursuant to the Senate Administrative Rules (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 to authorize the steering committee to designate members as travelling on committee business for the purposes of the Senators Attendance Policy;
- a motion to reimburse the travel expenses of witnesses; and
- a motion to assign a communications officer to the committee.
Once all the items on the agenda for the organization meeting have been dealt with, the committee may continue with the consideration of other business, including its work plans, or it may adjourn.
Committees gather much of the evidence for their reports on legislation and special studies through public hearings, during which they hear from witnesses. A typical public committee meeting begins with opening remarks by the witness or witnesses, followed by questions from the senators.
Rule 12-15(1) requires that public notice be given for all meetings of standing and special committees. The notice usually includes:
- the date, time and location of each meeting;
- the order(s) of reference or other business to be considered;
- the names and titles of witnesses who are scheduled to appear; and
- whether the meeting will be in
Notices are sent electronically to all committee members, as well as leadership representatives, interested senators who are not members, the media, and members of the public who have requested to be informed of committee meetings. Notices of meetings are also posted on the Senate of Canada website.
Committee meetings are scheduled around Senate sittings and caucus meetings, and therefore tend to take place in the mornings, late afternoons and evenings. Most committees sit twice a week. Under rule 12-18(1), a committee cannot sit while the Senate is sitting, unless it has permission from the Senate to do so. The evening suspension from 6 to 8 p.m. under rule 3-3(1) is part of a sitting, so any committee wishing to sit during that suspension must seek the permission of the Senate by way of a motion.
Under the Senate Administrative Rules “[t]he Principal Clerk of Committees, acting in consultation with all leaders and facilitators, shall assign a meeting schedule and reserve a room to be made available for the use of each Senate committee and subcommittee that meets regularly.” Typically, the schedule is negotiated at the beginning of each new session of Parliament, seeking to avoid conflicts arising from limited time slots.
When a committee wishes to sit outside its usual time slot, the normal practice is to seek the approval of the leaderships of all recognized parties and recognized parliamentary groups. Meetings outside regular time slots are generally discouraged, as they often lead to conflicts for senators who are members of other committees or who have other obligations.
A quorum is the minimum number of senators needed to transact business. In most cases, quorum is four members. A committee may sit, hear witnesses and permit the publishing of evidence when it does not have quorum, but only if this was authorized by the committee when quorum was present. A committee cannot make any decision without quorum. In practice, blanket permission to hold meetings when a quorum is absent is normally granted to the chair at the committee’s organization meeting, usually requiring that at least one member from both the government and opposition be present.
The Rules do not set the quorums of the joint committees. Instead, such a committee reports to the two houses recommending what its quorum should be. This quorum takes effect once the relevant report has been adopted by both houses. Until that time, a joint committee must have a majority of its members from each house in order to conduct business.
The Rules impose certain restrictions on committee meetings. As already noted, rule 12-18(1) prohibits committees from meeting while the Senate is sitting, unless they have special permission. Such permission might be granted if, for example, there are difficulties in scheduling the appearance of a minister or if time differences make it difficult to hold a videoconference with a witness overseas. When a committee holds formal meetings elsewhere in the country, the power to adjourn from place to place is understood to include the power to meet while the Senate is sitting, and a specific exemption from rule 12-18(1) is not needed.
When the Senate is adjourned for more than one week, rule 12-18(2)(b) permits a committee to meet during the adjournment if the Senate has adopted a motion granting this power, or if the government and opposition leaders (or their representatives) have given their signed agreement to a written request from the chair and deputy chair of the committee for such a meeting. If, on the other hand, the Senate is adjourned for one week or less, rule 12-8(2)(a) allows committees to meet if notice of the intention to meet during the adjournment was given to members of the committee at least one day before the adjournment. An exception to this general limitation is the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators, which can meet during any adjournment of the Senate, whether more or less than a week.
The role of the chair in committee is to preside over meetings, to guide deliberations, to recognize who has the floor, and to help maintain order and decorum. As with the Speaker, the chair has the authority to rule on procedural issues. Any ruling can be appealed to the full committee by any member at the time it is made. As in the Senate, the wording for the motion to appeal a ruling of a chair is “That the ruling be sustained,” or some other variant in the positive. A tie vote results in the motion being defeated, thereby rejecting the ruling. In addition to calling meetings to order, it is usually the chair who adjourns committee meetings. The Rules call for remarks in committee to be addressed to the chair.
Committee chairs are entitled to participate in debate and vote like any other member of the committee, although they sometimes choose not to exercise the right to vote. The chair votes before other members.
Each committee also has a deputy chair who usually presides over meetings in the absence of the chair. If the position of chair of a committee becomes vacant, the deputy chair does not automatically assume the role. Instead, the clerk of the committee must preside over the election of a new chair, and no other business can be taken up until a new chair has been elected.
When neither the chair nor the deputy chair is present at a meeting, the clerk of the committee will advise the committee of the absence and preside over the election of an acting chair for that meeting, following the practice in the chamber. The motion to nominate an acting chair is not debatable.
The chair and deputy chair have several other roles outside committee meetings. Usually, the chair of the committee is also the chair of the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure. Members of the steering committee appear on behalf of the committee when its budget requests are reviewed by the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration. Under rule 12-22(2), the chair, or a senator designated by the chair, presents or tables reports of the committee in the Senate. Motions in the Senate related to the work of the committee are usually moved by the chair or a designated senator. Furthermore, the chair, in consultation with the steering committee, directs the committee clerk in the scheduling of witnesses, meetings and the coordination of reports. The chair is also normally empowered to direct research staff on behalf of the committee.
Motions may be moved by any committee member 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 under consideration.
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. Furthermore, there is no formal practice restricting the amount of time for questioning witnesses, but senators usually limit their questions to allow for the participation of all senators who wish to speak. The chair or the clerk of the committee maintains a list of senators who wish to intervene. On rare occasions, a committee may adopt more formal rules to govern the debate.
As in the Senate Chamber, questions are decided by a majority of votes, including the deliberative vote of the chair. The chair does not have a casting vote and is not permitted to break a vote. To preserve impartiality, the chair may choose not to vote. A tie vote results in the motion being defeated. Senators who want the record to show that a motion was not carried unanimously can indicate their wish by simply saying “on division.”
Most votes in committee are conducted by voice, without members individually indicating their preference. Committees also sometimes vote by a show of hands.
However, if a member requests a recorded vote, where the names of those voting for or against a motion, or any abstentions, are registered in the committee’s minutes, it must be taken. In such a case, 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 indicates “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 member may interrupt during the vote. Points of order or questions of privilege cannot be raised until after the vote has been completed.
Points of order may be raised when a member believes that the committee has departed from normal practice or procedure during a meeting. Examples of points of order that may be raised in committee are those concerning the appropriateness of remarks, the procedural validity of a motion or whether quorum is present. Procedure on points of order generally mirrors that followed in the chamber, as discussed in Chapter 10 of Senate Procedure in Practice. Once a point of order has been debated by the members, the chair may rule immediately or take the matter under advisement. 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. Senators who are not members of the committee may not raise a point of order.
While committees can deal with points of order arising during their proceedings, they are not empowered to decide any questions of privilege. Only the Senate can decide if a breach of privilege has occurred. A committee can therefore present a report to the Senate on a matter of privilege. In practice, however, individual senators generally raise such issues directly in the Senate under the process provided in Chapter 13 of the Rules of the Senate. Appendix IV of the Rules outlines particular procedures to be followed when dealing with an alleged unauthorized disclosure of confidential committee reports and other documents or proceedings.
A central function of a senator in committee is to hear from and question witnesses. These can include ministers of the Crown; public servants; academics; representatives of organizations, companies and interest groups; or members of the public. Typically, witnesses are given time to make a brief statement, after which committee members can ask questions. 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. Committees gather much of the evidence for their reports from witness testimony, briefs and other documents submitted to the committee.
On average, Senate committees hear from over 1,600 witnesses per year, providing 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. Transcripts of witness testimonies are available on the Senate’s website. Public committee meetings are available through live and on-demand streaming on Senate ParlVU.
The steering committee often takes a lead role in the selection of witnesses to be invited by reviewing draft lists. Suggestions about individuals or organizations that could be invited to appear may be made by committee members or analysts from the Library of Parliament. Members of the public who express an interest in appearing may also be taken into account. While the selection of witnesses is usually delegated to the steering committee, the proposed witness list may also be considered by the full committee.
When a committee begins its public hearings on a government bill, the sponsoring minister is typically invited to appear first. On occasion, a minister or the parliamentary secretary may be invited a second time just prior to clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. It is generally understood that the minister appears to explain and justify the political basis of a bill, while any officials or public servants appearing at the same time are there to explain more technical aspects. Committees often accommodate the special position of public servants and refrain from questioning them on issues that would normally fall within the realm of subjects for which their minister is answerable (e.g., the reasons for a policy). However, there is no formal protection allowing public servants to refuse to answer questions.
Ministers and departmental officials are also sometimes invited to appear before committees on special studies that relate to matters that fall within the minister’s responsibilities.
Under Appendix II of the Rules of the Senate, when a committee is examining a bill or the subject matter of a bill that is, in the committee’s opinion, of special interest to one or more of the provinces or territories, the governments in question should be invited to appear or to submit a brief. If any government expresses an interest in appearing, the committee should give it a reasonable opportunity to do so.
Rule 12-9(2)(a) allows standing committees “to send for persons, papers and records.” These words grant standing committees with substantial powers. They allow these committees to order witnesses to appear and to require that documents be produced with few limitations. Although special committees do not enjoy these powers automatically, they are usually granted to them in their order of reference.
One of the clear limitations on the powers of committees in this regard is that they cannot compel the attendance of members of either house and, according to rules and practices, they can only send for documents that the Senate itself can demand. With respect to the attendance of members of either house, members may choose to appear voluntarily, or the house of which they are a member can order them to appear. If a senator declines to appear when invited, a Senate committee can report to the Senate requesting that the senator be ordered to appear. If the Senate agrees to the committee’s request, the senator is ordered to attend. If a member of the House of Commons declines to appear voluntarily, the committee would have to seek the agreement of the Senate to request that the member appear. If this is given, a message is sent by the Senate to the House of Commons requesting that the member attend. The House of Commons can then take a decision on whether to order the attendance of its member.
For a committee to be able to exercise its power to send for persons or papers, the following conditions should be met:
- the persons, papers or records must be relevant to the order of reference;
- the Senate must have the power or authority to order the presentation of the papers or the presence of the persons;
- when the Senate can obtain the required document only by an address to the Governor General, this address must originate in the Senate; and
- a summons cannot be issued by the committee against a senator or member of the House of Commons, although the Senate or House of Commons can order one of its members to attend a meeting of the committee.
Once witnesses are before a committee, they are bound to answer all questions put and cannot be excused on such grounds as solicitor-client privilege, self-incrimination or that they have taken an oath not to disclose information. A witness can, however, appeal to the chair and request that a response not be insisted upon, giving reasons.
The first step in summoning witnesses or having necessary documents presented before a committee is to invite the individuals in question to attend or provide the documents. In most cases, this suffices.
If the witnesses refuse to appear after the seriousness of the matter has been made clear to them, a senator on the committee can file a certificate attesting to the relevancy of each witness’ testimony, and the committee can then adopt a motion ordering the individuals in question to appear. Once this motion is adopted, a summons – outlining the date, time and place at which attendance is required – is served on the witnesses.
To order the presentation of papers and records, the committee adopts a motion ordering the required person or organization to produce them.
If a summons or order to produce documents is ignored, and if the committee insists upon the persons appearing or the documents being presented, the committee's recourse is to report the matter back to the Senate. The enforcement of a committee’s power to send for persons, papers and records lies with the Senate, not with individual committees.
Upon the presentation of such a report, it is then for the Senate to resolve the issue. The Senate may choose to summon the persons in question to the bar of the Senate to answer for their conduct, or require that they go before the committee to justify themselves. Although the Senate can order a witness committed to prison, neither house of the federal Parliament has followed this course since 1913. Admonishment at the bar is another option to punish a witness who fails to comply.
While witnesses are rarely asked to testify under oath, section 10(3) of the Parliament of Canada Act authorizes a Senate committee to administer an oath or solemn affirmation. Similarly, the Senate can administer the oath to witnesses appearing at the bar or can order that a witness appearing before a committee be examined under oath. In committee, the oath or affirmation may be administered by the chair or by the clerk if appointed by the Speaker to do so. The act sets out the form of the oath and also allows for a solemn affirmation to be used.
The oath does not affect the obligation of witnesses to respond to all questions. However, it does mean that a witness could be subject to prosecution for perjury in the event of giving false evidence. Without the oath, false evidence is strictly a matter of parliamentary privilege and cannot be dealt with through the courts.
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 taken against a witness on the basis of what they say during a committee meeting. This privilege only applies to what is said during a meeting but not to statements made before or after the meeting. Witnesses must also not be impeded from appearing before a committee nor intimidated after their appearance before a committee.
Witnesses have the right to address a Senate committee in either official language. Simultaneous interpretation must be provided at all committee meetings, both within the parliamentary precinct and in other parts of Canada.
At its organization meeting, a committee usually adopts a motion to reimburse the reasonable travelling and living expenses for one witness per organization. Witnesses may submit an expense claim to the committee clerk within 60 days of their appearance. Such claims must be accompanied by original documentation.
Committees sometimes hear from witnesses by videoconference, significantly reducing travel time and costs. The Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament has, however, noted that “Senators cannot attend or participate in the Senate by telephone or videoconference, and accordingly, the same rule applies to committee proceedings.” During the first session of the 43rd Parliament, a motion was adopted empowering certain committees to meet by video or teleconference in response to the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When undertaking their work, committees may incur a variety of expenses. Until it has a budget adopted by the Senate, no committee may incur expenses or commit funds. Chapter 3:05 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 and reporting. The following summarizes some of the key steps that must be undertaken by individual Senate committees in order to request and obtain funds for special studies or legislative work.
Not all expenses related to the functioning of committees are charged directly to the committee’s budget. Expenses for witness travel, videoconferences, postal charges, committee travel immunization and standard refreshments (coffee, juice) served at committee meetings held within the parliamentary precinct are charged to a central budget held by the Committees Directorate, rather than to individual committees.
Committees have two types of budgets: one for legislative work and one for special study. Committees must adopt and seek approval for a separate budget for each special study. Funds approved for one special study can only be used for that study. Also, funds approved for legislative work cannot be used for a special study, and vice versa. New budgets are required every fiscal year and at the beginning of each new session of Parliament.
Each committee that expects to consider legislation during any given fiscal year may 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 courier services and professional services. At the organization meeting, the chair is generally authorized to seek from the Senate the power for the committee to hire professional services necessary for the study of bills, the subject matter of bills and the expenditures set out in the estimates. In recent sessions, this power has been granted to all committees by a blanket motion. Such authorization must have been granted prior to the adoption of a legislative budget. In addition, if any powers (such as the authority to travel) are required to implement a legislative budget, the Senate must grant them before the committee in question can adopt a draft legislative budget.
A 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 Comptroller. The committee considers the budget and then either adopts it as presented or with amendments.
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, Budgets and Administration Committee or one of its subcommittees meets 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 Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration Committee on the allocation of funds. The Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration Committee can pass the budget as proposed, cut portions of the budget or reject it altogether. The chair of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, or a senator designated by the chair, then presents a report to the Senate containing its recommendations on legislative budgets for one or more committees. Only after the Senate has adopted this report can a committee actually use the requested funds. In the event that the Senate were to reject a budget report, the committee or committees in question would have to begin the process again with a new budget application.
Once the Senate adopts an order of reference for a special study, the committee clerk prepares a draft budget reflecting the committee’s plans which proceeds through the same steps as the legislative budget proposal until it is adopted in its original form, or a modified version, by the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration. At this point, the budget application and the recommendation for the release of funds by the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration are returned to the committee that originated the budget. The chair, or a senator designated by the chair, then presents a report to the Senate. The budget report has three parts, all of which are published in the Journals of the Senate. The first part is the actual report, which also includes the request for any powers required to implement the budget that have not already been granted to the committee for this particular order of reference during the current session, such as the power to travel or the power to hire. The second part (called Appendix A) contains the budget application as originally approved by the committee requesting the funds. The third part (called Appendix B) contains the release of funds recommended to the Senate by the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration. If the report is approved by the Senate, only the funds in Appendix B become available to the committee making the request.
There are various restrictions on the use of funds in a special study budget. Funds for public hearings outside Ottawa, for example, can only be used for that purpose, while funds for operations in Ottawa cannot be used for travel purposes. Likewise, different detailed administrative policies govern the payment of accounts and the approvals required. The clerk of the committee can provide details on current policies.
Because of the nature of the budgetary process, the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration sometimes recommends only a partial release of funds, covering either particular activities or a particular period of time. This can apply to both legislative budgets and special study budgets. In such cases, one or more subsequent releases of funds will sometimes follow. The new budget report for a special study will only contain a cover page and the new Appendix B, indicating the subsequent recommended release of funds by the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration.
Supplementary funds may be requested for a special study or for legislative work for which it has already received funds from the Senate. The committee must go through the same budget application process as it did for the original budget.
When a committee needs to incur expenses or commit funds and is unable to obtain a budget approval quickly enough, section 4 of Chapter 3:05 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. A request for emergency funds is considered to be an advance of funds on a future budget request. A subsequent detailed budget application must therefore be submitted. If these funds are to be used for any purpose requiring special powers (e.g., to hire staff or to travel), the necessary powers must be granted separately by the Senate before the expenditures can be actually incurred.
According to rule 12-26(2), committees must table a report of expenses incurred and activities undertaken within 15 sitting days at the beginning of each session for the one that just ended. These expense and activity reports are published in the Journals of the Senate on the day they are tabled. These reports outline, for each study, the expenditures made for general expenses, for each activity (e.g. trip) and for witnesses. The reports may also include the number of meetings, witnesses, reports and orders of reference. When the report of expenditures involves a committee that is not reconstituted, the most recent chair tables the report.
When undertaking a study (special or legislative), committees will sometimes travel to more fully examine an issue and to allow the committee to hear from a wider variety of witnesses.
Committees do not automatically have the power to travel outside the parliamentary precinct. Rule 12‑19(2) provides that a committee may adjourn from place to place when authorized to do so by the Senate. The power to travel outside the precincts of Parliament is not one a committee can exercise on its own. Authorization to travel for a special study is obtained through a budget report to the Senate which contains a request for the power and funds to travel, while authorization to travel for legislative work must be granted before a budget request is made. Requests to travel tend to be general in nature, seeking an authorization for the committee to travel to any place within and/or outside Canada for the purpose of a particular study. The power to travel, once granted, lasts for the entire session. However, if a committee’s special study is completed before the end of the session, the power to travel for that study lapses with the end of the study. Senate committees cannot hold formal committee meetings outside of Canada.
When travelling within Canada, a committee may either hold public hearings or conduct fact-finding visits that are related to the subject being studied. A public committee meeting outside the parliamentary precinct involves all the services and formalities of a public committee meeting in the parliamentary precinct and has the same status. Proceedings are interpreted and evidence is transcribed, translated, and published in both official languages. The proceedings of a committee holding public hearings within Canada have the full protection of parliamentary privilege.
Comparatively, fact-finding missions usually involve site visits and private meetings between committee members and organizations or individuals outside the parliamentary precinct. There are no transcripts of fact-finding meetings, but the information gathered can still be used for the committee’s study and be included their reports.
When a committee travels outside Canada it may only conduct fact-finding missions; any meetings outside Canada cannot be considered official, and parliamentary privilege, therefore, does not apply.
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 interim reports in the course of their work prior to a final report at the end of the study. For a report resulting from the work of a subcommittee, the report must first be adopted by the full committee, then it can be presented or tabled in the Senate under the committee. After adopting a report, a committee often delegates to both the chair and deputy chair, or to the steering committee, the power to make minor corrections to the report (i.e., grammar, spelling, etc.) without substantially affecting the content.
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 and may include other powers such as the power to hire professional services or travel. A committee may ask for an extension to a reporting date or modifications to an order of reference by way of a motion in the Senate.
A committee may report a bill with or without amendment(s), and in either case, the committee may also append observations to its report. In addition, rule 12-23(5) allows a committee to present a report recommending that the Senate not proceed further with the legislation. Such a report must include reasons and, if the report is adopted by the Senate, the bill is dropped from the Order Paper and Notice Paper. When reporting on the subject matter of a bill, the committee may include suggested changes to the bill in its report.
A report on a special study may be either interim or final. Reports on special studies are usually lengthy and include the findings of the committee and its recommendations. Given the impact that these reports may have, committee members typically 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 majority.” Occasionally, a consensus is not possible, and a report may include the opinion of a minority of the members, if the committee so allows. However, Senate practice does not permit the attachment of separate minority reports to a committee report.
Reports to the Senate on bills sometimes contain “observations” on the bill 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. While such observations do not form a substantive part of a committee’s report, and therefore are not decided on by the Senate, they are routine in Senate practice.
In their reports on special studies, committees may make recommendations to the Senate or to the federal government that a course of action be followed. If the Senate adopts such a report, the recommendations become decisions or recommendations of the Senate.
Orders of reference for special studies generally include the date by which the committee must table its final report in the Senate. An extension may be granted by way of a motion adopted in the Senate.
Rule 12-23(1) requires that any bill sent to committee for consideration be reported to the Senate. An order of reference for legislation does not include a specific date by which a committee must present its report. In practice, however, most committees give priority to the study of government legislation before undertaking any other work. If a committee is taking too long to consider a bill, the Senate may order it to report the bill by a certain date.
Reports that require a decision from the Senate, such as those dealing with bills and budgets, must be presented. Certain elements of such reports are read aloud in the Senate by a table officer before a decision is taken. The entire contents of the report and decision are published in the Senate Journals.
Reports that are only for the information of the Senate and, therefore, do not necessarily require a decision of the Senate, such as special study reports, are tabled. These reports are not read aloud and are not published in the Journals. However, a motion may be moved to have a tabled report considered and/or adopted by the Senate. This can be done by any senator, but it is generally done by the chair of the committee. If considered, the proceedings relating to the report are published in the Senate Journals.
A committee may on occasion request the power to deposit a report with the Clerk of the Senate while the Senate is not sitting. If this power is granted and such a report is deposited, a senator – normally the chair of the committee – subsequently informs the Senate of this fact under the heading “Presenting or Tabling Reports from Committees” during Routine Proceedings and may move that the report be placed on the Orders of the Day for a future sitting.
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. The motion to place the report on the Orders of the Day fulfils these notice requirements.
When a presented report is called for consideration, a motion is moved for its adoption before debate begins. In the case of a tabled report, on the other hand, a motion for adoption is optional: it can be moved before debate starts, it can be moved at some point during the course of debate, or it need never be moved. In the last case the report will drop from the Order Paper once debate concludes. When there is a motion to adopt a report, an amendment can be moved to this motion without notice.
There are special procedures that govern how the Senate deals with reports of the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators. Under rule 12-31, the committee has the power to deposit its reports directly with the Clerk of the Senate when the Senate stands adjourned and are then deemed presented to the Senate at the next sitting. With regards to its reports on the conduct of an individual senator, a motion to adopt such a report is deemed moved on the fifth sitting day following its presentation, if not moved earlier. A vote to adopt such a report cannot be held until either the senator who is its subject has spoken or five sitting days have passed, whichever comes earlier. If the motion to adopt such a report has not been disposed of by the fifteenth sitting day after it was moved, the Speaker is required to put all questions necessary to dispose of the report when it is called. A standing vote to dispose of questions put on the fifteenth day is automatically deferred, either to 5:30 p.m. that day (if the questions are put before that time), or to 5:30 p.m. on the next sitting day (if the questions are put after 5:30 p.m.). However, if the question is put between 5:15 and 5:30 p.m., the vote takes place immediately with a 15-minute bell. The senator who the subject of the report cannot vote on any motion relating to the report.
Under rule 12-24(1), “[t]he Senate may request a complete and detailed response from the Government to a report of a standing or special committee that has been adopted by the Senate.” This request can be included in the report itself, in the motion for the adoption of the report or in a separate motion moved after the adoption of the report. In all cases, a request for a response requires that the Senate adopt the report, either before the request is adopted or at the same time. The request identifies the minister or ministers responsible for responding to the report.
If a government response is requested, the Leader of the Government in the Senate has 150 calendar days from the adoption of the request to either table the government’s response in the Senate or to give an explanation for not doing so. Once a response is tabled or an explanation is provided, it is deemed referred to the relevant committee along with the committee’s original report. If no response or explanation is provided within 150 days, the original committee report and the absence of such response or explanation are deemed referred to the committee. A government response requested under this rule can be deposited with the Clerk of the Senate.
Requests for government responses become null upon prorogation or dissolution of Parliament. However, the Senate can adopt a motion to reinstate the request for a government response in a new session or a new Parliament. In 2007, a Speaker’s ruling noted that “[i]f a report was adopted in a past session or a past Parliament, a government response can be requested under rule [12-24], and must be renewed in each subsequent session, whether in the same Parliament or a new one.” If, however, the report was not adopted in an earlier session, there must be “a clear and direct procedure that unambiguously places the report before the Senate in the current session and allows Senators ample opportunity for debate.” The ruling suggests different options. The first is to refer work from past sessions to the committee during the current session, in which case the committee could adopt and table a new report (whether identical or modified) to which a government response can then be requested. A second option might be to adopt a motion to place a report from a previous session on the Orders of the Day as a precursor to a motion to adopt the report and request a government response.
On a number of occasions, when a government response requested in a previous session was essentially completed, but could not be tabled because of prorogation, the government has used its general authority to “table any papers dealing with the administrative responsibilities of the Government” to provide the response in the new session. However, since such responses are not made pursuant to rule 12-24, they are not automatically referred to committee.
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. Draft reports and documents from in camera meetings are also confidential.
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 should first examine 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 decided not to proceed.
If it is eventually determined that a breach has occurred 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.
The principal documents that Senate committees produce are minutes, evidence and reports. Other documents related to the work of committees, such as briefs and submissions from witnesses, are kept in the archives of the committee. As the custodian of committee documents, the committee clerk is responsible for ensuring that they are made available as necessary to parliamentarians and the public.
The minutes of proceedings are the official record of a committee’s meetings and decisions. Prepared by the committee clerk after every meeting, they include information about the time, date and location of the meeting; the members present; the order of reference that was considered; decisions taken; the names of witnesses; and other business conducted.
The verbatim evidence of public meetings is transcribed for eventual publication. A draft version of the transcript is made available to senators and witnesses for minor corrections before final editing and publishing as the “Evidence of the committee.” The unrevised transcript may also be distributed to other interested parties (including journalists, government officials and observers of the committee’s work). The first draft of the transcript is typically available within twenty-four hours of a meeting, and a short time is allowed for corrections. The timeframes are longer for meetings outside the parliamentary precinct. The edited transcript is published on the committees’ section of the Senate of Canada website along with the minutes of proceedings and other information relevant to that meeting.
As previously noted, committees may report to the Senate for a number of reasons. Reports may be substantive or administrative in nature; they may seek decisions of the Senate, or they may simply provide information. All reports are published by the committee, and those that are presented (not tabled) are also published in the Journals of the Senate.
Briefs, submissions and correspondence received by the committee are distributed to members of the committee, together with a translated copy. Once available in both languages, these documents may also be made available to the public through each committee’s website. Copies of such documents are retained for inclusion in the committee archives at the end of each parliamentary session.
Committee members or witnesses sometimes request that material be tabled with the committee, filed as an exhibit or appended to the minutes of proceedings, although the last option is seldom used. Exhibits and other documents tabled during a meeting are retained by the committee clerk to be archived, and then form part of the official record.
A senator will sometimes ask that a specific document be recorded in the minutes of a meeting. The committee must adopt a motion to that effect, preferably at the time the document is tabled.
Media coverage of Senate committees helps inform the public about their work and also contributes to a public understanding of the Senate and the work done by senators. The Senate Communications Directorate works with committees to inform the media of the various committee activities and to heighten the profile of the work of committees.
Committee clerks may provide the media with the blues for meetings or with information concerning upcoming meetings and matters currently being considered by a particular committee. Any questions of a political or partisan nature will be directed to members of the committee.
A committee can broadcast its meetings subject to the availability of resources. The committee clerk makes necessary arrangements. If more committees request to be broadcast than can be accommodated, the leadership representatives from the recognized parties and recognized parliamentary groups will provide direction.
When a Senate committee meeting is televised 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. Webcasts of public committee meetings and a video on demand service are available to members of the public on the Internet (at sencanada.ca). Senate committee meetings recorded for broadcast are provided to the Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC), with whom the Senate has an agreement to broadcast a fixed number of hours of Senate committee meetings per week, for broadcast in English and French at a later date. Under rule 14-7(2), public proceedings in any committee may be broadcast and recorded using audio feed facilities installed for that purpose. This provision also allows audio webcasting.
The Senate of Canada website provides general information about committees. Each committee also has its own page on the website, where the following information for both current and past sessions can be found:
- committee mandates;
- committee minutes and transcripts;
- committee reports;
- current membership;
- schedule of meetings;
- orders of reference;
- names of witnesses who have appeared before the committee;
- press releases and other media-related documents such as backgrounders; and
- links to the webcasting of committee meetings.
The Committees Directorate provides non-partisan procedural information and administrative services to all committees, with the exception of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, which has its own secretariat. The Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament may also be supported by a clerk from outside the directorate.
The Committees Directorate operates under the direction of the Clerk Assistant and the Principal Clerks of Committees, who also serve as table officers in the Senate Chamber.
Staff provide information to the public, government departments, 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. Staff in the directorate also includes legislative clerks and a logistics officer.
The committee clerk acts as the chief procedural, administrative, financial and information officer for a committee or subcommittee. The clerk is responsible for ensuring that any organizational work is effectively administered and that committee members have the necessary information required for their deliberations. The clerk serves as advisor on parliamentary procedure and is a non-partisan employee of the Senate. As such, a committee clerk performs duties independent of the political affiliation of the members. The clerk relies on the Rules of the Senate, parliamentary procedure, practices and jurisprudence to advise the chair and members on the acceptability of motions, amendments and the conduct of votes.
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 a meeting.
With respect to administration, the 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 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 certified and tracked by the clerk with the assistance of the Senate’s Finance and Procurement 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 committee.
The administrative assistant assists the committee clerk in providing administrative and information support to the committee. The administrative assistant collaborates with the committee clerk to ensure that the organizational work of the committee is effectively administered and that committee members have the necessary information required for their deliberations.
The administrative assistant actively participates in the preparation and closure of meetings, the coordination of logistical arrangements for meetings, and the translation and distribution of briefs. The administrative assistant also contributes to the preparation and distribution of reports.
In addition to these duties, the administrative assistant ensures that the official records and documents of committees are accurately maintained for archiving.
The role of a legislative clerk is defined by support and collaboration. A legislative clerk’s primary function is to assist committee clerks to ensure that all organizational and procedural aspects of committee work are administered effectively. The legislative clerk drafts and monitors committee budgets related to travel and other expenditures; reviews minutes, official documents and meeting notices; and coordinates the logistics of videoconferences and travel.
In addition to these tasks, a legislative clerk supports the work of the Committees Directorate. He or she actively takes part in projects to improve the operations and functions of the directorate. This includes reviewing service contracts, publishing the annual report (summary of committee activities over a fiscal year), and managing content for the directorate’s intranet and public-facing website.
The logistics officer provides administrative and logistical support to committee clerks. This includes planning travel for Senate committees and setting up videoconferences. The role of the logistics officer is to ensure that the organizational and administrative work of committees are effectively administered both in and outside of Ottawa.
Most committees require research support to accomplish their work, and analysts from the Library of Parliament assist committees in this regard. They are responsible for preparing briefing notes and suggested questions pertaining to the work of the committee during hearings. Analysts usually work with the chair and the steering committee in the selection of witnesses. They assist the committee by preparing draft reports, especially lengthy reports associated with special studies, as well as the observations sometimes appended to reports on bills. Like Senate Administration personnel, analysts from the Library of Parliament are non-partisan.
Communications officers are non-partisan employees of the Senate Communications Directorate. 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 communications 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 also provide information for speaking notes, speeches and articles.
Communications officers travel with Senate committees when needed, notify the media and public about hearings, and set up interviews with the media.
Committees may contract expert consultants who are not employed by Parliament. This option is most often used when a committee is studying a topic that may be outside the expertise of available Library of Parliament analysts, or when a particular individual’s skills are required. These professionals tend to be subject matter experts, legal counsel or specialized service providers. If a committee decides to request the services of a consultant, it must first obtain power from the Senate to allow it to engage professional services, as well as the necessary funds.
 Rules 1-1(2) and 12‑20(4).
 Such authorities include Senate Procedure in Practice; Bosc, M., and Gagnon, A., House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Ottawa, House of Commons, 3rd ed., 2017; May, T.E., Erskine May’s Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament, 25th ed., edited by Sir David Natzler KCB and Mark Hutton, London, LexisNexis, 2019; and Bourinot, J.G., Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the Dominion of Canada, 4th ed., edited by T.B. Flint, Toronto, Canada Law Book Co., 1916.
 Beauchesne, 6th ed., §762, p. 223.
 For a history of the evolution of committees in the British Parliament, see Redlich, Volume 2, pp. 203-214. For a description of committees before Confederation, see O’Brien “Pre-Confederation Parliamentary Procedure…”.
 Journals of the Senate, November 7, 1867, p. 60.
 Rules 12-1 and 12-2(6).
 Rules 12-1 and 12-2.
 Rule 12-2(1)(a). On at least one occasion, the Committee of Selection reported that it was unable to make a decision within the prescribed timeframe (see Journals of the Senate, November 2, 1999, pp. 55-56), but it did so a short time later (see Journals of the Senate, November 17, 1999, p. 116). On another occasion, the Senate adopted a motion to nominate a Speaker pro tempore temporarily, and to suspend the requirement that the Committee of Selection report on the nomination within five sitting days (see Journals of the Senate, December 5, 2019, p. 18).
 Senate Administrative Rules, Chapter 4:03, s. 2(2).
 See also Journals of the Senate, May 28, 2013, pp. 2567-2568.
 Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. (1985), c. P-1, subsection 19.1(2). The membership of the committee can be changed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, or the nominee of the Leader, and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, or the nominee of the Leader, during an intersessional period (subsection 19.1(3)).
 Sections 38 and 39 of the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators.
 Rule 12-27(1).
 Rule 12-7(17)
 During the 42nd and 43rd Parliaments, the Senate adopted sessional orders to increase the number of members of certain committees provided for under rules 12‑3(1) and (2) during a given period (see Journals of the Senate, December 7, 2016, pp. 1084-1088; November 20, 2018, pp. 4037-4040; and March 11, 2020, pp. 413-415).
 Rule 5‑6(1)(d).
 See the definition of “legislative committee” under “committee” in Appendix I of the Rules of the Senate, and rule 12-11.
 Another example is the Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform, which studied the subject matter of Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Constitution Act 1867 (Senate tenure), in 2006.
 Rule 12-11.
 For more information on the role of the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure, see the section on organization meetings later in this document.
 Rule 12-12(6) states that “[a] subcommittee shall report to the committee that appointed it.”
 Senate Administrative Rules, Chapter 3:06, s. 6.
 See Journals of the Senate, November 7, 2017, pp. 2640-2646; and March 11, 2020, pp. 413-415.
 For more information, see the section on organization meetings later in this document.
 Rules 12-12(2) and (3).
 See rule 12-16 and the section on in camera meetings later in this document.
 See rule 12-12(5).
 See Journals of the Senate, June 7, 1999, pp. 682-684.
 Rules 5-7(o) and 12-32(1).
 See, for example, Journals of the Senate, June 22, 2020, pp. 556-557; and December 14, 2017, pp. 2869-2870.
 Rule 12-32(2).
 Bourinot states: “There is no chairman of committees in the Senate, regularly appointed at the commencement of every session, as in the House of Lords; but the speaker will call a member to the chair” (p. 393). For an example of a senator other than the Speaker pro tempore presiding as the chair of a Committee of the Whole, see Journals of the Senate, June 12, 2012, p. 1384.
 Rule 12-32(5).
 Rule 12-32(3).
 See Chapter 5 of Senate Procedure in Practice for more details on motions for the previous question.
 Rule 11-16.
 Rule 12-33(1).
 Rule 12-33(2).
 See House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd ed., p. 934. Bourinot (p. 399), notes that, if a Committee of the Whole reports progress and seeks authority to sit again, the Speaker will then ask, “When shall the committee have leave to sit again?” A time will then be appointed for the future sitting of the committee. This could be later that day or at a future date.
 See House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd ed., p. 935.
 See House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd ed., p. 935.
 Rule 3-3(1).
 Rule 12-2(1)(a).
 Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators, subsection 35(4).
 In order to accommodate new senators who were not, at the beginning of the 42nd Parliament, members of a recognized party, the Senate adopted a motion which provided that the committee consist of two Conservative senators, an independent Liberal senator and two senators who are not members of a recognized party. A subsequent motion to extend the existing membership of CONF to the end of the session was adopted. See Journals of the Senate, December 7, 2016, pp. 1087-1088, and December 7, 2017 p. 2797.
 Rule 12-27(1) and subsection 35(5) of the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators.
 Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators, subsection 35(8).
 Rules 12-5 and 12-27(1). Under subsection 35(7) of the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators, a member is deemed removed from the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators if the Senate Ethics Officer informs the committee that a request for an inquiry made by the senator is warranted or the senator becomes the subject of an inquiry under the Code. When a vacancy occurs in the membership of the committee, the replacement member shall be elected by the same method as the former member being replaced (subsection 35(8) of the Code).
 Sixth report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament, tabled in the Senate on October 8, 2009.
 See Speaker’s ruling, Journals of the Senate, May 9, 2007, p. 1511.
 During the 42nd Parliament, the Senate adopted sessional orders providing that, in addition to the ex officio members under rule 12-3(3), the leader or facilitator of any recognized party or recognized parliamentary group or, in their absence, a designate, were also ex officio members (see Journals of the Senate, November 7, 2017, pp. 2640-2646; and November 20, 2018, pp. 4037-4040).
 Rule 12-3(3).
 Rule 12-14. The situation is slightly different with regard to subcommittees.
 Rule 12-28(2). As discussed later in this document, the right of non-members to participate in the work of subcommittees during in camera meetings is also more limited.
 Rules 12-6 and 12-14.
 See Beauchesne, 6th ed., §766, pp. 223-224; House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd ed., p. 768; House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 1st ed., pp. 857-858; and Speaker’s ruling, Journals of the Senate, June 7, 1999, pp. 1682-1684: “Non-members are prohibited from voting and they cannot move motions or be part of the committee’s quorum.”
 Journals of the Senate, June 7, 1999, p. 1684.
 Rule 12-8(1).
 “The estimates are the expenditure plans of all government departments, consisting of main estimates, tabled annually, and supplementary estimates, tabled as required” (House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd ed., p. 920, n. 4).
 Rules 12-7(2)(a) and (c).
 Rule 12-7(1).
 Rule 12-7(16).
 Rule 12-7(17).
 Rule 12-2(4)(b).
 Statutory Instruments Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. S-22, s. 19.
 No notice is required for such a motion (rule 5-7(b)). The wording used to refer a bill to a standing committee is typically “That the bill be referred to the Standing Senate Committee on .”
 When the motion for a special study is a substantive (separate) motion, as is usually the case, one day’s notice is required (rule 5-5(j)).
 No notice is required for such a motion (rule 5-7(b)). For more information on superseding motions, see Chapter 5 of Senate Procedure in Practice.
 The major exceptions are appropriation bills, which are only rarely referred to committee after second reading. It may be noted, however, that the expenditures set out in the estimates, on which a particular appropriation bill is directly based, are usually examined by a committee, although this also is not obligatory. All projected expenditures are typically examined by the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, except for votes relating to the Library of Parliament. For additional information on committee consideration of the expenditures set out in the estimates, see the section on estimates later in this document.
 Rule 12-23(1) obliges committees to report on a bill referred to it but is silent as to when this must occur. Once the Senate has referred a bill to a committee, it can withdraw from that committee, possibly referring it to another committee (see, for example, Journals of the Senate, December 13, 2006, p. 967; and October 28, 2004, p. 118.)
 These provisions are described in detail in Chapter 8 of Senate Procedure in Practice.
 Leave is explicitly required under rule 12-20(3).
 For additional information on observations, see the section on Report with Observations or Recommendations later in this document.
 This process is described in detail in Chapter 7 of Senate Procedure in Practice.
 For a distinction between tabled and presented reports, see the section on committee reports later in this document.
 Beauchesne, 6th ed., §§673-676, pp. 201-202; and House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd ed., pp. 755-756. See Chapter 7 of Senate Procedure in Practice for additional information.
 For example, in 2007-2008 the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources studied the subject matter of Bill S-208, Drinking Water Sources Act; in 2006-2007, the Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform studied the subject matter of Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Constitution Act 1867 (Senate tenure); and in 2004, the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce studied the subject matter of Bill S-14, An Act to amend the Agreement on Internal Trade Implementation Act.
 See Chapter 7 of Senate Procedure in Practice for additional information.
 See Speaker’s ruling, Journals of the Senate, October 25, 2006, p. 550.
 For example, in 2016, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology studied the increasing incidence of obesity in Canada; in 2016-17, the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples studied the on-going challenges relating to housing in First Nation and Inuit communities; and in 2017-18, the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence undertook a study on creating a defined, professional and consistent system for veterans as they leave the Canadian Armed Forces.
 See some examples of this in Journals of the Senate, July 27, 2020, p. 850; and February 6, 2020, p. 260.
 Rule 12-8(1).
 For example, see Journals of the Senate, January 26, 2016, pp. 71-72.
 While other committees have been authorized to examine expenditures set out in the estimates in the past, recent practice is that all expenditures set out in the estimates are reviewed by the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, except for votes relating to the Library of Parliament, which are typically studied by the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament.
 Statutory Instruments Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. S-22, s. 19.
 Before 2003, the committee’s powers to recommend disallowance of legislation were not based on statute, but on the Standing Orders of the House of Commons (without parallel processes being established under the Rules of the Senate).
 Statutory Instruments Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. S-22, s. 19.1(5). For information on disallowance reports in the Senate, see Chapter 5 of Senate Procedure in Practice.
 See the fourth report of the joint committee presented to the Senate on February 13, 2007 (Journals of the Senate, p. 1045 and pp. 1052-1065); and the second report of the joint committee presented to the Senate on May 5, 2005 (Journals of the Senate, p. 842 and pp. 849-865).
 Both reports were referred back to the joint committee by the House of Commons (see the House of Commons’ Journals of February 21, 2007, pp. 1042 and 1047; and June 8, 2005, pp. 849 and 853).
 Previously referred to as “user fee proposals”. The Service Fees Act, adopted in June 2017, replaced the User Fees Act.
 Service Fees Act, S.C. 2017, subsection 15(1).
 Rule 12-22(5). Also see Service Fees Act, S.C. 2017, subsection 15(3).
 On this matter, see Davidson, “The Powers of Parliamentary Committees,” pp. 12-15. Both Canadian and British authorities recognize that no house of Parliament can compel members of either house to appear without the agreement of the house of which the parliamentarian is a member.
 For additional information on summoning witnesses, see later in this document.
 Maingot, p. 231. See Chapter 11 of Senate Procedure in Practice for an overview of this issue.
 Rule 12-12(1).
 Under rule 12-31, reports of the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators can be deposited with the Clerk of the Senate when the Senate stands adjourned. Such reports are deemed presented in the Senate at the next sitting.
 See House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd ed., p. 995.
 See rule 12-16(1). The conditions under which subcommittees can meet in camera are less restrictive (see rule 12-12(5)).
 Rule 12-16(2).
 Rule 12-12(5).
 Rule 12-28(1).
 Rules of the Senate, Appendix IV.
 Speaker’s ruling, Journals of the Senate, November 30, 1995, p. 1332.
 See definition of “instruction (to a committee)” in Appendix I of the Rules of the Senate. Also see House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd ed., p. 1001; and Erskine May, 25th ed., p. 957.
 House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd ed., p. 1001.
 Speaker’s ruling, Journals of the Senate, May 2, 2000, p. 550.
 See, for example, Journals of the Senate, November 20, 2002, pp. 191-192; and December 6, 1999, pp. 204-205. Also see Speaker’s ruling, Journals of the Senate, May 2, 2000, pp. 549‑551, and June 15, 2017, pp. 2237‑2239; and Erskine May, 25th ed., p. 663.
 Rules 5-5(e) and 5-8(1)(g).
 Beauchesne, 6th ed., §684, p. 204.
 This process is also followed if the position of chair becomes vacant at some point after the committee has organized.
 In the case of the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators, the chair must be elected by at least four of the five members (s. 35(6) of the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators).
 In this case, another meeting must be convened, where the election of a chair will be the first order of business (House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd ed., p. 1048).
 House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd ed., p. 1051.
 There have been cases where the Senate has authorized certain Senate committees to elect more than one deputy chair (see Journals of the Senate, November 7, 2017, pp. 2640-2646 and March 11, 2020, pp. 413-415).
 In practice, the third member of the steering committee has been from a different recognized party or recognized parliamentary group than the chair and deputy chair and has been selected in consultation with the leadership of all recognized parties and recognized parliamentary groups. Committees are usually non-specific in the designation of this third member to allow a degree of flexibility, so that if the third member is unavailable, the steering committee can continue to operate with the presence of a different senator. A committee can, however, name a specific senator to be the third member. In this case, only the committee itself can change the membership. Steering committees of more than three members have been appointed on occasion, but never more than half the committee’s total membership under rule 12-12(2).
 Rule 12-9(2)(b).
 Allowed under rule 12-17.
 Under rule 12-26(2) such a report must be tabled within the first 15 sitting days of a new session.
 See Chapter 2 of Senate Procedure in Practice for further information on the Senators Attendance Policy.
 See Speaker’s ruling, Journals of the Senate, June 5, 2012, p. 1343.
 Chapter 5:03, s. 3.
 Under rule 12-6, the exceptions are the joint committees, the Committee of Selection (quorum of six under rule 12-2(6)) and the Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators (quorum of three under rule 12-27(2)).
 Rule 12-17.
 Beauchesne, 6th ed., §809(2), p. 230.
 See section on committee travel.
 A motion is generally adopted by the Senate authorizing committees that are scheduled to meet on a Monday to meet if the Monday precedes a Tuesday on which the Senate sits after a long break. This authorization is usually granted for the duration of a session.
 Rule 12-29.
 Rule 12-20(1)(c).
 Rule 12-20(1)(a).
 For information on the process for the election of a chair, see section above on the organization meeting.
 House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd ed., p. 1051.
 Rule 2-4(2).
 Rules 12-20(1)(b) and (d).
 Rule 12-20(1)(c).
 If a chair’s ruling is appealed, the question put is “Shall the chair’s ruling be sustained?”
 See House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 1st ed., p. 857.
 See, for example, the questions of privilege raised in the Senate on December 8, 2015, relating to leaks to the media on the contents of the Auditor General’s report on Senators’ expenses, with a ruling finding a prima facie case of privilege delivered on January 26, 2016 (Journals of the Senate, p. 69), May 7, 2013, relating to a witness prevented from appearing before a committee, with a ruling finding a prima facie case of privilege the next day (Journals of the Senate, pp. 2235-2237); on October 6, 2009, relating to the early departure of committee witnesses, with a ruling, not finding a prima facie case of privilege, delivered on October 28, 2009 (Journals of the Senate, pp. 1384-1386); on June 16, 2009, relating to the inability of a deputy chair and other senators to perform their responsibilities and participate freely in deciding the committee's business, with a ruling, not finding a prima facie case of privilege, delivered on September 16, 2009 (Journals of the Senate, pp. 1232-1237); on April 1, 2009, on a committee’s inability to establish a subcommittee, with a ruling, not finding a prima facie case of privilege, delivered on April 21, 2009 (Journals of the Senate, pp. 448-449); and on May 16, 2007, relating to participation in committee work, with a ruling, finding a prima facie case of privilege, delivered on May 29, 2007 (Journals of the Senate, pp. 1562-1564). Also see Speaker’s ruling of October 28, 2009, in which the Speaker noted that “the Rules of the Senate provide, at rule [13-2(1)(b)], that a question of privilege can be raised under the special process for such issues if the ‘privileges of the Senate, of any committee thereof, or any Senator’ are at issue. Accordingly, [Chapter 13 of the Rules of the Senate] can be used to raise questions of privilege arising from committee work, although a report of the committee is another vehicle available, as the authorities suggest.” (Journals of the Senate, pp. 1384-1386). For an example of a point of order raised in the Senate about committee work see the ruling of May 9, 2007 (Journals of the Senate, pp. 1509-1512).
 These processes for dealing with questions of privilege are described in Chapter 11 of Senate Procedure in Practice.
 Regarding the obligation of public servants to appear before committees if summoned, see, for example, Davidson, “The Powers of Parliamentary Committees,” p. 14; Maingot, p. 191; Forsyth, p. 17; and House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd ed., pp. 1078-1080. This obligation is also acknowledged in the Privy Council Office’s 1990 paper “Notes on the Responsibilities of Public Servants in Relation to Parliamentary Committees.” The Special Senate Committee on the Pearson Airport Agreements summoned two officials in 1995, the first time a Senate committee had used this power in almost a century (see Levy, pp. 3-4). On the non-recognition of public interest immunity in the presentation of documents, provided that the Senate has the power to order their presentation, see, for example, Davidson, “The Powers of Parliamentary Committees,” p. 14; and Maingot, p. 191.
 See, for example, Davidson, “The Powers of Parliamentary Committees,” p. 12.
 See, for example, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd ed., pp. 980-983; Beauchesne, 6th ed., §866, p. 240; and Bourinot, pp. 480-482. Among other limitations on the power to compel attendance by witnesses, the person must be in Canada, and the Queen, the Governor General, the Lieutenant Governor, or a member of a provincial or territorial legislature cannot be compelled to appear (House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd ed., pp. 981-982). For the limitations on the powers to call for papers, see Beauchesne, 6th ed., §849, p. 236. Under rule 14-2, accounts or papers involving the royal prerogative may only be requested by an address to the Governor General (see, for example, the second report of the Special Senate Committee on the Pearson Airport Agreements, Journals of the Senate, October 17, 1995, pp. 1218-1219).
 Beauchesne, 6th ed., §863, p. 239.
 Before 1904, the only cases of Senate committees summoning witnesses occurred in 1872 and 1891. Between 1904 and 1995, Senate committees did not summon any witnesses, although joint committees did so during this period. On October 17, 1995, the Special Senate Committee on the Pearson Airport Agreements summoned witnesses. Since then, cases in which witnesses have been summoned include: Agriculture and Forestry Committee (witness summoned on April 26, 1999, appeared on May 3, 1999); Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee (witnesses summoned on June 1, 2000, appeared on June 8, 2000); and the Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations (witness summoned on May 9, 2002, appeared on May 30, 2002).
 See, for example, the Minutes of Proceedings of the Special Senate Committee on the Pearson Airport Agreements, October 17, 1995. In this case, the certificate was “… addressed to the Chairman and state[d] ‘in my opinion… evidence to be obtained from is material and important in the investigation respecting ’” (Levy, p. 3). Although a certificate is no longer filed when witnesses are summoned by House of Commons committees, this practice has been retained in Senate committees.
 Maingot, p. 221.
 See Maingot, p. 208; and Davidson, “The Powers of Parliamentary Committees,” p. 13.
 See, for example, Erskine May, 25th ed., p. 230.
 Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. P-1.
 Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. P-1, ss. 10(1) and (2).
 Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. P-1, s. 13(1).
 The wording of the oath is set out in a schedule to the act as follows: “The evidence you shall give on this examination shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So help you God.” The wording of the solemn affirmation is: “I, , do solemnly, sincerely and truly affirm and declare the taking of any oath is according to my religious belief unlawful, and I do also solemnly, sincerely and truly affirm and declare, that the evidence I shall give on this examination shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
 Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. P-1, s. 12.
 For more information on privilege, see Chapter 11 of the Senate Procedure in Practice.
 See the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament, presented on June 20, 2013 (Journals of the Senate, pp. 2716-2718) and adopted on June 26, 2013 (Journals of the Senate, p. 2757). Also see Speaker’s ruling, Journals of the Senate, May 8, 2013, pp. 2235-2237.
 See the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders on this issue, Journals of the Senate, April 13, 2000, pp. 540-543. Also see the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament, presented on June 20, 2013 (Journals of the Senate, pp. 2716-2718) and adopted on June 26, 2013 (Journals of the Senate, p. 2757).
 Official Languages Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.), s. 4(2).
 While committees can allow reimbursement for up to two witnesses per organization (see second report of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, Journals of the Senate, February 28, 1996, pp. 19-20), recent practice has been to authorize payment for a second witness’ expenses only in exceptional circumstances, with the chair’s approval.
 See the seventh report of the committee, tabled in the Senate on November 22, 2005 (Journals of the Senate, p. 1273).
 See Journals of the Senate, April 13, 2020, pp. 450-451.
 Expenses not charged directly to the committee’s budget may be incurred (see Committees Directorate Expenditures section). There is also a provision for emergency funding, allowing a committee to incur limited expenses from its own budget before the Senate releases funds. This provision is discussed towards the end of this section.
 For an example of such a motion, see Journals of the Senate, February 4, 2016, p. 145.
 In the case of legislative budgets, the budget applications originally adopted by the committees requesting the funds are not published in the Journals of the Senate. However, the report of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration is published in the Journals.
 For an example of a partial release, see the eighth report of the Agriculture and Forestry Committee, Journals of the Senate, June 15, 2017, p. 2228.
 For an example of a supplementary budget application, see the fifteenth report of the Agriculture and Forestry Committee, Journals of the Senate, February 28, 2019, p. 4370.
 Senate Administrative Rules, Chapter 3:05, s. 4.
 See, for example, Journals of the Senate, June 3, 2019, pp. 4911-4922, April 21, 2015, pp. 1743-1744; April 1, 2015, pp. 1723-1724; June 20, 2013, pp. 2712-2713; and April 30, 2013, pp. 2195-2196.
 See, for example, the motion adopted by the Senate on October 18, 1995 (Journals of the Senate, pp. 1225-1226) relating to work by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on Bill C-68, An Act respecting firearms and other weapons. This motion also provided for the disposition of all remaining stages of the bill by a certain date.
 See, for example, the fourth report of the National Finance Committee, deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on July 14, 2020, and the first report of the Social Affairs Committee, deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on July 9, 2020 (Journals of the Senate, July 27, 2020, p. 850).
 See rule 5-5(f) for standing committees and the Committee of Selection, and rule 5-6(1)(e) for special committees.
 See, for example, Bourinot, pp. 476-478.
 See rule 12-30(2). Under rule 12-30(4), “[i]f a report of the committee deals with the conduct of a former Senator, he or she shall be invited to speak to the report as a witness before a Committee of the Whole” (also see Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators, subsection 51(3)).
 Rule 12-30(5).
 Rule 12-30(7).
 Rules 9-7(1)(b) and 12-30(6). Also see subsection 51(5) of the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators.
 Rule 12-24(2).
 Rule 12-24(3).
 Rule 12-24(4).
 Rule 12-24(5).
 Rule 14-1(6).
 Speaker’s ruling, Journals of the Senate, December 11, 2007, p. 368. The ruling also noted that “… because the Senate does not have rules providing that requests for government responses are automatically revived in a new session, such requests do, in fact, die at prorogation. If a response is still desired in the new session, it must be renewed by motion, with a new period of 150 days, if the motion is adopted. This is different from the House of Commons, which does have a Standing Order allowing requests for government responses to committee reports to survive in a new session of the same Parliament.”
 Speaker’s ruling, Journals of the Senate, December 11, 2007, p. 367.
 See, for example, Journals of the Senate, March 11, 2020, p. 417, putting the thirteenth report of the Official Languages Committee and the thirty-second report of the Banking Committee from the First session of the Forty-second Parliament on the Orders of the Day. Motions were subsequently adopted to adopt the reports and request a government response.
 Rule 14-1(1).
 Senate Procedure in Practice, pp. 207-208. See also the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament, presented in the Senate on April 13, 2017 (Journals of the Senate, pp. 1653-1765).
 See, for example, the question of privilege raised in the Senate on December 8, 2015, relating to leaks to the media on the contents of the Auditor General’s report on Senators’ expenses, with a ruling finding a prima facie case of privilege delivered on January 26, 2016 (Journals of the Senate, p. 69).
 Often called “the blues” since the unedited transcripts of proceedings were once produced on blue paper.
 Table officers provide procedural advice to the Speaker and senators with respect to their duties in the chamber, and act as reading clerks during sittings.
 The power to engage professional services to study bills, the subject matter of bills or the expenditures set out in the estimates has recently been granted to all committees through a blanket motion in the Senate. See, for example, Journals of the Senate, February 4, 2016, p. 145.