About Committees

What is a parliamentary committee?

Standing Committees

Standing committees are permanent committees established pursuant to Standing Order 104. Standing committees continue in existence for the whole session unlike other types of committees.

Standing committees are provided with permanent mandates by the Standing Orders. Matters that are routinely referred to standing committees by the House for examination include: bills, estimates, order-in-council appointments and documents tabled in the House as a result of statutory requirement.

The House may also refer specific subjects to committees for study by adopting a motion to that effect. In addition to the subject matter of the study, the order of reference may also contain conditions that the committee must comply with in carrying out the study or additional powers that the committee may require for that purpose.

For more information on standing and other types of committees, please see Our Procedure.

Legislative Committees

A legislative committee may be created to study a particular bill referred to it or one may be appointed to prepare and bring in a bill. A legislative committee ceases to exist once it has reported to the House of Commons.

Legislative committees are created according to a strict timetable established by the rules of the House of Commons.

Unlike standing committees, the only mandate of a legislative committee is to study the bill referred to it, and to report it to the House with or without amendment. The committee cannot examine any issue beyond the provisions of the bill and is not empowered to present a report containing substantive recommendations related to it.

For more information on legislative committees, please see House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Third Edition, 2017.

Special Committees

Special committees are appointed by the House to carry out specific inquiries, studies or other tasks that the House judges to be of special importance. Each special committee is created by means of an order of reference adopted by the House. This motion defines the committee's mandate and usually enumerates its powers, membership and the deadline for submitting its final report. A special committee ceases to exist once its final report has been presented to the House, or at prorogation.

Standing Joint Committees

Joint committees are composed of members of both the House of Commons and the Senate. Standing joint committees are permanent committees established pursuant to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons and the Rules of the Senate.

For more information on Standing Joint Committees, please see House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Third Edition, 2017, the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament and the Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations.

Special Joint Committees

Special joint committees are established by orders of reference from both Houses to deal with matters of great public importance and are composed of members of both the House of Commons and the Senate.

The mandate of a special joint committee is outlined in its order of reference. In the past, special joint committees have been appointed to deal with such issues as child custody and foreign policy. They have also been struck to deal with legislation, by being empowered either to prepare a bill or to study a bill following second reading.

A special joint committee ceases to exist when it has presented its final report to both the House and the Senate, or at prorogation or dissolution.

For more information on Special Joint Committees, please see House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Third Edition, 2017.

Additional Procedural Information

Committee Weekly Schedule

Standing committees follow a system of meeting room priority access based on rotating blocks of time approved by the Whips of the recognized parties. Committees may also meet outside of their scheduled block of time; however, if they do not have priority in a given time period, their access to meeting rooms is on a first-come, first-served basis, after those scheduled to meet at that time.

Committee Activities and Expenditures Reports

Parliamentary committees undertake numerous studies based on the permanent or specific mandates given to them by the House of Commons. The Liaison Committee regularly presents its report on committee activities and expenditures, which discloses information on committees’ expenditures, including summaries by study and in relation to committee travel.

Committee Travel Expenditures Reports

Members of Parliament travel in Canada and abroad to study issues related to the work of their committee. Committee travel expenditures reports disclose travel expenses by travel activity, and are broken down by individual or group.