Question Period: Business of the Standing Senate Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament

By: The Hon. Brian Francis

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Hon. Brian Francis: My question is for the Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament, Senator Bellemare.

Senator Bellemare, could you give us an update on the work your committee has accomplished and intends to accomplish during the current session?

Hon. Diane Bellemare: Thank you, senator, for the question. Some work has been done since the committee was formed. The committee began by making a list of all the topics that may be of interest to senators who are members of the committee and to their group. That was a rather long process. We wrote the list with the idea that we might try to get through it.

We started with relatively simple topics that weren’t contentious.

So far, three reports have been tabled and adopted, with the exception of one of the reports, which has not yet been approved. We’re about to finish the fourth report.

We drafted the report on the election of the Speaker pro tempore. We changed the Rules accordingly to ensure that we elect the Speaker pro tempore properly from now on.

Our second report was on the significance of First Nations objects, clothing or ceremonies. One of the questions we asked ourselves during the drafting of this report was whether we wanted to add anything to the Rules that had previously not been officially recognized.

Our third report allowed us to review the committees’ mandates. We conducted a stylistic analysis of the wording of these mandates because in the Rules there were different types of descriptions. Some of the text of the committees were described by the themes that they should or could address, while others were descriptions that were more general in nature.

We reviewed the description of all the committees to adopt a more general view of their mandates since it is always the Senate that refers matters to committees. Therefore, it isn’t useful to provide a restrictive list of subjects for committees. This report was tabled and adopted.

We included in this report changes to the names of certain committees. The name of the Committee on Aboriginal Peoples was changed to Committee on Indigenous Peoples.

We then prepared a report on the creation of a special Senate committee on human capital and the labour market, but the report was not adopted.

As you know, during our study for this report, we heard from the chairs and former chairs of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, and we agreed that there’s one field that the Senate hadn’t studied very much, the field of human capital, human resources and the labour market, and that we should make room for this subject.

The committee hasn’t been established at this point because there are concerns about our financial and especially our human resource capacity, as well as our capacity, within the Senate, to complete the work for that committee. However, we will resume studying that committee soon at the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament.

We also undertook a review of the Standing Orders, at the request of the clerks of the Senate, to correct some language that didn’t really reflect current Senate practices or that was outdated. The language has been standardized, and you will soon receive the fourth report on this matter.

We also worked very hard last November to try to see if we could find common ground on the motion on equality of Senate groups, as it was known, which ended up combining motions from Senator Woo and Senator Tannas—

The Hon. the Speaker: I’m sorry, senator. The question is on the activities.

Senator Bellemare: Okay, the activities. That is the activity we completed, and we will continue. Thank you.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.


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