Meet the Commons committees of the 42nd Parliament
Sorry Elizabeth May: only official parties get a vote at committee
On Friday, the proposed membership lists for the standing committees of the 42nd Parliament were finally presented in the House of Commons.
The list came in just at deadline: the House affairs committee had only 10 sitting days from the first day of business in December to complete the process. Extended wrangling had slowed things down.
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Whips for the three political parties with enough MPs for official party status — the Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats — worked out the assignments this week and reported back.
Here are a few things to know about committees in this session:
1. Why aren't there any BQ or Green MPs on committees?
Some may think Elizabeth May's credentials and experience would make her a natural pick for the environment committee. But that's not how things work.
Only parties with official party status are represented among the full voting members. In December, the Bloc Québécois made a big stink about that, but its 10 MPs are two short of the threshold for official status.
That doesn't mean other MPs can't attend or speak at committee meetings to offer their input or ask questions. But when it comes time to vote on a key decision, review and amend legislation clause-by-clause or draft report recommendations, only the three larger parties have an official say.
2. Don't committees usually have 12 members?
After the 2011 election and in Parliaments prior to that, House committees had up to 12 MPs. In the second session of the 41st Parliament, that dropped to 10.
This time, the whips appeared to have settled on 10, with the exception of the three joint committees that also include senators (library, scrutiny of regulations and the special committee studying assisted dying) — 11 or 12 MPs are assigned to those larger committees, balanced with additional senators.
The membership of each committee is designed to roughly approximate the seat count in the House of Commons. That's why a 10-member committee will feature six Liberals, three Conservatives and one New Democrat.
3. It's 2016 — where's the gender balance?
A rough study of the lists suggests the whips have not created committees as that are as gender-balanced as the cabinet. Many have far more males than females.
One committee, however, has nine women among 10 members: status of women.
However, a range of factors can influence committee assignments, including wanting to ensure specific regional representation on a resource-specific committee, such as fisheries, or certain linguistic or ethnic representation on committees, such as official languages or heritage.
Even those representative goals aren't the be-all-end-all of committee assignments: for example, two of the 10 indigenous MPs in this Parliament will sit on aboriginal affairs, while another will sit on finance.
4. What's with all the newbies?
You're forgiven if you're scanning the list of names and not seeing many that look familiar.
Many of the committees consist of a majority of rookie MPs. Perhaps that's only fair: 200 of the 338 MPs in the House of Commons were elected for the first time last October.
While they won't have the same institutional memory and background or procedural knowledge as the veterans, it is a chance for a new set of open minds to approach proposed reforms with fresh eyes.
5. Why are there critics but no parliamentary secretaries?
The Conservative and New Democrat whips have put their senior critics on each committee, which is why you see Lisa Raitt assigned to finance and Charlie Angus on aboriginal affairs.
But the Liberals have kept their promise not to put parliamentary secretaries as voting members on their respective committees.
However, as we've seen so far at procedure and House affairs, that doesn't mean the minister's designate won't turn up, participate and perhaps try to influence the vote of the Liberal majority on the committee.
6. Who will be chairs?
The Liberals promised that committee chairs would be elected by secret ballot. So far, that's happened.
As each committee meets for the first time, we'll see who's picked for each chair.
However, skeptics point out, there's nothing to stop the Liberal government from organizing the votes of Liberal MPs to ensure the government's preferred chair wins that election.
For example, word is out that veteran Wayne Easter might chair finance, while rookie Marco Mendicino's background as a high-profile federal Crown prosecutor might recommend him to chair public safety.
Will any opposition MPs win the elections to chair the committees traditionally not helmed by governing party MPs, such as public accounts? Given the government's intention to dramatically reform the budget estimates process, that committee's election will be one to watch.
7. Where's Jason Kenney?
While many veteran opposition MPs have prominent committee assignments to go along with their critic roles, there are a few notable absences.
Presumptive Tory leadership candidates Jason Kenney, a former minister, and Michael Chong, both a former minister and a former committee chair, are not listed among the permanent members. (Long lists of potential alternative members are provided for each committee, which do include these two.)
With so many Liberals to go around, it's also a little surprising to see a few of the governing party's MPs doing double-duty: for example, Jati Sidhu is listed on both foreign affairs and public accounts. Similarly, Sven Spengemann is listed on both national defence and public safety.
What else strikes you as interesting about the committee assignments? Tweet us at @CBCPolitics.
Here's the full list tabled on Friday, plus the membership list for the two committees already sitting (House affairs and assisted dying). Note that the list does not include a previously announced special civilian oversight committee on security issues, which requires government legislation to establish.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Michael V. McLeod
Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Agriculture and Agri-Food
Ruth Ellen Brosseau
Peter Van Loan
Citizenship and Immigration
Environment and Sustainable Development
Fisheries and Oceans
Foreign Affairs and International Development
Government Operations and Estimates
Darshan Singh Kang
K. Kellie Leitch
Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities
Industry, Science and Technology
Dave Van Kesteren
Justice and Human Rights
Michael V. McLeod
Procedure and House Affairs
Chair (elected in December): Larry Bagnell
Vice-Chairs: Blake Richards, David Christopherson
David deBurgh Graham
Ginette Petitpas Taylor
Public Safety and National Security
Nicola Di Iorio
Status of Women
Transport, Infrastructure and Communities
Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament
Anne Minh-Thu Quach
Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations
Nicola Di Iorio
Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying
Chair (elected Jan.18): Rob Oliphant
Vice-chairs: Michael Cooper and Murray Rankin
- An earlier version of this story said that each committee of ten has seven Liberals. In fact, the number is six. In addition, an earlier version of this story said that committees in the last Parliament had 12 members. While that was the case for the first session of the 41st Parliament, in the second session committees shrank to ten members. This story has been adjusted to reflect that.Jan 30, 2016 3:42 PM ET