About Senate Committees
Senate committees are composed of 5 to 15 senators. They have three basic tasks: to examine and consider bills, to conduct studies on important questions as ordered by the Senate and to make recommendations, and to hold hearings, hearing witnesses who are government officials, academics, professionals, representatives of organisations or individual citizens. On completing its study, a committee presents its report, containing its conclusions and recommendations, to the Senate for consideration.
Standing Senate committees are permanently established by the Rules of the Senate. Each committee has a particular area of expertise, such as foreign affairs, legal and constitutional affairs, aboriginal peoples, social affairs, science and technology. Special Senate committees are created with special mandates and with specified dates to report to the Senate. Joint committees have members from both the Senate and the House of Commons. A list of current Senate committees can be found here.
My Committee Work This Session
I am currently a member of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Special Senate Committee on Senate Modernization.
Some Committees on which I Have Served
In the previous session I was a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament. This is a Standing Committee with a mandate to study and report on the Rules of the Senate, and to study and report on matters of privilege and concerns of the Senate. This Committee has recently considered the use of Aboriginal languages in the Senate, the broadcast of proceedings in the Senate Chamber, and the process for raising questions of privilege in the Senate.
The Special Senate Committee on Aging was created in late 2006. I was one of seven senators examining the needs of an aging society. The Committee attempted to create a better understanding of the challenges that demographic change will pose to governments and to society. Its objective was to help identify options and solutions for maintaining our quality of life. The Committee completed its work in April 2009 and presented its final report Canada's Aging Population: Seizing the Opportunity on April 21, 2009.
In 1997 I served on the Special Senate-House of Commons Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access after Divorce. This Committee examined issues of custody and access of children after separation and divorce. I was instrumental in the creation of this Committee. The Committee’s mandate had a special emphasis on the needs and best interests of children. The Committee travelled across the country and heard over 500 witnesses. It completed its work and presented its final Report, For the Sake of the Children in December, on December 9, 1998.
I had the honour to be elected Vice-Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance in four different Sessions of Parliament. The Committee is ordered by the Senate to scrutinize government expenditure. This is done mainly through examination of the Estimates. During my time as Vice-Chair, it was my responsibility to steward all the necessary stages of the government supply bills through the Senate. Supply bills, called appropriations bills, are those by which Parliament grants money to the government to provide its services. The Committee also used to study any government bills that sought borrowing authority or had a significant impact on government spending. This study of the Estimates is the lifeblood of Parliament, and is essential to the constitutional principles that govern the control of the notion of the public purse. The Committee also examines the reports of the Auditor General.
In 1997, I also had the honour of being elected Vice-Chair of the the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, mandated to examine matters pertaining specifically to Canadian Veterans. This subcommittee is now a subcommittee of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.
In the past, I had also served as a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. My participation in the work of the committee spanned 9 parliamentary sessions. The work of the committee is taken up mainly with criminal law amendments, elections legislation, constitutional changes and other bills that require significant legal examination.