At the time this article was written Myron Kowalsky was Speaker
of the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly. He was a member and later Chair of
the Special Committee which tabled its second report on July 4, 2001
A Special Committee on
Rules and Procedures of the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly was established
in April 2000. The Committee was interested in creating procedures that
would increase the importance of committees, enhance the role of private
members, create more effective ways of dealing with public policy issues and
increase public participation in the parliamentary process. Following a
study which looked at procedures in several Canadian provinces as well as in
legislatures in other Commonwealth countries, the Committee recommended
principles it would like to see established in Saskatchewan. The
committee is in the process of developing a detailed set of draft rules and
procedures for presentation to the Assembly This article is an abridged version
of the committee’s second report. For the entire report see:
The Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan should reorganize
its present system of standing committees to include: four policy field
committees, one scrutiny committee, one private bills committee and two house
The policy field committees
would be organized so that they deal with most of the executive government’s
activity, with each committee covering a particular number of public policy
fields, and accordingly the related government departments and agencies. The
Standing Committee on Public Accounts would be retained and serve as the
Assembly’s primary scrutiny committee. Most of the house committees would be
reorganized into a single committee. Separate committees would be retained for
Private Bills and Privileges and Elections.
Select committees would
continue to be appointed by the Assembly as required (the intersessional
appointment process would be absorbed by the house services committee).
Specifically, the following framework for committees is recommended.
Policy Field Committees
- Standing Committee on Human Services to include
Health, Social Services, Education (K to 12), Culture and Youth, Justice,
Women’s Secretariat, etc.
- Standing Committee on the Economy to include Finance,
Economic and Co-operative Development, Labour, Agriculture and Food,
Environments, Energy and Mines, Saskatchewan Opportunities Corporation,
Saskatchewan Government Growth Fund Corporation, Post Secondary Education
and Skills Training, Rural Re-vitalization, etc.
- Standing Committee on Crown and Executive Agencies to
iclude Crown Investment Corporation of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Property
Management Corporation, Public Service Commission, Executive Council,
Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, (and all other revenue related
- Standing Committee on Intergovernmental Affairs and
Infrastructure to include Municipal Affairs, Municipal Board,
Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs, Highways, Northern Affairs, etc.
- Standing Committee on House Services to include the
various house committees – Estimates, Nominating, Continuing Select and
Communications which would be combined into a single house services
committee. The Speaker would continue to serve as ex-officio chair, and
membership would include the house leaders, deputy house leaders, and
whips. This committee would in future deal with rules and procedures
reform. The committee would have authority to alter the membership of
committees during intersession periods. The committee could also alter the
size of the committees in cases of third parties or independent members.
It would be convenient, if possible, for the House Services Committee to
be established with authority to meet in advance of an opening of a new
Legislature, in order to strike the committees so that committee work
could commence. This idea will take some further investigation.
- Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections to
remain as is.
- Standing Committee on Private Bills to remain as is.
- The Standing Committee on Public Accounts would
continue in its present form (subject to reforms contemplated by the
committee’s first report and amendments to the Provincial Auditor’s Act
recently passed by the Assembly). The practice of electing an opposition
chair should be fixed by the standing orders of the Assembly.
The new committee structure
should be phased in so that a support infrastructure can be put into place, and
should be reviewed after the experience of the next session.
Work of the Policy Field
The policy field committees
would have the following functions.
Annual Reports should be
referred automatically to the appropriate policy field committee to be used as
reference tools. The committees would decide which of the reports they receive will
be reviewed, in similar fashion to the present practice in the Standing
Committee on Crown Corporations.
After first reading bills
could be referred by motion to a policy field committee for the purpose of a
hearing on the subject matter of the bill. After second reading, all bills
should be automatically referred to the appropriate four policy field
committees for clause-by-clause consideration. This referral processes for both
situations should be incorporated in the standing orders. Provision also should
be made, as an option, for a bill to remain in the Assembly for Committee of
the Whole consideration.
The procedure for a bill
reviewed by a policy field committee after second reading would be as follows:
The policy field committee could hold public hearings on a bill in advance of
clause-by-clause consideration, if that bill had not been subject to a hearing
after first reading. Amendments could be made to the bill in a policy field
committee during clause consideration. Upon conclusion of policy field
committee consideration, the bill must be reported back to the Assembly
whereupon it would be set for Committee of the Whole consideration in the
Assembly. Time limits would apply to Committee of the Whole for consideration
of bills reported from policy field committees. The limits would be as follows.
Participation by individual members would be limited to twenty minutes each;
and the time for consideration of the bill in Committee of the Whole would be
set to a maximum of four hours total time.
Legislation would be a matter
of priority during sessional periods. Departmental estimates would be divided
into four groupings through the standing orders, so that each Budgetary Vote
would be subject to committee review by the appropriate policy field committee.
Estimates adopted in the policy field committees would be reported back to the
Assembly for inclusion in an Appropriation Bill. Estimates would rank with
legislation as a sessional priority.
The work of the Special
Committee on Regulations should be absorbed by the policy field committees.
Regulations and by-laws should be referred automatically by standing order to
the appropriated policy field committee. The committees should be informed of
new or amended regulations or by-laws by a parallel process to that used by the
Standing Committee on Crown Corporations for significant transactions.
The committee could make
recommendations to the Assembly with respect to regulations and by-laws
reported to be ultra vires or on the basis of a public policy issue. The policy
field committees could hold public hearings on any regulation or by-law.
The policy field committees
should have power to initiate enquiries. A self-referencing ability would be subject
to a majority decision of the committee. Funding available for investigations
would be capped (a global budget would be approved at the beginning of each
fiscal year for each committee), and all requests for additional funding would
be made to the Board of Internal Economy. There should be time limits on
enquiries and extension to these limits would be made by appeal to the Assembly
(or, if the house is not in session, to the House Services Committee).
References to conduct reviews could be received from Ministers. The committee
could, by majority decision, overturn a ministerial order of reference. The
Assembly could also issue an order of reference to a policy field committee.
Enquiries would not be a matter of priority during sessional periods, but would
be the main focus of activity during periods when the Assembly is adjourned.
The government should be required to respond to policy field committee reports
within 120 calendar days.
The order of priority
for policy field committees should be as follows: estimates, bills,
regulations, annual reports; enquiries.
Membership and Size of Committees
Membership of committees
should continue to reflect the ratio of standings in the Assembly. All
committees should be limited to seven members.
The following terms would
apply to the policy field committees. Membership could be expanded by majority
decision of the committee to include a “non-voting” member. A non-voting member
would be added to the committee membership for the purpose of participating in
hearings on a particular subject. The non-voting member would be eligible to
receive a committee per diem and re-imbursement for expenses. A government
member should serve as chair and opposition member to serve as vice-chair for
the policy field committees. The chair would not have a casting vote, but a
deliberative vote. All ties in votes would be considered the same as a defeat
of the motion.
Scrutiny and house committees
should be limited in size to seven members but otherwise remain as is with
respect to voting and allocation of chairs.
Substitutions would be
permitted, except for that of the Chair, on all committees.
Those members who serve
committees should continue to receive a per diem and re-imbursement for living
expenses (present formula). Extra duties remuneration of Chairs and Vice-Chairs
would be set in Board of Internal Economy directives.
A constant remark heard by the
study delegation was that in order for committees to properly function, they
must be adequately supported. Therefore it is recommended that generalist
researchers be employed by the Office of the Clerk to serve committees. Other
staffing needed will be assessed over the course of the next year, as the new
committee structure is established and exact requirements identified.
Given the increase in
committee activity, it is recommended that one properly equipped and appointed
committee room for hearings be established with television, audio visual
presentation equipment, and seating for the public. Another smaller deliberation
committee rooms should be established. All committee rooms must be capable of
Hansard and television broadcast.
No more than two committees
requiring Hansard or television broadcasting would meet simultaneously so the
main committee rooms would have to be time-shared.
It is recommended that on any
sitting day the House could recess, as required, to facilitate the work of
committees. The House would then reconvene to receive reports from committees
(i.e. bills, estimates etc.) before adjourning each day.
Because four committees would
be working on business previously dealt with by the house, the need for as many
weekly house hours will be reduced. Tuesday would be a government day and
Private Members’ Day would be moved to Friday (with notice of business to be on
Private Members’ Day
Every private members’ day
should include a 75-minute debate, with the choice of subject to rotate between
the government and opposition caucuses (present rules but every week). An item
of business from the caucus that did not pick the subject 75-minute debate
For items of business after
the 75-minute debate, the precedence of the business would rotate as described
above and each caucus could designate two items. The designation of business
would be as follows. On a sitting day chosen for notice or private members’ day
business (i.e. Wednesday of each week), the caucuses would submit a notice of
motion, and/or designate a private members’ item of business already on the
order paper (i.e bills or adjourned debates) for priority consideration. Those
items would then be placed on the private members’ day order paper in the
proper order of precedence following the 75-minute debate.
Items of business (other than 75-minute debate) could be adjourned but no more
than three times. After an item had been adjourned the third time then the
designation “Item to be Voted” would be applied on the Order Paper.
Private Members’ public bills
that pass second reading would go to the appropriate policy field committee.
If this report is adopted by
the Assembly, it is recommended that the proposed changes be staged-in
beginning with the next session. The new rules would be phased in as follows:
Standing Orders will be
drafted by the Clerk of the Committee to reflect the changes recommended in
this report, and the new standing orders presented to the Assembly for adoption
at the commencement of the next session of the present Legislature. This would
be accomplished through a third report of this committee. However, the standing
orders would be adopted on a provisional basis, with the exception of the
creation of the Standing Committee on House Services.
The provisional basis of these
rules would be for two reasons. The first reason is so the Assembly has time to
adjust to the new committee system. The second reason is that a stage-in period
will better enable the Assembly to evaluate and build the infrastructure
required to support the new committee system. At the end of the next session,
your committee will evaluate the experience of the policy field committee and
make recommendations with respect to the provisional rules.
It is your Committee’s
conclusion that the changes recommended in this report will serve to enhance
the influence of individual Members’ during the Legislative Session. More
activity will increase opportunities for participation. And if the experience
of other parliaments is any indication the changes will also promote
co-operation between Members and caucuses. Much of this will be accomplished
through a revitalized committee system.
It is your Committee’s
observation that the activities of the committees do help to promote awareness
on public policy issues. The new approach to committee work advocated in this
report is meant to provide a greater opportunity for the public to participate
in the legislative process. The changes will also give Members of the
Legislative Assembly more opportunity to be informed about community issues and
problems. It is your Committee’s conclusion that the recommendations in this
report will strengthen the Legislative Assembly.