The Joint Committee is created under the authority of the Parliament of Canada Act, which calls for the establishment of a Joint Committee to be appointed by the Senate and the House of Commons. Its mandate is to assist the Speakers of both chambers, who are charged with the authority under the Act to direct and control the Library of Parliament and its officers and staff.
In effect, the Speakers of both chambers, assisted by the Joint Committee, direct the functioning of the Library, and, with the approval of both Houses, may make orders and regulations to govern how the Library is managed and how moneys are expended.
Another significant role for the Joint Committee is contemplated in section 78 of the Parliament of Canada Act, which requires that Library officers and other staff are to discharge their official duties faithfully. The mechanism for defining what constitutes a faithful discharge of duties is a regulation to be approved by the Speakers of both Houses. That regulation, however, must be concurred in by the Joint Committee.
In addition to the statutory basis for the Joint Committee’s mandate to assist the Speakers of both Houses in their direction of the Library, the procedural rules of both Houses supplement the Committee’s mandate. Both Houses may give an order of reference to the Joint Committee to inquire into any matter that would be appropriate for the Committee to study given the reason for its existence.
examine and enquire into all matters referred by the House;
report from time to time to the House;
send for persons, papers and records; and
delegate to subcommittees all or any of their powers except the power to report directly to the House.
The specific mandate of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament is defined in Standing Order 108(4) as: “the review of the effectiveness, management and operation of the Library of Parliament; … [p]rovided that both Houses may, from time to time, refer any other matter to any of the aforementioned Standing Joint Committees.”
The roots of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament can be traced back to before Confederation. The Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada each had a separate library. On 3 June 1850, a Select Committee of the Legislative Assembly recommended that a joint library be established for both Houses, and that a joint committee be appointed for the attainment of this objective. Both Houses approved the proposal and the joint Library was established. The first meeting of the newly created Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament was held on 27 June 1850.
The first meeting of the Joint Committee after Confederation occurred on 11 December 1867. On 14 April 1871, the Library of Parliament Act received Royal Assent. The Act provided for the appointment of a Joint Committee of both the Senate and the House to assist the Speakers in the direction and control of the Library of Parliament. In 1985, the Act was consolidated into the Parliament of Canada Act. The provisions of this Act regarding the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament are essentially the same as those of the 1871 Act.
The Standing Joint Committee met from time to time until 1986, dealing with issues such as staffing, salaries and physical maintenance of the Library building. In 1986, the Joint Committee stopped meetings when references to it were removed from the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. The Rules of the Senate of Canada, however, remained unchanged and still contained a provision for such a committee.
In 1991, the Auditor General of Canada released an audit of the Library of Parliament, noting that the absence of a joint committee meant that “compliance with the Parliament of Canada Act cannot be achieved.” In April 1993, the Standing Committee on House Management released a report entitled Parliamentary Reform. One of its recommendations was to re-establish a joint committee of the Senate and the House of Commons for the Library of Parliament. Changes made to the Standing Orders in January 1994 for the 35th Parliament included a provision for such a committee. On 17 March 1994, the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament met for the first time since its re-establishment. The Committee has remained active since that time.
In recent years, the Joint Committee has held meetings to:
Study the Parliament 2020 project, a comparative project undertaken by five countries that explores how new technologies can be used to improve the parliamentary process, as well as the interaction between parliamentarians and the public;
Approve the nomination of a new Parliamentary Librarian;
Consider strategic and budgetary initiatives being undertaken by the Library of Parliament; and
Consider the Library of Parliament’s estimates;
Discuss the digitalization of parliamentary documents.
Consider the impact on the Library of Parliament of the Closing of Centre Block.
As this is a joint committee, there are committee clerks assigned from both the Senate and the House of Commons and they are referred to as joint clerks. The joint clerks of the joint committee are non-partisan and independent officers who serve all members of the committee and representatives of all parties equally. The joint clerks perform their duties and responsibilities under the direction of the joint committee and the joint Chairs. As experts in the rules of the Senate and the House of Commons, the joint clerks may be requested to give advice to the joint Chairs and members of the committee should a question of procedure arise. The joint clerks coordinate, organize and serve as liaison officers for the joint committee and as such will be in frequent contact with members’ staff.
The committee assistants from the Senate and the House of Commons provide a wide range of specialized administrative services for, in particular, the organization of committee meetings and the publishing of documents on the committees’ website. The committee assistants work with the joint clerks to meet the needs of the joint committee.
The Library of Parliament’s analysts provide authoritative, substantive, and timely research, analysis and information to all members of the Committee. They are part of the Committee’s institutional memory and are a unique resource for parliamentarians. Supported by research librarians, analyst works individually or in multidisciplinary teams.
Analysts can prepare: briefing notes on the subjects being examined; detailed study plans; lists of proposed witnesses; analyses of an issue with a list of suggested questions; background papers; draft reports; news releases; and/or formal correspondence. Analysts with legal training can assist the Committee regarding any substantive issues that may arise during the consideration of bills.
OTHER RESOURCE AVAILABLE TO THE COMMITTEE
The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO)
The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) has a mandate to support Parliament and parliamentarians in holding the government to account for the good stewardship of public resources. The Federal Accountability Act (FedAA) of 2006 mandates the PBO to provide independent analysis to the Senate and to the House of Commons (HOC) regarding the state of the nation’s finances, the government estimates and trends in the national economy.
The enabling legislation also provides the PBO with a mandate to provide analytical support to any committee during its consideration of the estimates, as well as provide advice to any Member of Parliament regarding the financial cost of proposals.