The Committee Process: Platform for Participation or Political Theatre?


  • Cara Faith Zwibel



In Canada’s parliamentary democracy, the government controls the legislative agenda. At least in the case of a majority government, government bills tabled in the House of Commons will ultimately become the law of the land. While the passage of legislation emanating from the government may appear inevitable, the system is structured to provide multiple opportunities to debate and discuss legislative proposals. The process of making law provides some avenues to test and question legislative initiatives, particularly those that may appear inconsistent with Canada’s Constitution; lawmaking may also provide opportunities to ensure that the voices of Canadians — not all of whom feel represented by the government or their Members of Parliament (MPs) — are heard.

Unfortunately, while some of these changes and many others are worthy of study and consideration, there is little evidence of any political will to reform the way our committees function. As a result, we are likely to continue to see political and partisan dramas play out before our committees and will have to look to different venues for meaningful participation and debate.