Ever since I first read about this gods-awful Motion 3-12 thing I've had a question or two swimming about in my brain; what the heck exactly is a special committee, how long are they going to debate this thing if they get the chance to debate, how can we keep tabs on them while they do it, etc? Now I have answers, which I gladly share with you, in case you also had questions. Let's do this thing!
1) What the heck is a special committe? How is it different from a standing committe? The answers: A special committee is a standing committee, but it only exists for as long as it takes for the committee to submit it's report to the House. Committees are Parliament's way of tackling complex things in a detailed way without bogging down the House. The report submitted to the House at the end of its time may or may not be responeded to by the House, and can contain information and recommendations only. A committee can't tell the House what to do.
2) How long could this take? When the vote is taken late this spring or early next fall (the debate on April 26th is just that, a debate for 2 hours on whether or not to create the committee), if it passes, the committee has 10 months to submit it's findings and recommendations to Parliament. After that the committee is dissolved.
3) Who would be on the committee? At the moment, since we have a Conservative majority, the majority of the members will be from that party, including the Chair, but the Vice-Chair will be from the Official Opposition, the New Democrats. Motion 3-12 spells out the rest for us: that the membership of the special committee consist of twelve members which shall include seven members from the government party, four members from the Official Opposition and one member from the Liberal Party, provided that the Chair shall be from the government party; The good thing here is that the Chair cannot vote unless incase of a tie. The bad thing is that incase of a tie, I think we know which wasy a CON will vote.
4) How do we keep track of the committee if it gets going? Finally some good news! For those of us who REALLY want to keep an eye on the proceedings, we can. The proceedings of each meeting are broadcast live over the internet and sometimes even televised on CPAC . There will also be a committee website (it'd be listed here) where within 10 calender days (not business days) the official Evidence is posted; these are the transcripts from the meeting. The Minutes would also be on the website, and these contain the following:
The Minutes of Proceedings are a
summary of the decisions of the committee for each meeting. They also
contain the time and location of the meeting, whether the meeting was
held in public or in camera,
which Members were present, who presided, the names of witnesses and
their affiliated organizations (if any), the names of all committee
staff members present, and the Orders of Reference that were taken up.
5) Would prochoice or other advocates get any say at all? Why yes, yes we would, IF we're asked for it, which we likely will be. Generally a committee calls witnesses and asks the public for help, which we do by submitting briefs. If M 3-12 passes (and at this point I'm not thinking it will), we can hope the Opposition Vice Chair and others will call for prochoice witnesses, and keep the clerks hopping digging up all that great evidence the ARCC has mentioned, like the multiple Supreme Court cases, the international laws and treaties we'd be breaking, and hopefully dragging the spectre of USA-style abortion politics (with the bombings and shootings and murders) into it as well.