Where the Work Gets Done? Functions of Ontario Legislative Committees: A Content Analysis
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There is limited literature examining the functions of Canadian legislative committees as they relate to the creation of public policy. Given the uniquely high level of partisan discipline in Canadian legislatures, it is possible that the political context in which Canadian legislative committees exist make it uniquely difficult for committees to perform the same functions as legislative committees in other nations. Therefore, this study conducts a content analysis of Hansard from 1990 to 2007 to examine the role(s) Ontario legislative committees may play in the development of public policy. The paper hypothesizes that the centralization of power in the Premier’s Office and high level of partisan discipline affects the ability of Ontario committees to affect the development of public policy. The paper searched for instances of the term “committee” in Ontario Hansard documents from 1990 to 2007, a period spanning three governments led by three political parties, and categorized instances in a random sample based on the topic alluded to in each instance of the word’s use. The results indicated that the top two contexts in which committees were mentioned were in the context of altering legislation/motions and consultation. Consultation emerged as a uniquely Canadian committee function that may be related to the high level of partisan discipline in the Ontario legislature, while altering legislation/motions is a function of committees in many legislatures across the world.