Parliament of Canada
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Parliaments and Ministries
Privileges and Immunities
The House of Commons and Its Members
The Physical and Administrative Setting
The Speaker and Other Presiding Officers of the House
The Parliamentary Cycle
Sittings of the House
The Daily Program
The Process of Debate
Rules of Order and Decorum
The Curtailment of Debate
The Legislative Process
Types of Bills
Form of Bills
Structure of Bills
Stages in the Legislative Process
Committees of the Whole House
Private Members’ Business
Private Bills Practice
The Parliamentary Record
House of Commons Procedure and Practice
Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit
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16. The Legislative Process
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ed., p. 502. In June 1984, the Chair ruled that the presence of blanks in a bill introduced by a Member was the result of a printing error, and the House agreed to proceed with second reading (
, June 26, 1984, p. 5139). In January 1987, the Standing Order was cited to argue that a government bill contained two flaws: there was a blank where a parliamentary document number should have appeared, and a memorandum of understanding did not appear. Speaker Fraser ruled that these anomalies did not make the Bill defective under Standing Order 68(3) and directed the Clerk to alter the bill to correct the errors. The Speaker pointed out that such errors would have “to be addressed with regard to their impact on the draft legislation before the House and the consequences that will flow therefrom” (
, January 26, 1987, pp. 2667-9).
ed., pp. 544-5.
On March 12, 1974, Speaker Lamoureux announced the implementation of the numbering system now in effect in the House (
, pp. 31-2). At the beginning of each new session the numbering starts over.
The number C-1 is reserved for the
bill that is traditionally introduced at the beginning of each new session.
For example, Bill C-44 (1998) gives the long title as follows:
An Act to authorize remedial and disciplinary measures in relation to members of certain administrative tribunals, to reorganize and dissolve certain federal agencies and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
. The short title reads:
Administrative Tribunals (Remedial and Disciplinary Measures) Act
See Ruth Sullivan,
Driedger on the Construction of Statutes
ed., Toronto: Butterworths, 1994, pp. 253-8. A growing number of legislative assemblies, including some in Canada, are eliminating the use of long titles (
ed., p. 257, footnote 51).
, R.S.C. 1985, c. I-21, s. 13. Preambles may assist the courts in understanding and construing legislation, and judges sometimes refer to the preamble in writing their judgements (see
ed., pp. 259-63).
, R.S.C. 1985, c. I-21, s. 4.
In English, the practice is to use the expression “clause” until a bill becomes law, after which the expression “section” is used. In French, no such distinction is made and the expression “article” is always used.
While there is no specific rule regarding the content of bills, there must still be a theme of relevancy among the various issues addressed in the bill. Those issues must be relevant to and subject to the umbrella which is raised by the terminology of the long title of the bill. See the ruling of the Chair,
, May 6, 1971, pp. 531-2.
, R.S.C. 1985, c. I-21, s. 15.
ed., pp. 279-84.
See, for example, An Act respecting Employment Insurance in Canada, S.C. 1996, c. 23; Appropriation Act No. 4, 1995-1996, S.C. 1996, c. 4.
See, for example,
Geneva Conventions Act
, S.C. 1990, c. 14.
Members have opposed a bill where the explanatory notes appeared to be insufficient. Speaker Lamoureux has rejected the objection, stating that the Standing Orders do not require that an explanatory note accompany a bill (
, March 29, 1972, pp. 1267-8).
, p. 128.
See, for example,
An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (Reimbursement of Election Expenses)
, S.C. 1996, c. 26.
, R.S.C. 1985, c. I-21, s. 14. Traditionally, the courts have preferred to ignore marginal notes in construing statutes. However, that attitude is changing; in one of its judgements, the Supreme Court relied on marginal notes (see
ed., pp. 273-5).
ed., pp. 268-73.
This requirement is consistent with Standing Order 79(1) and Section 54 of the
Constitution Act, 1867
.The wording is as follows: “His/Her Excellency the Governor General recommends to the House of Commons the appropriation of public revenue under the circumstances, in the manner and for the purposes set out in a measure entitled [long title of the bill]”. See also
Chapter 18, “Financial Procedures”
Standing Order 79(2).
See, for example, Bill C-2,
Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act
(First Session, Thirty-Sixth Parliament, 1997-99).
, p. 81.
, p. 81.
, p. 84.
Standing Order 71. The prohibition on giving more than one reading on the same day appears in the
Rules of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada
(rule 43 in the 1866 version). At Confederation, that text became one of the rules of the new House of Commons of Canada. Standing Order 81(17) and (18) allows for an exemption from the rule requiring three readings on separate days in the case of Supply bills; where those bills are considered on the last allotted day in a Supply period, they must be passed in the same sitting.
An Introduction to the Procedure of the House of Commons
ed., London: MacMillan & Co. Ltd., 1958, pp. 22-3. Although the early
of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom mention the practice of giving a bill three readings on different days, it has never been laid down in the British Standing Orders (
, p. 80).
Before the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, it was not uncommon for a bill to be read four, five or even six times in the House to keep Members informed of its contents as amendments were made. By the end of the reign of Elizabeth I, the practice of adopting a limit of three readings was already established, and each reading was given to fill a specific need. A bill was given first reading in order to inform the House of its contents; this was generally the first the House knew of the purpose of the bill. Second reading gave interested Members a chance to hear the text of the bill again, in order that an informed debate could take place. If the House approved the legislation overall, but felt that amendments were required, the bill could be referred to a committee at this stage. However, it was not necessary or mandatory for a bill to be examined by a committee. The third reading enabled the House to hear the final, official text of the bill, including the amendments passed by the House. See
, pp. 356-61.
Standing Order 72.
ed., pp. 239-40.
, February 7, 1994, pp. 112-8.
This procedure was used at the beginning of the Second Session of the Thirty-Fifth Parliament (see
, March 4, 1996, pp. 34-5, 39-41). A total of 14 government bills and 11 private Members’ bills, which had been introduced during the First Session of the Thirty-Fifth Parliament and had already advanced through certain stages of the legislative process, were reinstated. Bill C-7, respecting controlled drugs and substances, and Bill C-22, respecting the Lester B. Pearson International Airport, which were in the Senate when Parliament was prorogued, were deemed to have been passed at all stages in the House. They were therefore sent directly to the Senate (
, March 6, 1996, p. 51; April 19, 1996, p. 235). See also
Chapter 8, “The Parliamentary Cycle”
Standing Order 86.1. See
, November 30, 1998, pp. 1327-8.
Standing Order 71. For example, Bill C-24,
An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services
, advanced through second reading, consideration in a Committee of the Whole, report and third reading stages on the same day (
, December 2, 1997, pp. 314-9). Although it seems that the usual and correct practice has been to let a day or two go by between the different stages in the consideration of a bill, the House has often agreed, since the First Parliament, to expedite the passage of bills by circumventing the prohibition in the Standing Orders. (See Edward Blake’s remarks in
, June 1, 1886, p. 1732. In the first three parliaments from 1867 to 1878, bills were expedited on 27 occasions.)
In ruling as to the application of this provision of the Standing Orders, successive Speakers have repeatedly observed that it applied to “readings” of bills, and not to the stages of consideration of bills (
, April 15, 1878, pp. 2006-7; April 24, 1878, p. 2157; October 11, 1949, pp. 667-9; February 24, 1969, pp. 5893-4). In February 1969, in response to a point of order questioning whether a bill could be read the third time on the day when it passed the report stage, Speaker Lamoureux reiterated that the report stage is not a reading. He pointed out that Standing Order 72 (now Standing Order 71) “always prevails. If there has been a previous reading in that sitting there cannot be a subsequent reading on the same day” (
, February 24, 1969, pp. 738-9) unless, of course, the House decides otherwise.
ed., p. 540.
In 1997, a Member rose on a question of privilege in regard to the matter of introducing government public bills in the Senate. The Speaker ruled that this question could not be regarded as a question of privilege since the Standing Orders of the House allow for bills to be brought down from the Senate (
, October 9, 1997, pp. 732-5).
Standing Order 54. For further information on notice requirements, see
Chapter 12, “The Process of Debate”
Chapter 23, “Private Bills Practice”
Standing Order 54. A Member who wants to introduce a private Member’s bill must ensure that no other Member has already given notice of a bill that is so similar as to be substantially the same. If that has already occurred, the Member could support that bill by asking to be added as “seconder”. Up to 20 Members may jointly second a private Member’s bill (Standing Order 86(3), (4) and (5)).
Standing Order 68(4), (5), (6), (7) and (8).
On April 19, 1994, pursuant to a motion moved by a Minister, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs was instructed to prepare and bring in a bill respecting the system of readjusting the boundaries of electoral districts for the House of Commons (
, p. 363). A few months later, the Committee presented a report to the House which included the text of a draft bill (
, November 25, 1994, p. 8299). Bill C-69,
An Act to provide for the establishment of electoral boundaries commissions and the readjustment of electoral boundaries
, was given first reading on February 16, 1995 (
, p. 1141). The bill was passed by the House on April 25, 1995 (
, pp. 1368-9) but was not passed by the Senate.
On October 30, 1997, pursuant to a motion by a private Member, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights was instructed to prepare and bring in a bill, before May 15, 1998, to amend those sections of the Criminal Code which deal with impaired driving (
, pp. 174-5). On May 15, 1998, the Committee presented a report to the House in which it explained to the House that it was unable to meet the deadline and accordingly the matter was postponed until the fall (
, p. 7067). On October 22, 1998, the Committee presented another report to the House containing an overview of its activities for the coming months and a commitment to complete its work by May 15, 1999, at the latest (
, pp. 9304-5). On May 25, 1999, the Committee presented a report to the House containing a draft bill (
, p. 1905).
Standing Order 54(1).
Standing Order 68(4)(
Standing Order 86(2).
Standing Order 68(4)(
). See also
Chapter 21, “Private Members’ Business”
Standing Order 68(6).
Standing Order 68(7)(
Standing Order 88.