The Legislative Process: How We Make Our Laws.

AuthorDavison, Charles
PositionFeature: How We Make Our Laws

Except when something particularly noteworthy occurs--such as the implementation of a radical new law or the defeat of a government over legislation it is trying to get passed--many Canadians are not aware of the details of our legislative process. In this article, I will sketch out an overview of the process by which Canada makes its laws. While I will describe our national Parliamentary process, much the same process is followed at the provincial and territorial levels, and often even at the municipal levels in many communities across the country.

After an election, the party which has won the most seats in the House of Commons is asked to form a government. Upon convening the new Parliament, the Governor General delivers a Throne Speech. Although read by the Queen's representative, the Prime Minister (the leader of the party which won the election) actually writes the Throne Speech. The speech highlights the aspects of the government's election platform which it will now attempt to enact as law. Sometimes, this means:

* enacting new laws to accomplish positive change;

* amending existing laws to bring them into conformity with the values and promises of the party which won the election; and, in some cases,

* repealing old laws completely.

Whatever the expected outcome, the legislative process is essentially the same for each situation.

The Cabinet ministers begin by enlisting the input and assistance of the government's legislative drafters. These persons (often lawyers) are skilled and knowledgeable about the wording and framing of legislation, and begin to write the bills which will ultimately be placed before Parliament. The drafts are circulated and discussed internally within Cabinet until they properly reflect the ideas the government wants to present to the country.

Then, the Minister responsible will present the Bill to the House of Commons (in rare cases, the initial presentation can take place in the Senate) where, after a brief introductory debate, it is considered to have undergone its "first reading". According to the House of Commons website, the term "reading" comes from ancient times when reproducing multiple copies of a bill was difficult and time-consuming. Back then, the Clerk would read the bill out loud at each stage so Parliamentarians knew what they were being asked to consider.

After First Reading, the Bill moves to the "second reading" stage, and this is where it is likely to come under the closest scrutiny. At...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT