Understanding Statutes: The Process of a Bill

AuthorSusan Barker, Erica Anderson
chapter two
Understanding Statutes: e Process of a Bi
Canada is a parliamentary democracy.1 e power to create laws is out-
lined in the Constitution2 and is shared by the federal Parliament of
Canada, ten provincial legislatures, and three territorial governments.
Representative members of Parliament (MPs), elected at the federal
level, appointed federal senators, and members of provincial or ter-
ritorial legislatures3 create the laws for their respective jurisdictions.
1 Parliament of Canada, House of Commons, Compendium of Procedure, “Parlia-
mentary Framework,” online: www.parl.gc.ca/About/House/Compendium/web-
2 Constitution Act, 1867 (UK), 30 & 31 Victoria, c 3, reprinted in RSC 1985, Appendix
II, No 5.
3 Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, Members of the Legislative Assembly
(MLA); Legislative Assembly of Alberta, Members of the Legislative Assem-
bly (MLA); Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan, Members of the Legislative
Assembly (MLA); Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, Members of the Legislative
Assembly (MLA); Legislative Assembly of Ontario, Members of Provincial Par-
liament (MPP); ebec National Assembly, Members of the National Assembly
(MNA); Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick, Members of the Legislative
Assembly (MLA); Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia, Members of the Legis-
lative Assembly (MLA); Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island, Mem-
bers of the Legislative Assembly (MLA); Newfoundland and Labrador House
of Assembly, Members of the House of Assembly (MHA); Yukon Legislative
Assembly, Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA); Legislative Assembly of
Chapter Two: Understanding Statutes: The Process of a Bill 37
As a constitutional monarchy, the een (through her represent-
atives the Governor General and provincial Lieutenant Governors) is
the formal head of state and exercises formal executive authority by
being referenced in most actions of government, giving royal assent
to acts of Parliament, and summoning and dissolving Parliaments.4
Parliament and legislatures are regulated by the Constitution and
they have their own wrien rules, known as standing orders or rules
to conduct their business.5 ey also foow the tradition, conven-
tions, and customs of the Westminster style of Parliament.
e parliamentary calendar begins with the opening of a Parliament
aer an election. Parliament opens when the Governor General sum-
mons the Parliament (or the Lieutenant Governor summons the legisla-
ture) with a series of proclamations; the process includes the swearing
in of new members and the election of a Speaker. Parliaments have
been numbered sequentiay since Confederation and each parliament
contains approximately one to seven sessions. Each session is opened
with the Speech from the rone, read by the een’s representative,
which generay sets out the government’s policy views and indicates
the topics of legislation that the government wants to bring forward
in the coming session.
A Parliament is divided into sessions. A session contains various
breaks or adjournments when the House is not in session. e House
governs its own adjournments and siings, but the House must go
to the Crown to prorogue (terminate) a session or dissolve and end a
the Northwest Territories, Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA); Legisla-
tive Assembly of Nunavut, Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA).
4 Eugene A Forsey, How Canadians Govern emselves (Oawa: Government of
Canada, 1980), online: Parliament of Canada hps://lop.parl.ca/About/Parliament/
5 Parliament of Canada, House of Commons, “Standing Orders of the House of
Commons,” online: www.parl.gc.ca/about/house/standingorders/toc-e.htm;
Parliament of Canada, Senate of Canada, “Rules of the Senate,” online: hps://
38 Researching Legislative Intent
Prorogation is the natural end to a session in Parliament and
causes the members to be released from their duties of the House. It
also ends a business of Parliament; bis and motions that have not
passed are said to have “died on the order paper”; commiees end
their business and may not meet until a new session begins. Proroga-
tion provides for a fresh start for business in a new session. However,
Cabinet and members may choose to reintroduce bis that “died” in
the previous session at the start of the next session6 and the House
may also choose to pass motions authorizing commiees to meet
notwithstanding prorogation.7
Dissolution ends a Parliament and sets the next general election
in motion. Dissolution is a prerogative of the Crown, normay on
the advice of the prime minister or premier. e dissolution process
requires governments to issue a series of proclamations that release
members and senators from their duties, to issue writs for a general
election, and to set the date for the next Parliament. At dissolution, a
business of the Parliament ends.8
Making law is arguably the most important work of Parliaments and
legislatures. Acts of Parliament, sometimes caed “Acts” and more
commonly known as statutes, lay out the broad principles of the law
that aect citizens’ rights and benets in their respective jurisdic-
tions. A statutes must be approved by Parliament to become law;
this activity is known as the legislative process. Aer a statute has
been given royal assent and proclaimed, and under the authority of
a statute, administrative regulations and statutory instruments may
be created by the responsible ministry or government body.
e standing orders for each Parliament or legislature regulate
the proceedings and describe the process of making laws in that
6 Marc Bosc & André Gagnon, “House of Commons Procedure and Practice, ird
Edition, 2017,” online: www.ourcommons.ca/About/ProcedureAndPractice
7 Ibid.
8 Ibid.

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