The federal legislative mechanism
Federally, most bills are introduced by cabinet ministers in the
House of Commons. Ordinarily, a bill is given three readings
in the House. The first reading, also referred to as tabling
a bill is given simply to introduce the bill as a piece of
legislation the government intends to enact. Copies of the proposed
bill are distributed and the date for the second reading is set.
Between first and second readings the bill is in limbo, thus allowing
your organization an excellent opportunity to approach Members of
Parliament and the media with your point of view. In their early
stages of learning about the proposed legislation, members welcome
briefs to prepare them for discussion at the next stage.
The second reading is accompanied by debate on the principle and
overall content of the bill. At this time your access to decision-makers
is essential. The bill is then voted on and, if approved, is sent
to a House Committee composed of representatives of all parties,
to be considered clause-by-clause. The committee prepares a report
and submits it to the House of Commons along with any proposed amendments.
These amendments, plus any others moved by any member of Parliament,
are debated and usually voted on.
A motion is then introduced for the bill to be given third reading.
If the bill passes third reading, it is then introduced in the Senate
where it undergoes a similar process. The Senate rarely rejects
a bill, but has been more active in suggesting amendments lately.
After a bill has been approved by both Houses, the Governor General
gives it royal assent.
Legislation is passed through a provincial legislature in much
the same way; legislation is introduced, members vote and the Lieutenant-Governor
gives royal assent. As there is no equivalent to the federal Senate
in the provinces, this procedure is bypassed.
Originally published in Parliamentary
Names & Numbers #7, Spring 1997.
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