Frequently Asked Questions

What are government bills?

Government bills are bills introduced by a Minister of the Crown. These bills are drafted by the Department of Justice on the instructions of Cabinet. They can be introduced in either the Senate or the House of Commons. In the Senate, they are numbered S-1 through S-200, and in the House of Commons, they are numbered C-1 through to C-200.

Although in practice most government bills are introduced in the House of Commons, government bills may be introduced in the Senate. These bills are usually introduced by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, although another Senator typically assumes sponsorship of the bill as it moves through the legislative process.

What are private Members’ bills or Senate public bills?

Private Members’ bills are bills introduced in the House of Commons by individual Members who are not Cabinet ministers. Bills introduced by Senators who are not members of the Ministry are called Senate public bills.

These bills follow the same legislative process as government bills, although their consideration and the time allocated to them is more restricted in the House of Commons.

What are private bills?

Private bills are designed to provide a benefit or exemption to an individual or group from the application of the law, such as a bill to incorporate a private company. A private bill can only be introduced by a Senator or a Member who is not a member of the Cabinet. Private bills are now almost always introduced in the Senate.

How are bills numbered?

When a bill is introduced, it is assigned a number based on its chronological order of introduction in its Chamber of origin. Bills introduced in the Senate start with the letter S, and those introduced in the House of Commons start with the letter C.

Government bills are numbered consecutively from 1 to 200, Senate public bills and private Members’ bills are numbered consecutively from 201 to 1000. Because the House of Commons’ Standing Orders provide that private Members’ bills continue from session to session within a Parliament, their number remains unchanged throughout a Parliament. This only affects bills C-201 to C-1000. (If one of these bills received Royal Assent in a previous session, it will not be displayed in the list of private Members’ bills for the current session.) Private bills, which are now almost always introduced in the Senate, are numbered beginning at 1001.

Before the start of the 39th Parliament in April 2006, bills originating in the Senate were numbered consecutively beginning at S-1, regardless of bill type. To determine the bill type prior to April 2006, please consult the Journals of the Senate or the Senate’s Progress of Legislation document.

How does a bill become a law?

In order for a bill to become a law, it must go through a number of specific stages in both the Senate and the House of Commons. The process in each Chamber is similar.

House of Commons
  • Introduction and First Reading: The bill is introduced after notice is given; it is then assigned a number and printed.
  • Second Reading: The principle of the bill is debated and the bill is referred to a committee for more detailed study. (In the House of Commons, it is possible to refer a bill to committee prior to second reading pursuant to Standing Order 73.)
  • Committee Consideration: After a detailed analysis of the bill, often involving the hearing of witnesses, and a clause-by-clause study, the committee reports the bill back to the House of Commons.
  • Report Stage: The bill, as passed by the committee, is considered by the House and further amendments can be proposed and debated.
  • Third Reading: The bill, as adopted at the report stage, is debated a final time. Debate focuses on the final form of the bill.
  • Passage and Royal Assent: If the bill originated in the House of Commons and is passed at the third reading stage, it is sent to the Senate where it will follow the process described below. If the bill originated in the Senate and has been passed by both chambers in the same form, it is presented for Royal Assent.
Senate
  • Introduction and First Reading: The bill is introduced without notice, given a number and printed.
  • Second Reading: The principle of the bill is debated at second reading and, if it passes, the bill is almost always referred to a committee for more detailed study. (In the Senate, it is possible for a committee to study the subject matter of a bill introduced in the House of Commons prior to introduction in the Senate, pursuant to Rule 74 of the Rules of the Senate. This is referred to as pre-study. The Senate may also refer the subject matter of a bill to a committee before the bill has received second reading.)
  • Committee Stage: The committee studies the bill and reports it back to the Senate.
  • Report Stage: The Senate only considers a bill at report stage if the committee either recommends amendments or that the bill not be further studied. Committee reports on bills that do not propose amendments are deemed adopted by the Senate without a motion.
  • Third Reading: The bill, as amended by the Senate or not, is debated a third time. Debate focuses on the final form of the bill, although amendments to clauses of the bill can also be moved at this stage without the need to return it to committee.
  • Passage and Royal Assent: If the bill originated in the Senate and is passed, it is then sent to the House of Commons where it follows the process described above. If the bill originated in the House of Commons and has been passed by both chambers in the same form, it is presented for Royal Assent.

If either the Senate or the House of Commons amends a bill already passed by the other House, there is an exchange of messages indicating the amendment. Until both Houses agree on the content of the bill, it cannot be presented for Royal Assent.

For additional information on the legislative process, please click on any of the following links:

What is Royal Assent?

When the Senate and the House of Commons have both passed a bill in identical form, the Governor General, or one of his deputies, gives the bill Royal Assent on behalf of the Queen, and it becomes an Act of Parliament, one of the statutes of Canada. Royal Assent can be granted either at a ceremony in the Senate chamber held in the presence of both Houses, or by written declaration that is announced in both Houses.

What does ‘Coming into Force’ mean?

‘Coming into Force’ is the date that the legislation, or part of it, becomes enforceable. Laws can come into force in several ways:

  • Some laws come into force when they receive Royal Assent;
  • Some laws come into force on a day or days specified in the Act; and
  • Some laws come into force on a day or days set by the Governor in Council (the Governor General, on the advice of the federal Cabinet).

What are Bill S-1 and Bill C-1?

Bill S-1 and Bill C-1 are called pro forma bills and are introduced at the beginning of each session for the sole purpose of asserting the right of the Senate and the House of Commons to determine the order of their deliberations, regardless of the reasons for summoning Parliament set out in the Throne Speech. The introduction of a pro forma bill is a practice dating back to before Confederation and that originated in the British House of Commons in 1558. These bills only receive first reading. The bills are normally entitled Bill S-1, An Act relating to Railways and Bill C-1, An Act respecting the Administration of Oaths of Office.

During the Second and Third Sessions of the 40th Parliament, the pro forma bills were printed and posted on the Web site and are included in the statistics generated by LEGISinfo for these two sessions.

What is the House of Commons Daily Order of Business?

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-1-47-41-pm
screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-1-47-51-pm


 

Sources:(1) Parliament of Canada: About Parliament, (2) LEGISinfo Frequently Asked Questions.