Private bills differ from public bills by their intent, content and method of passage. A private bill relates directly to the affairs of an individual or group of individuals and seeks something that cannot be obtained by means of the general law. A private bill may confer special powers or benefits upon one or more persons or body of persons or exclude one or more persons or body of persons from the general application of a law and is founded on a petition from these persons.
Private bills can originate in either the House of Commons or the Senate, although most originate in the Senate where the fees and charges imposed on the promoter are smaller. Today, private legislation accounts for only a small percentage of House business.
Private bills are subject to special rules in both Houses of Parliament. While private bills must pass through the basic stages common to all legislation, they must also meet certain parliamentary requirements that distinguish them procedurally from all other types of bills. A petition must be filed with the Clerk of Petitions, who certifies that the bill conforms to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons and the practices of the House as to form and content. Notice of the bill must be published in the Canada Gazette.
Once the petition for a private bill has been received, an official of the House, acting as the Examiner of Petitions for Private Bills, examines it to ensure that the requirements have been met regarding notice of the bill, which is published in the Canada Gazette.
If the petition is found to be in any way deficient, it is referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for further examination before it can be considered by the House. Following first reading, it is ordered for second reading and must proceed through the regular stages of the legislative process.
Four fundamental principles underlie and define private bill procedure as set out in the Standing Orders and the procedural authorities: