Bills sponsored by private Members fall into two categories: public bills and private bills. Public bills deal with matters of public policy under federal jurisdiction, whereas private bills concern matters of a private or special interest to specific corporations and individuals and are far less common.
Private Members’ bills may be debated only during the hour set aside for Private Members’ Business, which is governed by the provisions of Chapter XI of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons.
A private Member’s bill is typically drafted with the assistance of Parliamentary Counsel (Legislation) employed by the House, who ensure that it conforms to statutory law (including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) and all relevant drafting conventions.
In drafting private Members’ bills, Parliamentary Counsel (Legislation) act on a Member’s clear, written instructions as to the purposes and objectives of the proposed legislation and ensure that the draft bill is acceptable in terms of its form and content. Members can also receive assistance from staff of the Library of Parliament to perform substantive legal or policy research that will enable them to develop their legislative proposals.
When completed, a private Member’s bill is certified by Parliamentary Counsel (Legislation) and then sent to the Member who can introduce it in the House when he or she sees fit, after giving 48 hours’ written notice.
There is a constitutional requirement that bills proposing the expenditure of public funds must include a royal recommendation, which can be obtained only by the Crown. A private Member may introduce a public bill containing provisions requiring the expenditure of public funds provided that a royal recommendation is obtained by a Minister before the bill is read a third time and passed. Only a Minister can introduce bills that impose taxes. However, private Members’ bills that reduce taxes, reduce the scope of a tax, or impose or increase an exemption from taxation are acceptable.
Once a bill has been drafted, the Member must give 48 hours’ written notice of his or her intention to introduce it, indicating the committee to which it will be referred following second reading. After the 48-hour notice period has expired, the bill may be introduced during Routine Proceedings and given first reading whenever the Member is ready to proceed.
If a Member submits notice of a bill that is judged to be substantially the same as an item already dealt with in the same session, the Speaker has the discretionary power to refuse the most recent notice, pursuant to Standing Order 86(4).
A Member who would like to show support for a bill already appearing on the Order Paper by seconding it may notify the Clerk of the House in writing (Standing Order 86(2)) before its introduction in the House. The names of the Members wishing to support the bill will be added to the list of seconders on the Order Paper.