Form of a Private Bill

The form of a private bill is the same as that of a public bill with the exception that it must have a preamble concluding with the following enacting formula:

Whereas (the person/corporation named) has by its petition prayed that it be enacted as hereinafter set forth and it is expedient to grant the prayer of the said petition: Therefore Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and the House of Commons, enacts, as follows:72

In addition to the above wording, the preamble spells out in detail the reasons the person or corporation wishes to have a private bill enacted. While in some instances the preamble is short and straightforward,73 most preambles are lengthy and may include a history of the corporation concerned.74

During the first 20 years of Confederation, private bills were drafted in a haphazard way. Members of the House of Commons and the committees to which private bills stood referred complained frequently that private bills were not uniformly framed and often contained provisions which committees had objected to in other private bills. In response to these complaints, the House adopted, in 1883, a recommendation from the Select Standing Committee on Railways, Canals and Telegraph Lines, and the Select Standing Committee on Banking and Commerce. It stated that any private acts of incorporation should include specific clauses from the general act relating to such bills.75 In 1887, after further study by a special committee, a model bill was drawn up to which all bills of incorporation had to conform.76

The Standing Orders stipulate that any bill for an act of incorporation must conform with a model bill, which can be obtained from the Clerk of the House.77 The objective is to ensure that all pertinent information is made available. Any provisions in the proposed bill which are not in accord with the model bill must be inserted between brackets or underlined.78 When a private bill amends an existing act, the new text must be underlined and the existing text printed in the right-hand page opposite the proposed text.79 When a private bill proposes to repeal certain clauses or sections of an existing act, these clauses or sections must be printed opposite the repealing clause.80 A brief explanatory note giving the reasons for any clause of an unusual nature or which differs from the model bill clauses must be printed opposite the clause in the bill.81 Finally, if the purpose of the bill is to confirm an agreement, a verified copy of the agreement must be attached.82

If the promoter of any private bill decides to present the bill first in the House of Commons, he or she should meet with a legislative counsel of the House who can assist in the drafting of the bill in accordance with the rules and practices of the House.83 The legislative counsel can also advise the committee examining the private bill of any of its provisions which are at variance with the general law and of any unusual provisions deserving special attention.