House of Commons Procedure and Practice
Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit
2000 EditionMore information …
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16. The Legislative Process

The average man, bewildered and overpowered by the thousands of laws and regulations which press in upon him and increasingly restrict his freedom, his right to make decisions, would be left absolutely defenceless without an active parliament with the strength and vitality which it must possess.

G.W. Baldwin, m.p. (Peace River)
(Debates, December 10, 1968, p. 3791)


he examination and enactment of legislation are often regarded as the most significant task of Parliament. It is therefore not surprising that the legislative process takes up a major portion of Parliament’s time. [1]  But what exactly is the legislative process? There are those who have defined it as a series of actions leading to the proclamation of a statute. The parliamentary stages that are the subject of this chapter are the final links in a much longer process that starts with the proposal, formulation and drafting of a bill, normally by extra-parliamentary bodies.

In the Parliament of Canada, as in all legislative assemblies based on the British model, there is a clearly defined method for enacting legislation. A bill must go through a number of very specific stages in the House of Commons and the Senate before it becomes law. In parliamentary jargon, these stages make up what is called the legislative process. When the House of Commons and the Senate pass a bill, they are asking the Crown to proclaim that this text is the law of the land. Once Royal Assent is given to the bill, it is transformed from a bill to a statute. Because the process by which a legislative proposal becomes first a bill, and then a law, takes place in Parliament, the product — the statute — is often called an “Act of Parliament”. [2] 

Traditionally, the process begins with a bill being introduced in one of the Houses of Parliament and ends with the ceremony of Royal Assent, which brings together the three constituent elements of Parliament: the Crown, the Senate and the House of Commons. The process is complex, but the validation of a statute is the result of the approval of the same text by the three constituent elements of Parliament.

This chapter will examine the stages that a public bill must go through before becoming law. Private bills follow essentially the same stages, but they must be initiated by a petition and are subject to certain special rules. [3]

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