House of Commons Procedure and Practice

Second Edition, 2009

House of Commons Procedure and Practice - 16. The Legislative Process - Contents and Introduction

16. The Legislative Process

Photo of a stone carving


*    Great Britain

*    Canada

Before Confederation

Since Confederation



*    Public Bills

Government Bills

Private Members’ Bills

*    Private Bills



*    Limits on Legislative Action

*    Drafting Bills

Government Bills

Private Members’ Bills

Private Bills

Drafting by a Committee

Other Drafting Characteristics

Bills in Blank or in an Imperfect Shape

Printing and Reprinting of Bills

Clerical Alterations



*    Number

*    Title

*    Preamble

*    Enacting Clause

*    Clause

*    Interpretation Provisions

*    Coming-into-force Provisions

*    Schedules

*    Explanatory Notes

*    Summary

*    Marginal Notes

*    Underlining and Vertical Lines

*    Headings

*    Table of Contents

*    Royal Recommendation



Figure 16.1  The Three Options of the Legislative Process (Government Bills Originating in the House of Commons)

*    Notice of Motion for Leave to Introduce and Placement on the Order Paper

*    Preparation of a Bill by a Committee

*    Introduction and First Reading

*    Reference to Committee Before Second Reading

*    Second Reading and Reference to a Committee

Amendments to the Motion for Reading

*      The Hoist Amendment

*      The Reasoned Amendment

*      Referral of the Subject Matter of a Bill to a Committee

Motions of Instruction

Royal Consent

*    Consideration in Committee

Mandate of the Committee

Role of a Committee on a Bill

Length of Speeches

Hearing of Witnesses

Clause-by-Clause Consideration

*      Order in Which the Elements of the Bill Are Examined

*      Consideration of the Clauses

*      Clauses Allowed to Stand

*      Amendments

*      Order in Which Amendments Are Considered

*      Admissibility of Amendments


*      Putting the Question on Amendments

Adoption of the Bill

*      Leave to Report to the House

*      Reprinting of the Bill

Report to the House

*      Obligation to Report

Private Member’s Public Bill

Abandonment of a Bill

*      Report Containing Inadmissible Amendments

*      Presentation of Report

*    Report Stage

Historical Perspective

Drafting of Motions in Amendment at Report Stage

Notice of Amendment

Amendment as to Form Only

Notice of Royal Recommendation

Admissibility of Motions in Amendment

Power of the Speaker to Select Amendments


Deferral of Recorded Division

Concurrence at Report Stage

*    Third Reading (and Passage)

*    Consideration and Passage by the Senate

*    Passage of Senate Amendments (if any) by the House of Commons

Conference Between the Houses

*    Royal Assent

Royal Assent by Ceremony

Royal Assent by Written Declaration

*    Coming into Force


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)

The examination and enactment of legislation are often regarded as the most significant task of Parliament. It is therefore not surprising that the legislative process occupies a major portion of Parliament’s time.[1] But what exactly is the legislative process? There are those who have defined it as a structured series of actions whereby a legislative proposal is examined, debated, sometimes amended and ultimately either rejected or proclaimed as a statute. Indeed, formal action and consent are required at every parliamentary stage of what is, in fact, a much lengthier process starting with the proposal, formulation and drafting of a bill, normally by extra‑parliamentary governmental bodies.

In the Parliament of Canada, there is a clearly defined method for enacting legislation. This method is based on the examination of bills—formal legislative proposals that have been referred to by one authority as “the exclusive technical form for the exercise of the great functions of Parliament”.[2] A bill must pass through a number of very specific stages in the House of Commons and the Senate before it becomes law. In parliamentary terminology, these stages make up what is called “the legislative process”. The passage of a bill by the House of Commons and the Senate is effectively a request that the Crown proclaim its text as the law of the land. Once it has received Royal Assent, it is transformed from a bill into a statute. Because the process whereby a  legislative proposal becomes first a bill, and then a law, takes place in Parliament, the end product―the statute―is often called an “Act of Parliament”.[3]

Traditionally, the legislative process begins with the introduction of a bill in one of the Houses of Parliament and ends with the granting of Royal Assent, which brings together the three constituent elements of Parliament: the Crown, the Senate and the House of Commons. To these stages of the legislative process some would add the proclamation of the bill when this precedes its coming into force. The process is complex, but its essence is simple—the validation of a statute by way of the approval of the same text by the three constituent elements of Parliament.

This chapter will examine the stages through which a public bill must pass 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.[4]

[1] Tardi, G., The Legal Framework of Government: A Canadian Guide, Aurora, Ontario: Canada Law Book Inc., 1992, p. 122.

[2] Redlich, J., The Procedure of the House of Commons: A Study of its History and Present Form, Vol. I, translated by A.E. Steinthal, New York: AMS Press, 1969 (reprint of 1908 ed.), p. 4.

[3] Stewart, J.B., The Canadian House of Commons: Procedure and Reform, Montreal and London: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1977, p. 79.

[4] For further information on the stages relating to private bills, see Chapter 23, “Private Bills Practice”.

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