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Law - Legislative Process Research

This guide has been prepared to assist with legislative process research.

Legislative Process

Before a federal/provincial proposed bill is introduced, a policy decision has been made that legislation is necessary. This may be by way of new legislation or an amendment to existing legislation.

A policy decision may come about in different ways, including:

  • based on a government background paper
  • based on a research report commissioned by a Ministry
  • based on a law reform commission report advocating change
  • as a result of a court case pointing to deficiencies in existing legislation
  • as a result of public pressure from an interest group

Once the policy decision has been made, the sponsoring Minister prepares a submission to Cabinet, advocating the introduction of a Bill. Once Cabinet gives approval, the Bill is drafted by Legislative Counsel.

How a Bill Becomes an Act:

Provincial Bills

Before a provincial Bill becomes an Act and effective law, it must pass three Readings in the Legislature.

  • 1st Reading - the formal introduction of a Bill to the Legislature
    At First Reading, there is usually little comment made about the Bill.
  • 2nd Reading - discussion of the principle or 'legislative intent' behind the Bill.
    The Second reading Debate can be an important source for determining the government policy initiative behind a Bill.
  • Committee Stage - a Legislative Committee studies the Bill, giving it clause by clause detailed consideration. The Committee may or may not prepare a Report on the Bill.
  • 3rd Reading - final reading of a Bill; there is often no debate at Third Reading.
  • Royal Assent - formal approval given to a Bill by the Queen's representative (Lieutenant Governor) after passing Third Reading.

As soon as a Bill receives Royal Assent, it becomes an Act and is assigned a chapter number for inclusion in the Statutes volumes. Once a Bill has become an Act, it should no longer be referred to by Bill number.

BC's legislative process is explained in:
Nash, Legislation Made Easy, 3d ed.
LAW LIBRARY reference room & KOERNER LIBRARY reference: JL430 .N37 2010
- See Progress of Bills (Acts) and Progress of Regulations.

Differences Between the Provincial & Federal Legislative Process

  • Provincial Bills must pass 3 readings in the Legislature
  • Federal Bills must pass 3 readings in both the House of Commons and the Senate before they receive Royal Assent and become Acts
  • Most federal Bills begin in the House of Commons, pass 3 readings, then move to the Senate for 3 readings; however, a few Bills begin in the Senate, pass 3 readings, then move to the House of Commons for 3 readings

A federal Bill's origin is indicated by the letter prefix in front of the Bill number: 
C- (House of Commons Bill) or S- (Senate bill).

For further explanation there is an excellent guide to the federal Legislative Process.