The examination and enactment of legislation are key constitutional functions of the Legislative Assembly. This primary law-making function is derived from the Constitution Act, 1867 (previously known as the British North America Act, 1867), and is also referenced in the provincial Constitution Act (R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 66, s. 17), which empowers the Lieutenant Governor to make laws by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly in and for British Columbia, subject to the Constitution Act, 1867.
Proposed legislation is presented in a document called a “bill.” The Member who introduces a bill is known as the bill’s “sponsor.” It is an undisputable right of all Members of the Legislative Assembly to have their views put before the Assembly in the form of a bill.
Members spend a considerable portion of time during sittings of the Legislative Assembly studying and debating bills. They explore arguments for and against each bill, and consider the views and concerns of British Columbians prior to deciding to support, amend or reject the bill.
It is an undisputable right of all Members of the Legislative Assembly to have their views put before the Assembly in the form of a bill.
A bill must pass through a number of stages before it becomes a law. This process begins with the introduction of a bill in the Legislative Assembly and ends with the granting of Royal Assent, at which point the bill becomes an act. The provincial Interpretation Act (R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 238, s. 1) provides that an act “means an Act of the Legislature, whether referred to as a statute, code or by any other name, and, when referring to past legislation, includes an ordinance or proclamation made before 1871, that has the force of the law.”
The Legislature of British Columbia has two components: the Legislative Assembly and the Sovereign, represented by the Lieutenant Governor. The first clause of a bill 228 is preceded by an enacting clause, as provided in the provincial Interpretation Act (s. 10): “Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of British Columbia, enacts as follows….” The enacting clause is an essential part of a bill, for it states the authority under which it is enacted. Approval of a bill in the same form is required by both the Legislative Assembly and the Lieutenant Governor prior to a bill becoming a law.
This chapter outlines the types of bills, the typical structure of a bill, the stages of consideration that a bill must pass as it makes its way through the legislative process, applications for accelerated consideration of a bill, and other related matters.
Figure 10-1: Steps of the Legislative Process
10.2Types of Bills
All bills may be divided into two major classes: public and private. Private bills are discussed in Chapter 16 (Private Bills).
A public bill relates to a matter of public policy and is usually general in its application and character. Typically, the first object of a public bill is to alter the general law or to enact new proposals of general application. Such bills may enact a new law or may amend an existing law. Public bills can be initiated by a Minister (Member of the Executive Council, or the Government) or by a Private Member. If passed, a public bill applies to everyone throughout the province in accordance with its terms.229
A public bill introduced by a Minister is known as a government bill, which is reflective of government policy. Government bills are numbered from 1 to 200; the numbering is reset to 1 at the beginning of every Session. Numbering is assigned in the manner determined by the government. Therefore, government bills are not necessarily introduced sequentially according to their numbering. In practice, government bills are introduced by a message from the Lieutenant Governor for reasons noted in section 10.2.1.1, and thus may also be referred to as “message bills.”
STANDING ORDER 76
Any Bill affecting the Constitution must be introduced by a Member of the Government or with the sanction of the Government.
Standing Order 76 requires that any bill that proposes to amend the provincial Constitution Act be introduced by a Minister. In the past, Speakers have ruled Private Members’ bills out of order on the provision of Standing Order 76 (see B.C. Journals, April 2, 1969, p. 229; October 17, 1953, p. 73; October 1, 1953, p. 32).
The provincial Constitution Act (ss. 46, 47) sets out that:
46 The Lieutenant Governor may transmit, by message to the Legislative Assembly, the draft of any law that appears to the Lieutenant Governor desirable to introduce, and all drafts must be taken into consideration by the Legislative Assembly in a manner provided by the rules and orders.
47 The Legislative Assembly must not originate or pass any vote, resolution, address or Bill for the appropriation of any part of the consolidated revenue fund, or of any tax or impost, to any purpose that has not been first recommended by a message of the Lieutenant Governor to the Legislative Assembly during the session in which the vote, resolution, address or Bill is proposed.
Standing Orders 66 and 67 mirror section 47 of the provincial Constitution Act, setting out that any bills involving taxation or expenditure of public money must be introduced by message from the Crown. This necessity flows from section 54 of the Constitution Act, 1867, and its application to the provinces is extended pursuant to section 90. Other Canadian and Commonwealth jurisdictions refer to this as the “Royal Recommendation.” Message bills are important to the financial procedures of the Legislative Assembly, further outlined in Chapter 12 (Financial Procedures).230
Upon the presentation of a government bill by message, the recommendation of the Lieutenant Governor is read by the Speaker and is then printed in the Votes and Proceedings.
10.2.1.2 Bill 1 — Pro Forma Bill
At the opening of every Session of a Parliament, immediately after the Lieutenant Governor retires from the Chamber after delivering the Speech from the Throne, a Minister, usually the Attorney General, introduces Bill 1, An Act to Ensure the Supremacy of Parliament (in the past, the bill has also been called An Act to Perpetuate a Parliamentary Right). The bill is not introduced by message. In the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, this practice is recorded in the Journals on two occasions in the mid-1970s and was solidified in 1978. This bill, known as a pro forma bill, affirms the independence of the Legislative Assembly from the Crown to conduct its proceedings and to legislate, regardless of the reasons stated in the Speech from the Throne for convening the Assembly. As noted in the bill (see Bill 1 — 2019, Fourth Session, 41st Parliament):
This Act to Ensure the Supremacy of Parliament is an important part of our democratic process. The purpose of this Bill, and its introduction prior to consideration of the Throne Speech, is to perpetuate the established right of Parliament, through its elected representatives, to sit and act without leave from the Crown.
This Bill simply asserts the right of the Legislative Assembly to give precedence to matters other than those expressed by the Sovereign.
Introducing it at this point in the opening proceedings of this Legislative Assembly is a tradition that dates back to the reign of Elizabeth I when, on March 22, 1603, Parliament first recorded this assertion of independence from the Crown for purposes of legislation.
As is common in other Commonwealth jurisdictions, after introduction and first reading, the pro forma bill is not proceeded with further and is not subject to debate.
Supply bills deal with the budgetary appropriation process, which is outlined in greater detail in Chapter 12 (Financial Procedures). Supply bills may be categorized as:
1. Interim supply, which authorizes expenditure of a portion of the budget while the budgetary estimates are under consideration.
2. Final supply, which authorizes expenditure of the total of the budgetary estimates, including the amount included in any interim supply act.
3. Supplementary supply, which authorizes the expenditure of estimates over and above the amount contained in the Main Estimates.231
Interim supply bills provide for an appropriation required by government to conduct its activities from April 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, to the date when the Legislative Assembly is anticipated to have completed its final supply process. This typically covers a period of two months, though a longer period of time may be required during an election year.
Final and supplementary supply bills are unique in that they enact an appropriation pursuant to a resolution of the Committee of Supply. As the details of expenditure have been determined in the Committee of Supply, the passage of the bill is considered an administrative act. The bill is not subject to debate and may not be amended, except to correct a drafting or typographical error. Furthermore, Standing Order 81 does not apply to final and supplementary supply bills, so as to limit the number of stages the bill may pass through in one day. Further information is provided in section 10.11.5.
10.2.1.4Bills to Amend a Number of Miscellaneous Statutes
Government bills entitled Miscellaneous Statute Amendment Act are introduced regularly in the Legislative Assembly, and are not considered omnibus bills, as they do not seek to amend, repeal or enact several acts within a single bill. Even though such bills usually amend a number of acts that may fall within the area of responsibility of several Ministers, they are introduced by the Attorney General. By convention, such bills are typically limited to making minor amendments to numerous acts (see A Guide to Legislation and Legislative Process in British Columbia (August 2013) – Part 2: Principles of Legislative Drafting, pp. 16-7).
10.2.1.5Bill Resulting from Initiative Petition
Pursuant to the Recall and Initiative Act (R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 398), a registered voter in British Columbia may submit an application for an initiative petition, which may result in the introduction of a bill in the Legislative Assembly. The legislative proposal may be the creation of a new law or an amendment to an existing law over which the Legislative Assembly has authority. In Canada, this initiative legislation is unique to British Columbia.
A registered voter in British Columbia may submit an application for an initiative petition, which may result in the introduction of a bill in the Legislative Assembly. In Canada, this initiative legislation is unique to British Columbia.
In submitting an application for consideration to the Chief Electoral Officer under the Recall and Initiative Act, the applicant must, amongst other requirements, provide a copy of a draft bill for introduction in the Legislative Assembly. Once the application is approved by the Chief Electoral Officer, the applicant must then collect signatures from 10 percent of the registered voters in each of the province’s electoral districts within 90 days for the initiative petition to succeed.232
If the applicant is successful in fulfilling the requirements of the Recall and Initiative Act, the Chief Electoral Officer must send a copy of the petition and draft bill to the Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives, pursuant to section 10 of the Act. In accordance with section 11 of the Act, the Committee may recommend that the Chief Electoral Officer hold an initiative vote under the Act, or it may table a report in the Legislative Assembly recommending that the draft bill be introduced at the earliest opportunity.
Pursuant to section 12 of the Recall and Initiative Act:
12 If the select standing committee tables a report recommending that the draft Bill be introduced at the earliest practicable opportunity in the Legislative Assembly, the government must
(a) introduce the Bill at the earliest practicable opportunity, or
(b) if the Bill is for the appropriation of any part of the consolidated revenue fund or of any tax or impost,
(i)request the Lieutenant Governor to recommend the Bill by a message in accordance with sections 46 and 47 of the Constitution Act to the Legislative Assembly, and
(ii)introduce the Bill at the earliest practicable opportunity.
Therefore, under the provisions of the Recall and Initiative Act, a government bill may be introduced not necessarily as a reflection of government policy but as a reflection of public will. There has only been one successful initiative petition in British Columbia, which resulted in an initiative vote in 2011.
10.2.2Private Members’ Bills
A public bill introduced by Members who are not a Member of the Executive Council (Cabinet) is known formally as a Public Bill in the Hands of a Private Member, but it is more commonly referred to as a Private Member’s bill. Private Members’ bills are required to be introduced with two days’ notice, pursuant to Standing Order 48(1). Once introduced, Private Members’ bills are numbered from M 201 to M 400; the numbering is reset to M 201 at the beginning of every Session. Unlike government bills, Private Members’ bills are assigned a number sequentially in the order that they are introduced in the Legislative Assembly.
Private Members’ bills may seek to amend an act or create a new one. These bills are subject to numerous restrictions on the matters that they may address, as outlined below.
In the Legislative Assembly, it has been the practice to permit proponents of Private Members’ bills to make a brief statement on second reading before a ruling on the bill, but the Speaker has the right to decide at any time whether the bill conforms to the rules set out in statute and in the Standing Orders. In British Columbia and in other 233 jurisdictions, the practice is to have the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly or the Law Clerk examine such bills after introduction and first reading, with a view to report to the Speaker as to whether a bill conforms to the rules. Any bill which does not conform to the rules would then be withdrawn by the Member or ruled out of order by the Speaker when second reading is called, and before any debate thereon.
A public bill introduced by Members who are not a Member of the Executive Council (Cabinet) is known formally as a Public Bill in the Hands of a Private Member, but it is more commonly referred to as a Private Member’s bill.
Speaker Barisoff noted the following in a statement on Private Members’ bills (B.C. Journals, October 23, 2007, p. 130):
There appears to be some uncertainty in relation to the longstanding practice of debates on Public Bills in the Hands of Private Members. Such bills have strict limitations procedurally and, in this regard, I refer Members to Standing Order 67 and the considerable body of jurisprudence emanating from this Standing Order.
Public Bills in the Hands of Private Members have on innumerable occasions been introduced and permitted to proceed to second reading, notwithstanding such bills may have a flaw preventing the adoption of the measure. As purely a matter of courtesy, the proponents of such bills have been permitted to speak briefly to second reading outlining the thrust of such a bill, but on a point of order being raised, or in the absence of a point of order being raised, it is the Speaker’s duty to advise the Members that the Bill in the Hands of a Private Member, cannot proceed further and the bill is accordingly ruled out of order. Members will understand that it would be totally inappropriate for the Chair to allow a bill to proceed to a vote on second reading, when the bill itself contained a fatal flaw as prescribed in our Standing Orders and innumerable Speakers’ rulings in this House.
Many jurisdictions in the Commonwealth do not even permit such a bill to proceed beyond first reading and such bills are removed from the Order Paper after introduction. No opportunity to speak to second reading is provided. The practice of this House has been somewhat more benign and as I stated earlier, the proponents of such flawed bills, as a matter of pure courtesy, have been permitted a limited time to speak on second reading before the bill is ruled out of order.
The Chair is prepared to continue this practice, as long as the Members clearly understand that a Bill in the Hands of a Private Member which does not conform to the well established rules of this House cannot proceed to a vote. As there are several grounds on which a Public Bill in the Hands of a Private Member may be out of order, sponsors of such bills may wish to
check with the Clerks before second reading to see if their bill contains one of the flaws which would prevent the bill from moving forward.
Let it be clear, however, that it is the Speaker and the Speaker alone who has been given the authority and responsibility to rule a bill out of order on procedural grounds.
10.2.2.1Restrictions on Matters Addressed in Private Members’ Bills
Access to the Crown is a collective privilege of the Legislative Assembly, exercised through the Speaker. Ministers enjoy access to the Crown by virtue of their appointment to the Executive Council. Individual Private Members do not enjoy access to the Crown. Therefore, the matters which Private Members can introduce by way of a bill in the Legislative Assembly are very limited constitutionally, as Private Members are unable to obtain a Royal Recommendation in order to introduce a bill by message.
The practical effect of section 47 of the provincial Constitution Act and Standing Order 67 is that only Ministers may introduce any measures that involve the appropriation of public revenue or the introduction of any tax or impost that may be properly considered by the Legislative Assembly. Further information on the Legislative Assembly’s role in appropriations and taxation is outlined in Chapter 12 (Financial Procedures).
Standing Order 76 requires bills that affect the provincial Constitution Act to be introduced by a Minister. Furthermore, Speakers have ruled that, in keeping with a longstanding convention, Private Members’ bills cannot touch upon the prerogatives of the Crown (see decision of Speaker Barisoff, B.C. Journals, February 27, 2006, p. 26).
10.2.3Speaker Cannot Sever Bills
Given the vast nature and scope of certain bills, Members have previously made appeals to the Speaker to sever a single bill into separate bills. In a decision on this matter, Speaker Barnes noted the following (B.C. Journals, July 10, 1995, pp. 152-3):
On the second point raised by the Honourable Member asking the Chair to divide Section 21 of Bill No. 55 from the rest of that Bill, it appears to the Chair that while the Speaker may, on the application of a Member, divide a motion containing two distinct and separate propositions (May, 16th edition, page 412), I have considerable doubt whether or not the practice in respect of motions that extend itself into a practice in respect of bills. In similar circumstances, Speaker Jerome, House of Commons (Ottawa), Journals, May 11, 1977, at page 5522 stated in referring to a previous decision:
His decision is crystal clear, and there can be no doubt that a motion containing two or more substantive provisions is quite distinct from a procedural motion or a motion which is generally described as having only the effect of dealing with the progress of a bill. The use of the omnibus amending bill is well enshrined in our practice. Nor can I find any authority which would support an order of the Chair at this second reading stage that the bill be divided.
In any event, even if there existed any foundation for the Chair to intervene, the Honourable Member’s application to the Chair for an order of severance ought to have been made before completion of proceedings on second reading of the Bill.
Objections similar to that of the Honourable Member for West Vancouver–Garibaldi have frequently been made in this House as well as in other jurisdictions to so-called ‘omnibus bills’ containing within them numerous distinct principles relating to different statutes, but such objections have been consistently rejected essentially on the grounds that in committee stage the sections of the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Bills have, by practice, been treated as if each section in itself constitutes a separate bill.
It is the House, and not the Speaker, that must determine the content and form of omnibus bills if the longstanding practices of the House relating thereto are to be altered or abandoned.
Speaker Hartley upheld Speaker Barnes’s decision that the Speaker does not have authority to sever a bill (see B.C. Journals, April 2, 2000, p. 19).
10.3Formation and Drafting of Bills
Former practice in the Legislative Assembly permitted a bill to be introduced in blank form, which was a “dummy bill” bearing the title and names of Members supporting the bill. Standing Order 75 no longer permits this practice, and Speakers have had to consider the question of actual content and form to determine whether a bill as presented offends Standing Order 75.
It is a significant undertaking to ensure that bills are drafted using proper form and language, taking into account the effect of the bill on other laws or regulations, and to ensure that the intent of the bill is clear to other Members of the Legislative Assembly, as well as to the public, to those who administer the law, to law enforcement officials and to judges.
STANDING ORDER 75
No Bill may be introduced either in blank or imperfect shape.
As noted in House of Commons Procedure and Practice: “A bill in blank or in an imperfect shape is a bill which has only a title, or the drafting of which has not been completed” (3rd ed., p. 734). On one occasion in British Columbia, Speaker Shantz held that explanations or comments printed on the reverse of a bill, as submitted to the Legislative Assembly, did not constitute a bill in “blank or imperfect shape” (see B.C. Journals, March 18 and 20, 1959, pp. 209, 225). However, other authorities have concluded that argumentative material is not permitted, even on a memorandum accompanying a bill (see Erskine May, 21st ed., p. 470), and therefore such material would be even more 236 offensive if printed on the bill itself. The current practice in the Legislative Assembly is for a short explanatory statement to be delivered by the bill’s sponsor on introduction of the bill, further outlined in section 10.4.1.
Several interesting points have been considered by Speakers in relation to this procedural rule. Standing Order 68(3) in the House of Commons of Canada is identical to Standing Order 75 in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. A point of order pertaining to the House of Commons Standing Order was raised at second reading of a bill, when a Member argued that the bill being considered incorporated, by reference, certain provisions of other statutes, which were still before a parliamentary committee. Speaker Lamoureux ruled as follows (House of Commons (Canada) Hansard, April 20, 1970, pp. 6047-8):
The hon. member for South Shore (Mr. Crouse), with the support of some of his colleagues, has suggested that the bill now before the House is imperfect in its form because its enactment in perfect form is dependent on the adoption of two other bills which are, at one stage or another, currently before the House.…
The point made by the hon. member for South Shore and other hon. members to the left of the Chair who have taken part in this debate in an interesting one and the argument is not without merit. If it has a fault, it is that it might be premature. In my view, I think I have to assume that if the bill receives second reading and is referred to committee, it would then be considered by a committee of the House along with the other two bills and it would be at the third reading stage that the argument could be presented with much more force and at that point should be considered very seriously.
I have every possible sympathy with the view expressed by the hon. member for South Shore and the hon. member for Edmonton West (Mr. Lambert). As the hon. member for Peace River (Mr. Baldwin) has pointed out, the adoption of this kind of procedure might lead us to rather extreme situations. Because of this I would suggest that the argument, if circumstances are such that the bill is still dependent at that stage on the adoption of other bills in statute form, might be brought up again and it would be considered by the Chair.
Generally speaking, my conclusion would be that the interesting point is perhaps premature. I would suggest that the House proceed with the consideration of the bill and if on third reading we are still in the position where we are being asked to adopt a bill which is dependent on the adoption of other bills, the terms of which are still uncertain, then the matter might be considered by the Chair.
10.3.1Drafting of Government Bills
The provincial government dedicates a significant amount of time and resources to the preparation, drafting and production of bills. The process begins with the preparation 237 of a policy direction that falls within the scope of a particular ministry or provincial jurisdiction broadly. Once a policy initiative has been approved by a Minister after the required policy groundwork, the proposal will be eventually presented to a Cabinet committee.
As noted in A Guide to Legislation and Legislative Process in British Columbia (August 2013) — Part 1: The Legislative Process:
If a ministry wishes to proceed with a legislative proposal that has been approved by a Cabinet committee, it will prepare a formal Cabinet submission known as a Request for Legislation (‘RFL’). An RFL must provide a thorough analysis of the issue and demonstrate a clear understanding of the proposed solution and its potential effects. (p. 3).
A report outlining these considerations is included in a Minister’s submission to a Cabinet committee, and the committee will then make a recommendation to Cabinet. If Cabinet approves proceeding with the policy initiative, drafting of a bill begins.
Government bills are drafted by lawyers who specialize in legislative drafting in the Office of Legislative Counsel within the Government of British Columbia. These public servants ensure that bills are drafted in an appropriate manner, in accordance with modern legislative drafting standards and required formatting. Once a bill has gone through the necessary drafting and editing stages, it is presented to a Cabinet committee. It is then up to the committee to recommend the bill to Cabinet, who will provide final approval prior to the bill’s introduction in the Legislative Assembly.
10.3.2Drafting of Private Members’ Bills
In drafting a Private Member’s bill, Members can request the assistance of the Law Clerk, who will help ensure that the bill is drafted using proper language and formatting. Members may wish to seek the opinion of the Law Clerk on the bill’s constitutionality prior to its introduction in the Legislative Assembly. Since 2017, the Office of Legislative Counsel within the Government of British Columbia has also provided legislative drafting services to Members to assist with the drafting of Private Members’ bills and amendments to all bills.
10.4Stages of Consideration of a Bill by the Legislative Assembly
In keeping with the Westminster parliamentary system, bills presented in the Legislative Assembly must proceed through three readings and committee consideration prior to being presented to the Lieutenant Governor for Royal Assent. Bills go through “readings” because, long before literacy was common and the printing press was in general use, handwritten bills were read aloud three times to Members by a Clerk at the Table in the early history of Parliament at Westminster.238
The stages of consideration that a bill must go through in the Legislative Assembly are:
Not debatable and not amendable
1. First reading
Debatable and amendable
2. Second reading
3. Committee stage
4. Report stage (the practice in B.C. is not to debate this stage)
5. Third reading
Once a bill passes through these stages in the Legislative Assembly, it must also receive Royal Assent before becoming a law. A distinction may be drawn between “stages” of a bill and “readings.” There are three readings required for each bill, but there are several stages that a bill must pass through before becoming law, which include committee stage, report stage and Royal Assent.
STANDING ORDER 81
Every Bill shall receive three readings, on different days, prior to being passed. After the second reading it shall be ordered for committal on a subsequent day. On urgent or extraordinary occasions, a Bill may be read twice or thrice, or advanced two or more stages in one day.
In usual circumstances, in accordance with the Standing Orders, the stages of consideration of a bill are proceeded with on different sitting days, in order to provide Members time to examine the bill and seek input from their constituents and stakeholders. The latter provision of Standing Order 81 is addressed in section 10.11.
The custom in the Legislative Assembly has been for debate on bills to primarily take place at second reading (principle of the bill) and committee stage (detailed consideration of the bill).
The custom in the Legislative Assembly has been for debate on bills to primarily take place at second reading (principle of the bill) and committee stage (detailed consideration of the bill). The practice in B.C. has been for limited debate to take place at third reading of a bill. Third reading is the final decisive stage of consideration of a bill by the Legislative Assembly.239
10.4.1Introduction and First Reading
At every sitting of the Legislative Assembly, a Clerk at the Table will call “Introduction of Bills” during Routine Business (see Standing Order 25). When a Member wishing to introduce a bill is recognized by the Speaker, the Member will introduce the bill by stating its title, pursuant to Standing Order 74, and briefly outlining its purpose, as provided for in Practice Recommendation 5.
STANDING ORDER 74
Every Bill shall be introduced upon motion specifying the title of the Bill.
PRACTICE RECOMMENDATION 5
Permit a statement not to exceed 2 minutes by the Member in charge of introduction of a Bill to explain its purpose. No further debate shall be permitted at this stage.
The purpose of introduction and first reading of bills is for the Legislative Assembly to agree to an order allowing the bill to be introduced, so that it may be printed and distributed to all Members and be made available to the public. Introduction and first reading are a single formal stage and are taken together. Upon the introduction and first reading of a bill in the Legislative Assembly, the bill formally enters the legislative process.
10.4.1.1Introduction of a Bill by Message
Government bills are introduced by a Minister presenting a message — i.e., the Lieutenant Governor formally recommends the consideration of the bill to the Legislative Assembly, consistent with Standing Orders 66 and 67. While typically introduced when “Introduction of Bills” is called during Routine Business, government bills brought forward by message may be introduced at any time, as long as it takes place during a break in the proceedings (see B.C. Journals, July 13, 1998, pp. 135-6).
10.4.1.2Introduction of a Bill by Notice
Government bills not introduced by message and all Private Members’ bills must be introduced with two days’ notice, pursuant to Standing Order 48(1). Further information on notices is outlined in Chapter 9 (Motions).240
10.4.1.3Motion Moved upon the Introduction of a Bill
STANDING ORDER 78
When a Bill is presented by a Member, the question, “That this Bill be NOW read a first time,” shall be decided without amendment or debate.
Apart from the short introductory statement provided for in Practice Recommendation 5 to simply explain the bill’s purpose, the motion for first reading of a bill is not subject to amendment or debate, pursuant to Standing Order 78 (see decision of Speaker Brown, House of Commons (U.K.) Hansard, November 12, 1946, vol. 430, c. 3). A Speaker has held that even points of order should not be raised on this motion but should instead be raised after first reading (see decision of Speaker Whittaker, B.C. Journals, November 17, 1939, pp. 39-40).
The motion for first reading of a bill provides the Legislative Assembly with a first opportunity to decide whether it wishes to consider a bill. As the bill has not yet been distributed to Members at this point, this determination is based on the information provided in the explanatory statement made by the sponsor of the bill. While rare, a motion for introduction and first reading may be subject to a division call (standing vote) and may be negatived (see B.C. Journals, June 26, 2017, pp. 17-8).
If the motion for first reading of a bill is adopted, the bill’s sponsor will subsequently move that the bill be placed on the Order Paper for second reading. Although a division may be called, this second motion is purely procedural and is not subject to amendment or debate (see statement of Speaker Barisoff, B.C. Journals, March 30, 2010, p. 36).
10.4.1.4Introduction Not in Order — Same Matter in Same Session
STANDING ORDER 77
A Bill having been negatived shall not be again introduced in the same Session.
If a bill introduced is substantially the same as a previous bill upon which the Legislative Assembly has expressed its judgment in the same Session, it will be found out of order (see decision of Speaker Jones, B.C. Journals, March 19, 1930, p. 167; see also Erskine May, 25th ed., §28.17, pp. 634-6). However, if a bill has been withdrawn after having made progress, another bill with the same objects may be proceeded with (see Erskine May, 25th ed., §28.17, pp. 634-6).
If debate on a bill results in a dropped order, the bill’s consideration by the Legislative Assembly may be revived upon the Assembly adopting a motion to that effect. Further information on dropped orders is outlined in Chapter 5 (Sitting Days and Business).241
10.4.1.5Administrative Procedures Following Introduction of a Bill
STANDING ORDER 87
It shall be the duty of the Law Clerk of the House to revise all Bills after their first reading, and to certify thereon that the same are correct; and in every subsequent stage of such Bills the Law Clerk shall be responsible for the correctness of Bills, should they be amended.
Standing Order 87 charges the Law Clerk with the revision of bills after first reading, to certify their correctness. This typically refers to form and legal aspects of the bill.
STANDING ORDER 88
Whenever it is desired to amend a section or subsection in either a Public or Private Act, by deleting, substituting, or adding words to the said section or subsection, the whole or material part of the said section or subsection should be repealed and re-enacted as it is intended it should be read, unless the sense of the amendment be more plainly manifested by a simple deletion, substitution, or addition; and it shall be the duty of the Law Clerk to alter any Bill after its introduction, so as to comply with this rule, before the second reading thereof.
Standing Order 88 complements Standing Order 87, and provides the types of revisions that are in order for the Law Clerk to make to a bill after first reading. In practice in the Legislative Assembly, the Law Clerk’s power of “deletion, substitution or addition” is used sparingly, and is intended to permit the Law Clerk to make “surgical” modifications to bills, limited to correction of printing, simple grammatical corrections or other patent errors.
Second reading stage consideration of a bill provides Members with an opportunity to debate the bill’s general principles and objectives. “The second reading is the first important stage through which the bill is required to pass; its whole principle is at issue, and is affirmed or denied by the House” (Erskine May, 25th ed., §28.45, p. 647). Second reading debate takes place when it is called by the Government House Leader under the Orders of the Day, and is not confined to a single sitting; it often takes place over the course of several sittings, depending on the length and subject matter of the bill.242
STANDING ORDER 79
No Bill shall be read a second time until it has been printed and distributed, and has been subsequently marked on the Orders of the Day — thus, PRINTED (signifying that it has been printed and distributed).
Pursuant to Standing Order 79, a motion for second reading of a bill is out of order unless the bill has been printed and distributed, which results in the notation “PRINTED” appearing next to the bill’s title on the Orders of the Day (the Order Paper).
Government bills are distributed in printed form immediately after introduction. Thus, they are designated as “PRINTED” on the Order Paper.
Second reading stage consideration of a bill provides Members with an opportunity to debate the bill’s general principles and objectives.
Private Members’ bills are only printed after review by the Law Clerk, in accordance with Standing Orders 87 and 88. They are placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading, and until they are printed, they are designated as “NOT PRINTED” on the Order Paper. While a bill is so designated, it cannot be called for second reading, as it is not yet in a form to be reviewed by all Members.
10.4.2.1Amendments on Order Paper — No Effect on Second Reading Consideration of a Bill
Notice may be given by the sponsor of a bill, or any other Member, of the intention to propose amendments to a bill at committee consideration, when amendments affecting specific provisions or clauses of a bill are considered. Such proposed amendments are published on the Order Paper until they are disposed of in committee.
Upon a point of order being raised by a Member that consideration of a bill at second reading is inappropriate given that a number of amendments to the bill appeared on the Order Paper, Speaker Smith ruled “that the motion for second reading of the bill should be proceeded with and that any question as to inadmissibility of amendments would be a question for committee on the bill, when and if such amendments be moved” (B.C. Journals, June 14, 1978, p. 120). This is consistent with the purpose of second reading debate, which provides an opportunity for Members to consider the bill’s general principles and objectives.243
10.4.2.2Conclusion of Debate at Second Reading
STANDING ORDER 83
Subject to Standing Order 78A, every Bill shall be read twice in the House before committal or amendment.
Typically, when no further Members wish to speak on debate on a bill at second reading, the mover of the motion for second reading may speak to close the debate, after which debate is concluded, and the Speaker puts the question on the motion. If the motion for second reading is adopted, the sponsor of the bill moves the bill’s committal to a committee. Notice of this committal motion is not required. It is also not subject to amendment or debate, as it is administrative in nature (see decision of Speaker Barisoff, B.C. Journals, April 27, 2010, p. 56). If the motion is negatived, the bill is rejected and subsequently no longer appears on the Order Paper.
10.4.3Second Reading — Motions to Amend a Bill
At second reading stage consideration, the following three motions in amendment to a bill may be moved, all of which are debatable:
1. Six months’ hoist.
2. Reasoned amendment.
3. Referral of the subject matter of the bill to a parliamentary committee.
All three motions are available to be put before the Legislative Assembly for consideration at second reading and at third reading debate.
The intent of these motions is dilatory in nature. If passed, the adoption of any of the three possible types of motions listed above would effectively reject the bill and remove it from the Legislative Assembly’s consideration, with the exception of the third option (further explained below).
In earlier years, other more dramatic methods were used, as described in Erskine May:
A motion that a bill be rejected, formerly not uncommon, is not now consistent with established practice.
In more recent times bills were treated with even greater ignominy. On 21 January 1562 a bill was rejected and ordered to be torn; so, also, on 17 March 1620 Sir Edward Coke moved “to have the bill torn in the House”; and it is entered that the bill was accordingly “rejected and torn, without one negative.” Even so later as 3 June 1772 the Lords having amended a money clause in the Corn Bill, Governor Pownall moved that the bill be rejected, which motion being seconded, the Speaker said “that he would do his part of the business, and toss the bill over the Table.” The bill was rejected, and the Speaker, according to his promise, threw it over the Table, “several Members on both sides of the question kicking it as they went out”. (20th ed., p. 530).
10.4.3.1Six Months’ Hoist Amendment
The objective of a hoist amendment is to critically postpone the consideration of the bill at second or third reading, with the intent that the delay will be fatal to the bill as a result of prorogation or dissolution. While flexibility is accorded to the duration of the delay in other Commonwealth jurisdictions, the practice in B.C. since the late 1800s (when three-month hoist amendments were last used) has been to postpone the reading for six months. As noted in Erskine May:
A traditional way of opposing the second reading of a bill is to move an amendment to the question, by leaving out the word “now” and adding the words “upon this day six (or three) months.”… The acceptance by the House of such an amendment being tantamount to the rejection of the bill, if the session extends beyond the period of postponement, a bill which has been ordered to be read a second time upon that day “six (or three) months” is not replaced upon the notice paper of the House. (21st ed., p. 474).
If a hoist amendment is adopted, the bill is deemed withdrawn from the Order Paper for the remainder of the Session in which it was presented (see House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd ed., pp. 751-3).
A hoist amendment may be moved without notice, and is not subject to subamendment (see decision of Speaker Davidson, B.C. Journals, October 5, 1983, p. 214; see also Beauchesne, 6th ed., §669, p. 200). Debate on a hoist amendment may be adjourned, and takes precedence over the question on second or third reading of the bill (depending on the stage at which the amendment is introduced), until the amendment motion is disposed of.
If a hoist amendment is negatived, debate on the motion for second reading of the bill continues until the motion is disposed of (if the amendment was introduced at second reading).
Only one hoist amendment may be moved at second and at third reading of a bill.
Speaker Davidson found that if a hoist amendment was previously negatived, the Legislative Assembly made a determination that the word “now” would stand as part of the question before the Assembly, and that a second dilatory motion to the same effect is out of order (see B.C. Journals, September 29, 1983, p. 193).
In the House of Commons of Canada, “Attempts to apply the hoist amendment to a resolution or to include it in the text of a reasoned amendment have been ruled out of order by the Chair” (House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd ed., p. 753). Beauchesne reinforces that a six months’ hoist and a reasoned amendment cannot be moved in the same motion (6th ed., §667(1), p. 200).245
10.4.3.1.1Form of Six Months’ Hoist Amendment
A hoist amendment moved by a Member will typically be as follows: “I move that the motion for second (or third) reading of bill (bill number) intituled (name of bill) be amended by deleting the word ‘now’ and substituting ‘six months hence.’”
A reasoned amendment may be moved by a Member who desires to place their particular reasons for opposing the second or third reading of a bill on the record as part of the motion. The motion presented by the Member deletes and replaces all the words in the main motion on second or third reading of the bill after the word “that,” and adds other subsequent words (see Erskine May, 25th ed., §§28.46-28.48, pp. 648-50; see also B.C. Votes and Proceedings, March 26, 2019, p. 2; B.C. Journals, May 13, 2002, p. 115). A reasoned amendment must relate strictly to the bill in question (see decisions of Speaker Davidson, B.C. Journals, September 28, 1983, pp. 187-8).
As outlined in House of Commons Procedure and Practice:
Today, a reasoned amendment generally takes the form of a proposal that the House decline to give a bill second reading, for a specific reason. The reasons put forward fall into two broad categories:
- the reasoned affirmation of a principle adverse to or differing from the principles, policy or provisions of the bill; or
- an opinion as to any circumstances connected with the introduction or consideration of the bill, or with any other initiative opposed to its progress.
For a reasoned amendment to be in order, it must observe the following rules:
- It must be strictly relevant to the bill being considered. A reasoned amendment is irrelevant, for example, if it relates to another bill, is intended to divide the bill, proposes that the bill be withdrawn and replaced by another bill, relates to the parent Act rather than the amending bill, goes beyond the scope of the bill, or involves the expenditure of funds or proposes changes that exceed the scope of the royal recommendation.
- It must not be a direct negation on the principle of the bill. The procedure to be followed when a Member does not agree with the principle of a bill and wants to reject it is simply to vote against the motion at second reading of the bill.
- It must not relate to particulars of the bill if what is sought may be accomplished by amendments in committee.
- It must not attach a condition to the adoption of the second or third reading motion.
A reasoned amendment which is merely a statement of opposition to portions of the bill is not admissible. On the other hand, a reasoned amendment need not necessarily oppose the principle of the bill in order to be admissible. (3rd ed., pp. 754-5).
If a reasoned amendment is adopted, no further consideration of the bill takes place (see Erskine May, 25th ed., §28.47, p. 649), and the bill is consequently removed from the Order Paper. If a reasoned amendment is negatived, debate on the motion for second or third reading of the bill continues until the motion is disposed of.
A reasoned amendment may be moved without notice. It is not subject to subamendment (see decisions of Speaker Davidson, B.C. Journals, September 22, 1983, p. 170). Debate on a reasoned amendment may be adjourned, and takes precedence over the motion for second or third reading of the bill (depending on the stage at which the amendment is introduced), until the amendment motion is disposed of.
Only one reasoned amendment may be moved at second and at third reading of a bill (see Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 320; Erskine May, 25th ed., §28.48, pp. 649-50).
A reasoned amendment and a six months’ hoist amendment cannot be moved in the same motion (see Beauchesne, 6th ed., §667(1), p. 200). A reasoned amendment cannot oppose the principle of a bill and also refer its subject matter to a committee; it must do one or the other (see Beauchesne, 6th ed., §667(2), p. 200).
10.4.3.2.1Form of Reasoned Amendment
A reasoned amendment moved by a Member may be as follows: “I move that the motion for second (or third) reading of bill (bill number) intituled (name of bill) be amended by deleting all the words after ‘that’ and substituting therefore the following: (text).”
10.4.3.3Referral of the Subject Matter of a Bill to a Parliamentary Committee
A motion to refer the subject matter of a bill to a parliamentary committee may not always be dilatory in nature (the use of such a substantive motion is outlined in section 10.5). When used as a dilatory tactic, the Member’s motion would propose that the bill be withdrawn and that its subject matter be referred to a parliamentary committee for consideration. The effect of the motion in amendment is to delete all the words in the main motion for second or third reading of the bill after the word “that,” replacing them with “the subject matter of this bill be referred to the Select Standing Committee on (committee name) for consideration and report” (see B.C. Journals, March 16, 1961, p. 132).
An amendment to refer the subject matter of a bill to a parliamentary committee cannot refer any parts of the bill itself for study by the committee (see Beauchesne, 6th ed., §674(1), p. 201). It is not in order to use such a dilatory motion to refer the subject matter of a bill to a Committee of the Whole (see Beauchesne, 6th ed., §675(2), p. 202). Furthermore, the subject matter of a bill cannot be referred to a parliamentary committee that has not yet been appointed (see Beauchesne, 6th ed., §675(1), p. 202).247
As noted in House of Commons Procedure and Practice:
Certain conditions must be met, however, for this type of amendment to be in order. First, the subject matter of the bill may be referred neither to more than one committee nor to a non-existent body. Second, an amendment that would attach a condition to the adoption of the motion for reading of a bill is out of order. Third, the actual provisions of the bill may not be referred to a committee since this would amount to instructing the committee to consider certain provisions of a bill even before it has been read a second time and referred to a committee. (3rd ed., p. 756).
If an amendment to refer the subject matter of a bill to a parliamentary committee is adopted, the committee to which the matter was referred conducts a study accordingly. As with any terms of reference for a committee, unless the motion adopted by the Legislative Assembly specifies a deadline for reporting the committee’s findings to the Assembly, the committee may do so within its own time frame.
If an amendment to refer the subject matter of a bill to a parliamentary committee is negatived, debate on the motion for second or third reading of the bill continues until the motion is disposed of.
An amendment to refer the subject matter of a bill to a parliamentary committee may be moved without notice, and is not subject to subamendment. Until the motion is disposed of, debate on the amendment may be adjourned, and takes precedence over the main motion for second or third reading of the bill (depending on the stage at which the amendment is introduced).
Only one amendment to refer the subject matter of a bill to a parliamentary committee may be moved at second and at third reading of any bill (see decision of Speaker Shantz, B.C. Journals, March 16, 1961, p. 133; see also Bourinot, 4th ed., p. 320).
As noted in a decision of Speaker Shantz: “The House cannot both refuse to give the Bill second reading and refer some provisions of the Bill to a committee…” (B.C. Journals, March 16, 1961, p. 132). Therefore, it is not in order to move a motion to refer the subject matter of a bill to committee and to oppose its principle by way of a reasoned amendment (see Beauchesne, 6th ed., §667(2), p. 200).
10.4.3.3.1Form of Motion in Amendment to Refer Subject Matter of a Bill to a Parliamentary Committee
An amendment moved by a Member to refer the subject matter of a bill to a parliamentary committee may be as follows: “I move that the motion for second (or third) reading of bill (bill number) intituled (name of bill) be amended by deleting all the words after ‘that’ and substituting therefore the following: ‘Bill (bill number) intituled (name of bill) not be read a second (or third) time now, but that the subject matter be referred to the Select Standing Committee/Special Committee on (name of committee) [and further that (text of any further details, if applicable)].’”248
10.4.4Committal of a Bill — Consideration in Committee
The term “committal of a bill” refers to the act of sending it to a committee for examination. A committal carries with it the power to amend, whereas a referral is for the purpose of obtaining an opinion or observation. In B.C., the practice has been for all public bills to be considered by a Committee of the Whole. This differs from many other Commonwealth jurisdictions, where public bills are considered by a parliamentary committee, where witnesses are invited to provide information to help with the committee’s in-depth consideration of a bill. Further information on Committees of the Whole and their procedures is outlined in Chapter 11 (Committees of the Whole).
The term “committal of a bill” refers to the act of sending it to a committee for examination. A committal carries with it the power to amend, whereas a referral is for the purpose of obtaining an opinion or observation.
At committee consideration, the bill is examined in detail, on a clause-by-clause basis (bills have clauses, and acts have sections). The committee stage debate is not an opportunity to re-examine arguments relating to the principles of the bill, which are canvassed at second reading debate.
As all Members are part of a Committee of the Whole, they all have a right to ask questions at committee stage. Questions are typically only answered by the sponsor of the bill. Questions tend to be detailed and at times technical in nature, allowing Members to gain a better understanding of the meaning and purpose of each clause. Committee consideration of a bill can last from a few hours to several days, depending on the content and complexity of the bill.
STANDING ORDER 84
(1) In proceedings upon Bills in Committee of the Whole, every clause shall be considered by the Committee in its proper order, with the preamble and title being considered last.
(2) Any clause may be postponed but shall be taken up before the Bill has been reported to the House.
As set out in Standing Order 84, clauses are dealt with in the order set out in the bill but may be postponed until later — i.e., debate and a subsequent vote are postponed, or stood down. Standing Order 84(2) simply requires the postponed clause to be considered before the consideration of the bill is reported to the Legislative Assembly. Therefore, the committee could report progress on a bill after having deferred a clause, and return to that clause any time before consideration of the bill is reported complete.249
In considering clauses, the Chair will simply ask whether a clause carries — called “putting the question” — without a motion to that effect being put. After all clauses have been examined, consideration is then given to any schedules included in the bill. The preamble, if any, and then the title, are dealt with last. A request for the preamble or title to be recorded as adopted “on division” is permissible, as is a division call (standing vote). Any part of a bill being considered in committee at the time that the Chair puts the question can be adopted “on division” or be subject to a division call.
10.4.4.1Amendments at Committee Consideration
The function of a committee on a bill is to go through the text of the bill clause by clause and, if necessary, word by word, with a view to accepting the bill as committed or making amendments to it as may seem likely to render it more generally acceptable (see Erskine May, 25th ed., §28.80, p. 666).
The granting or enacting words of a bill (the enacting clause) are to be distinguished from the preamble. The former are never submitted to the committee and are therefore not subject to amendment (see decision of Speaker Irwin, B.C. Journals, March 30, 1954, pp. 87-8).
Amendments to a clause of a bill are moved at committee stage. “Amendments may be made in every part of a bill, whether in the title, preamble, clauses or schedules; clauses may be omitted; new clauses and schedules may be added” (Beauchesne, 6th ed., §694, p. 206). Amendments may be proposed in committee without notice. However, the recommended practice, particularly with lengthy or technical amendments, is to give notice to allow Members the opportunity to review the proposed text (see decision of Deputy Speaker Chouhan, B.C. Journals, November 23, 2017, p. 70).
Amendments to a clause of a bill are moved at committee stage.
Amendments to a specific clause must be strictly relevant to the clause under consideration. Generally speaking, amendments in committee are not in order if such amendments would have the effect of nullifying the principle of the bill, as agreed to at second reading (see Erskine May, 25th ed., §28.80, p. 666). There are, however, several ways in which a committee on a bill may effectively put an end to a bill, as noted in Erskine May:
A bill cannot be withdrawn in committee, for this requires the leave of the House, a Committee of the whole House can indirectly achieve this object by reporting progress, without asking leave to sit again, and so putting an end to its existence or by agreeing to a motion “That the occupant of the Chair do now leave the Chair”.… This course is equivalent to refusing to proceed with the bill. Again, notwithstanding the rule which forbids the moving of an amendment which is destructive to the principle of the bill, there is nothing to prevent a committee from negativing a clause or clauses, the omission of which may nullify or destroy the bill, and reporting the bill, as amended, to the House; a committee may also negative every clause of
which the bill is composed, and substitute for those clauses new clauses, if within the scope of the bill as read a second time, and otherwise in order. (25th ed., §28.80, p. 666).
There are certain rules of admissibility relating to amendments. The fact that an amendment is drafted in proper legal form does not necessarily guarantee that it is procedurally in order. If a point of order is raised, the Chair is responsible for ruling on the admissibility of amendments. An amendment is inadmissible if it:
1. Is irrelevant or beyond the scope of the bill.
2. Alters the principle of the bill, as agreed to at second reading.
3. Destroys the effect of clauses already agreed to by the committee.
4. Purports to amend acts not related to the bill.
5. Renders the clause unintelligible.
6. Amounts to a direct negative of the clause.
7. Imposes a charge, extends its object, or proposes or alters, or qualifies the destination of grants (these amendments are available to the government to introduce by message).
8. Purports to delete a clause (a clause should instead be voted against).
9. Is frivolous.
10. Amends the preamble in absence of an amendment to a clause in the bill (see B.C. Journals, April 20, 1995, p. 31).
11. Amends an agreement attached to a bill to confirm an agreement (see decision of Deputy Speaker Hartley, B.C. Journals, January 14, 1999, pp. 189-90, further outlined below; see also Erskine May, 25th ed., §28.107, p. 684).
As reinforced in a decision of Deputy Speaker Chouhan (B.C. Journals, November 23, 2017, p. 70):
The Table and the Chair are available to review amendments from the floor of the House and to determine their admissibility as required. I should note that the Chair cannot rule on an amendment until it has been moved. It has been the longstanding practice in British Columbia that Members have been permitted to move and speak to amendments prior to the Chair ruling.
Amendments may be ruled out of order on the basis of form, content — if they are beyond the scope of the bill — or if they impose a charge if in the hands of a Private Member.
10.4.4.2Limitation on Amendments to a Bill to Confirm an Agreement
Bills to confirm agreements, such as treaties, customarily have the agreement attached as a schedule, and include provisions necessary to perfect the agreement. The agreement or treaty is not amendable, as it is already in existence. For example, during the Legislative Assembly’s consideration at committee stage of a bill to enact the Nisga’a Final Agreement Act, Deputy Speaker Hartley, the Committee Chair, made the following statement (B.C. Journals, January 14, 1999, pp. 189-90):
Today we are embarking on the Committee Stage of Bill No. 51, a Bill to approve and give effect to the final agreement made between the Nisga’a, the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia. I wish to take this opportunity, in light of the unique form of the Bill, to comment on the process to be used in Committee debate.
The Bill would approve the final agreement which is attached as a Schedule and enacts ancillary legislation to conform with various aspects of the agreement. Similar types of bills have been passed at various times by the Canadian Parliament (the Canada-USA Free Trade Agreement 1988) and by the U.K. Parliament (the Irish Free State Constitution Bill 1922, the Ottawa Agreements Bill 1932, the British North America Act 1949, the Canada Act 1982). In all of these instances, the Committee Chair had to consider the appropriate format and process for amendments to the Bill.
It is a Crown prerogative to make agreements. The role of Parliament is to debate, accept, reject or amend the Bill but, subject to technical amendments, it cannot amend the Agreement.
On a proposed motion to amend the Agreement during the Free-Trade Agreement debate in the Canadian House of Commons in 1988, the Speaker ruled as follows:
I wish to remind the Member that treaty-making power is within the prerogative of the Crown and, therefore, the Agreement itself cannot be amended.
In Beauchesne’s 5th edition, citation 778, it is stated:
When a bill is introduced to give effect to an Agreement and the Agreement is scheduled to the bill as a completed document, amendments cannot be made to the schedule. An amendment to the clauses of the bill for the purpose of withholding legislative effect from the document contained in the schedule is in order; also as are amendments to those clauses which deal with matters not determined by the document contained in the schedule.
In the case at hand, the Chair will not accept amendments to the Schedule other than purely technical amendments to ensure the Schedule contains the correct text. The Chair will not accept amendments to sections of the Bill which have the effect of amending the Schedule, but will accept amendments to sections of the Bill that are relevant and otherwise in order.
It seems to the Chair that section 3 of the Bill embodies the operative portion of the Bill and accordingly, by way of example, amendments which would have the effect of withholding legislative effect might, if otherwise in order, be moved to that section.
It is to be remembered that the committee stage of a Bill does not provide an opportunity to recanvass all the arguments which were applicable at second reading where the principle of the Bill was under debate. During committee stage, debate must be strictly confined to the section which is before the Committee, likewise, debate on proposed amendments must be strictly relevant to the amendment as proposed. The Agreement, while not amendable, except as provided above, will be open to debate when the Schedule is called, subject to the observations made with respect to section 3.
These findings were further upheld by the Chair of a committee examining another agreement bill (see B.C. Journals, October 29, 2007, p. 135).
After committee stage is completed, the bill is reported to the Legislative Assembly as
a. complete without amendment, or
b. complete with amendment.
This is known as report stage of the bill. In other Commonwealth jurisdictions, bills reported from parliamentary committees are debatable and are subject to amendment in the House. In the Legislative Assembly, debate is permitted on the report stage of a bill pursuant to Standing Order 85; however, the longstanding practice in the Assembly has been for debate to not be entertained at this stage. The reason for this practice is that all bills considered in committee are typically considered by a Committee of the Whole, as opposed to a parliamentary committee, where only a limited number of Members would have an opportunity to participate in the debate. As noted in Beauchesne, report stage “is intended to be an opportunity for Members who were not members of the committee to propose specific amendments not dealt with by the committee” (6th ed., §714, p. 211). This notion is reinforced in the Standing Orders of the House of Commons (Canada), where Standing Order 76.1(12) stipulates: “The consideration of the report stage of a bill from a Committee of the Whole shall be received and forthwith disposed of, without amendment or debate.” [Emphasis added.]
Given that all Members of the Legislative Assembly have a right to participate in a Committee of the Whole on a bill, the practice in British Columbia has been for debate and proposed amendments to be dealt with during committee proceedings. It would be difficult for Members to engage in debate at report stage that would not duplicate the debate permitted in committee or anticipate debate on the third reading of the bill. No parliamentary opportunity to debate the contents of the bill is lost, simply because it has not been the practice in B.C. to debate at report stage.253
After the presentation of the report on a bill from a Committee of the Whole, its adoption is not moved, as is done in other Commonwealth jurisdictions. Rather, in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, the report of the committee is deemed to be adopted, and the question before the Assembly at that juncture is third reading of the bill.
When a committee reports a bill complete without amendment, the practice in B.C. has been to proceed to third reading of the bill immediately, as permitted in Standing Order 85.
When a committee reports a bill complete with amendment, the report bill is reprinted in redline form, showing deletions as struck out and additions as underlined. This is consistent with Standing Order 80, which stipulates that a bill cannot be proceeded with further until it has been reprinted and distributed to Members in its amended form, which results in the notation “PRINTED” appearing next to the bill’s title on the Orders of the Day (the Order Paper).
After the presentation of the report on a bill from a Committee of the Whole, its adoption is not moved; the report of the committee is deemed to be adopted, and the question before the Legislative Assembly at that juncture is third reading of the bill.
Upon the report of a bill with amendment, there have been two approaches taken in the Legislative Assembly to proceed to the third reading stage. The appropriate and preferred practice is for the sponsor of the bill to move that it be placed on the Order Paper to be read a third time at the next sitting day, in accordance with Standing Order 80. This practice provides sufficient time for the preparation and printing of a complete bill in report form or a clean third reading copy.
However, there have also been instances in the Legislative Assembly where the sponsor of the bill seeks leave for the bill to be read a third time immediately. If leave is granted, it is a unanimous expression of will by the Legislative Assembly to bypass Standing Order 80 in order to proceed to the final consideration of the bill at third reading. Consequently, there have been instances in the Legislative Assembly when a bill is presented to the Lieutenant Governor for Royal Assent on the same day that it was reported from committee with amendment and passed third reading (see B.C. Votes and Proceedings, May 30, 2019, pp. 4-5, 10; B.C. Journals, November 27, 2018, p. 169; November 30, 2017, pp. 84-5; November 17, 2015, pp. 152-3; May 29, 2014, pp. 101, 103-4).254
STANDING ORDER 85
All amendments made in Committee shall be reported by the Chairperson to the House, which shall receive the same forthwith. After report the Bill shall be open to debate and amendment, on a subsequent day, before it is ordered for a third reading. But when a Bill is reported without amendment it is forthwith ordered to be read a third time, at such time as may be appointed by the House. Whenever any Bill shall be presented to the Lieutenant-Governor for assent thereto, he or she may return the same by Message for the reconsideration of the Assembly, with such amendments as he or she may think fitting.
STANDING ORDER 80
When a Bill has been amended in Committee of the Whole House, or by any Select Standing Committee, it shall be reprinted as amended; and when the Bill has been sent to be printed it shall be marked on the Orders of the Day — thus, NOT PRINTED; and shall not be further proceeded with until that mark has been removed and the word PRINTED substituted (signifying that the Bill has been reprinted and distributed).
Third reading is the final stage that a bill must pass through in the Legislative Assembly, and it is a decisive stage in the legislative process. Though permitted under Standing Order 45(1)(e), third reading debate has not been common in the Legislative Assembly, particularly when no substantive amendments have been made to the bill at committee consideration.
Third reading is the final stage that a bill must pass through in the Legislative Assembly, and it is a decisive stage in the legislative process.
Previous editions of Parliamentary Practice in British Columbia emphasize the common practice of limited or no debate in B.C. at third reading of a bill, correctly noting that the Legislative Assembly has, by third reading stage, adopted the principle of the bill at second reading, as well as each clause of the bill at committee stage. However, in some circumstances, such as for a bill addressing an emergency matter or other specific changing circumstances, or if the bill has been amended at committee stage, it is conceivable that a Member could raise new viewpoints on the final form of the bill at third reading which have not been previously canvassed at second reading or committee stage consideration.255
Comments offered at third reading must not have been previously canvassed at second reading debate or committee consideration of the bill. Debate at third reading is limited to the matters contained in the contents of the bill (see decision of Speaker Plecas, B.C. Votes and Proceedings, April 4, 2019, p. 4).
Debate at third reading is most likely to be held if a bill is reported from committee with amendment. In such instances, third reading debate provides Members with an opportunity to express their views on the amended bill.
The dilatory motions in amendment that may be moved at second reading of a bill may also be moved at third reading debate, outlined in greater detail in section 10.4.3.
10.5Referral of a Bill to a Parliamentary Committee
Generally speaking, a referral is for the purpose of obtaining an opinion or observation, whereas a committal carries with it the power to amend. This point is important when considering the provisions of Standing Orders 78A and 83.
STANDING ORDER 78A
At any stage after introduction a Bill may be referred to a Select Standing Committee upon motion without notice made by the Member in charge of the Bill. Such motion shall be decided without amendment or debate.
Pursuant to Standing Order 78A, it is in order for the sponsor of a bill to move that the bill be referred to a select standing committee for consideration. Such a motion may be moved without notice and at any stage of consideration of a bill after introduction and first reading, and should be moved after consultation, pursuant to Practice Recommendation 6. The terms of reference for the committee may be outlined in the referral motion. This provision was introduced in the Standing Orders in 1985 but has not been applied or adopted to date.
While permitted under Standing Order 78A, the practice in the Legislative Assembly has been for a public bill to go through the traditional stages of consideration, including the consideration at committee stage in a Committee of the Whole, rather than in a parliamentary committee.
Standing Order 78A should not be confused with a dilatory motion that may be moved at second reading of a bill, outlined in section 10.4.3. In a dilatory motion, any Member may propose that the subject matter of the bill be referred to a parliamentary committee. In a motion permissible under Standing Order 78A, it is only the sponsor of the bill who may propose that the bill itself be referred to a parliamentary committee for consideration and report (see decisions of Deputy Speaker Lovick, B.C. Journals, June 27, 1995, p. 132; see also decision of Speaker Lovick, B.C. Journals, July 8, 1997, pp. 129-30). The terms of reference for the committee would be outlined in the referral motion.256
When reading Standing Order 83 in conjunction with Standing Order 78A, it must be noted that the subject matter of a bill and the bill itself are two different things. While it may not be in order to refer a bill to a parliamentary committee prior to second reading, the subject matter may be so referred. This motion may be made during debate on second reading, when the reasons for the proposed referral could be explained. The subject matter of a bill may not be referred to a Committee of the Whole (see decision of Deputy Speaker Honey, House of Commons (Canada) Journals, January 20, 1971, p. 270).
Generally speaking, a referral is for the purpose of obtaining an opinion or observation, whereas a committal carries with it the power to amend. Standing Order 78A allows for the sponsor of a bill to move that the bill be referred to a select standing committee for consideration.
Should the Legislative Assembly agree that the subject matter of a bill should be referred to a parliamentary committee for study, the bill itself remains on the Order Paper for second reading, but it will not be proceeded with until the parliamentary committee has considered the matter referred to it and has reported on it to the Assembly.
The subject matter of a bill cannot be referred to a parliamentary committee that has not yet been appointed (see Beauchesne, 6th ed., §675(1), p. 202).
10.6Recommittal of a Bill
The term “recommittal” refers to the act of resending the bill to committee for further examination of specific clauses of the bill. Once reported to the Legislative Assembly from committee, the bill would again proceed to third reading for final adoption. A bill may be recommitted in two ways.
10.6.1Recommittal by Decision of the Legislative Assembly
STANDING ORDER 86
When the order of the day for the third reading of any Bill is read, any Member desiring to recommit the same must move to discharge the order and to recommit the Bill, and, upon such motion being resolved in the affirmative, the Member shall give notice of the instructions proposed to be given (if any), and such instructions shall not be taken into consideration before the next sitting of the House.
For a recommittal under Standing Order 86, an amendment to the motion for third reading may be proposed by any Member, discharging the order for third reading and 257 recommitting the bill either to a Committee of the Whole (see B.C. Journals, March 12, 2013, p. 41; House of Commons (Canada) Journals, November 24, 1970, p. 121) or to a select standing committee (see Manitoba Journals, April 18, 1967, pp. 376-7). Such a motion may be moved for one of the following purposes:
1. To enable a new clause to be added.
2. To enable the committee to reconsider amendments it had previously made.
3. To amend a clause or clauses.
As noted in Beauchesne:
Only that part of the bill as is specified in the order for recommittal is considered in the committee. If a bill is recommitted in respect of specified amendment to a clause, only those amendments and amendments that are relevant to them may be moved. When the amendments have been disposed of in respect of any clause, the question that the clause be adopted must be then put. (6th ed., §738, p. 215).
A further proceeding is available in the Legislative Assembly, after a bill has been adopted at third reading, permitting the bill to be recommitted. A motion may be moved, for which one day’s notice is required in accordance with Standing Order 81, “That the proceedings in relation to the third reading be declared null and void and the said bill be recommitted” (see B.C. Journals, May 12, 2004, p. 111; May 6, 1997, p. 59; May 28, 1980, p. 119; July 31, 1979, p. 113; June 27, 1978, p. 146; March 3, 1966, p. 99). The purposes of such a recommittal must be consistent with the three purposes listed above.
10.6.2Recommittal by the Lieutenant Governor
Pursuant to the provision of Standing Order 85 and the provincial Constitution Act (s. 48), after a bill has been adopted by the Legislative Assembly at third reading and presented to the Lieutenant Governor for assent thereto, it may be returned by message from the Lieutenant Governor, with any amendments that the Lieutenant Governor may see fit to commit to the Assembly’s consideration.
On a point of order raised in the Legislative Assembly as to the practice in dealing with amendments to bills returned by message recommending amendment, Speaker Keen delivered the following statement (B.C. Journals, April 18, 1918, p. 189):
When the Lieutenant Governor returns a Bill to the House for amendment, it places the bill again under the control of the House.
If the amendments are numerous, the Bill should be recommitted for consideration of all clauses affected by the Message.
If only one or two clauses are affected the Message and amendments are referred to a Committee of the Whole, and the Committee reports thereon.
The House considers this report and, if adopted, amends the Bill accordingly.
The Bill then, as amended, is ordered for third reading.
This has been the practice of this House for many years. (See Journals, 1901, pages 144 and 148; 1902, page 76; 1913, page 101; 1907, page 120; 1917, page 181.)
These precedents I consider I am bound to follow until the House directs otherwise.
10.7Defeat of a Bill at Second Reading or Third Reading
Prior to 1983 in B.C., it was generally held that a defeat of a motion for second or third reading of a bill was not fatal to the bill, as the Assembly had merely decided that the bill should not receive a second or third reading “now.”
It is currently held that the adoption of a six months’ hoist or a reasoned amendment (outlined in section 10.4.3) or the negativing of the motion for second or third reading of a bill is fatal, as no future day is appointed for consideration of the bill at that stage, and the introduction of a new bill in substantially the same terms is out of order (see Erskine May, 25th ed., §28.45, p. 648).
10.8Withdrawal of a Bill
After a bill’s introduction, it may only be withdrawn from the Legislative Assembly’s consideration if the sponsor of the bill obtains unanimous consent (leave) of the Assembly to do so, pursuant to Standing Order 51(1). This motion can be moved at any stage after introduction; if adopted, the bill no longer appears on the Order Paper.
A bill has also been previously withdrawn from the Order Paper by written notification by the Minister in charge of the bill to the Clerks at the Table (see B.C. Journals, October 21, 2002, p. 160).
A bill of which notice has been given but that has not been introduced may be withdrawn by written request from the Member who provided notice to the Clerks at the Table (see B.C. Votes and Proceedings, October 7, 2019, p. 4).
After a bill has passed through the required stages of consideration by the Legislative Assembly and has been adopted at third reading, it is one step away from becoming an act. This final step is the Crown’s approval of the bill, called Royal Assent, and is an important feature of British Columbia’s system of governance in a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy.259
The Royal Assent ceremony takes place in the Chamber. Once ready to proceed, the Lieutenant Governor will request attendance to the Chamber through the Black Rod. Once the Lieutenant Governor is seated on the Throne, the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly or another Clerk at the Table will read the titles of the bills being presented for assent. Once the titles of the bills have been read, the Lieutenant Governor will simply nod to signify Royal Assent to the noted bills. The Clerk will then announce that the Lieutenant Governor, acting in the name of the Sovereign, has granted Royal Assent to those bills.
The final step in the legislative process is the Crown’s approval of the bill, called Royal Assent, which is provided by the Lieutenant Governor.
If the Lieutenant Governor is unavailable, Royal Assent may be granted by the Administrator, who is appointed by an order of the Governor General in Council, pursuant to the Constitution Act, 1867 (s. 67). The Administrator is the Chief Justice of British Columbia or, if that individual is unavailable, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, the Associate Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, or another member of the judiciary designated by precedence established by federal Order in Council.
Many experts have considered whether Royal Assent may be withheld or reserved, and most suggest that this would not be appropriate in the modern era. Royal Assent was last denied by the Sovereign in the United Kingdom in 1707. In Canada, Royal Assent was last withheld in 1932, and was last reserved in 1961, by Lieutenant Governors of other provinces.
Royal Assent has been withheld or reserved on a handful of occasions in British Columbia, with the last such instance recorded in 1920. The Lieutenant Governor’s power to do so is extended through the Constitution Act, 1867 (s. 90). The provincial Constitution Act also acknowledges that it is within the prerogative of the Lieutenant Governor to reserve Royal Assent and refer a bill to the Governor General of Canada (ss. 5(1)(b) and 5(2)). If Royal Assent is withheld by the Lieutenant Governor, it may be granted by an order of the Governor General in Council, meaning that the Governor General would do so acting on the advice of the federal Cabinet.
10.10Commencement (Coming into Force)
An act does not necessarily carry the force of the law at the moment that it receives Royal Assent. The date of commencement is often provided for in a bill as its final clause. In the absence of such a provision, the act comes into force on the date of Royal Assent, as outlined in the provincial Interpretation Act (s. 3(2)).260
Without an act being in force, “the obligations it establishes are not mandatory [or binding]; its rights and prohibitions are not enforceable; and its powers are not exercisable” (A Guide to Legislation and Legislative Process in British Columbia (August 2013) — Part 1: The Legislative Process, p. 16).
The above-noted guide further notes:
There are a number of possibilities for an act’s commencement. Acts or provisions may come into force in the following ways or in any combination of them:
- on the date of Royal Assent (which is the rule that applies under the Interpretation Act if an Act is silent);
- on a specified future date;
- when a specific event occurs;
- by regulation of the Lieutenant Governor in Council, with the regulation effective either immediately on deposit with the Registrar of Regulations or on a later date specified by the regulation;
- with retroactive effect (that is, deemed to have come into force on a date that is earlier than the date of Royal Assent, and so operate to change the law as it applied in the past). (p. 16).
10.11Accelerated Consideration of a Bill — Urgent and Extraordinary Occasions
Standing Order 81 permits accelerated consideration of a bill in “urgent and extraordinary occasions.” It has been held that only the government may apply to have all stages of a bill considered in one day (see decision of Speaker Barnes, B.C. Journals, April 27, 1996, pp. 9-10). As noted in a decision of Speaker Barisoff: “Standing Order 81 provides an alternative process for considering legislation on an extraordinary occasion and should be used sparingly” (B.C. Journals, January 17, 2009, p. 157).
STANDING ORDER 81
Every Bill shall receive three readings, on different days, prior to being passed. After the second reading it shall be ordered for committal on a subsequent day. On urgent or extraordinary occasions, a Bill may be read twice or thrice, or advanced two or more stages in one day.
Aside from a few instances of interim supply consideration, the granting of applications under Standing Order 81 for the accelerated consideration of a bill is infrequent in B.C. (see Speakers’ decisions in B.C. Journals, January 17, 2009, pp. 156-7; April 28, 2004, pp. 92-3; March 12, 2003, p. 42; June 19, 2001, p. 6; April 2, 2000, p. 19).
10.11.1Application for Accelerated Consideration
Precedents in the Legislative Assembly indicate that the accelerated consideration of a bill permitted under Standing Order 81 is usually made immediately after the introduction and first reading of the bill. If the motion for the introduction and first reading of the bill is adopted, the sponsor of the bill or the Government House Leader then requests that the Speaker allow the bill to proceed through all stages of consideration in the same day.
In keeping with practice, the Speaker will subsequently declare a short recess to allow the bill to be distributed to all Members. Once the bill has been distributed, the Speaker will typically agree to hear from the recognized caucus House Leaders on the application for accelerated consideration of the bill under Standing Order 81.
10.11.2Determination Made by the Speaker
Once the Speaker has heard any arguments for or against the accelerated consideration of a bill, it falls solely to the Speaker to make a determination under Standing Order 81. Making such a determination may be difficult for the Speaker, given that a variety of complexities may have to be taken into consideration (see decision of Speaker Richmond, B.C. Journals, April 28, 2004, pp. 92-3). For the purposes of making this determination, it has been held that the Speaker may examine the proposed bill to determine whether or not the terms of the bill purport to address the urgency or extraordinary occasion as described by the proponent of the bill who seeks to invoke the provisions of Standing Order 81. In order to do this, Speakers have requested the indulgence of the Legislative Assembly and declared a short recess of the sitting, or have allowed the sitting to continue with another Presiding Officer in the chair, with the Speaker retiring to consider the request.
Successive Speakers making determinations under Standing Order 81 have relied on a finding of Speaker Barnes, where he determined that consideration of the bill could not be fast-tracked for the reason that the bill was too broad in scope. Speaker Barnes noted (B.C. Journals, April 26, 1996, p. 9):
On the matter of an emergency which was raised this morning, I have considered, with very great care, all of the submissions made by all Hon. Members. I accept that there may indeed be a most serious situation in Surrey. I feel, however, that the Bill in its present form goes well beyond the situation in Surrey, and does not satisfy the stringent guidelines — and I must emphasize stringent guidelines — applicable to Standing Order 81 to permit this Bill to proceed to all stages on this day, and therefore it fails.
Speaker Hartley noted the following when considering an application under Standing Order 81 (B.C. Journals, April 2, 2000, p. 19):
It is the practice in this House that the Speaker determines whether a bill may proceed through all stages in one day. Such rulings have been made with respect to interim Supply Acts on numerous occasions in anticipation of the imminent end of the Government’s fiscal year, and with respect to emergency legislation to end labour stoppages (see Bill (No. 34) intituled Metro Transit Collective Bargaining Assistance Act, 1984).
In 1996 at a special sitting of the House to deal with a labour stoppage, the Speaker found that the requirements of Standing Order 81 were not met with respect to a bill, as its form went beyond the situation at hand, namely, in Surrey.
Speaker Richmond reflected on the difficulty that he had in coming to a decision on an application under Standing Order 81 (B.C. Journals, April 28, 2004, pp. 92-3):
The question for the Chair to determine is whether or not the present circumstances amount to an “urgent or extraordinary occasion”. It should be stated that the Chair is acutely aware that the decision to advance a bill through several stages in one day, is not one taken lightly and the precedents of this House and the authorities are clear that the Chair must be satisfied that the existing situation requires the normal procedural rules to be set aside.
I have listened with great care to the representations made by the Government and the Opposition and have concluded that the deteriorating circumstances in the health-care sector require action by this House. I have concluded that the situation can only worsen if measures are not taken to restore health services. A further note is that this situation is not confined to any one locality, but is province-wide.
I must, however, make further observations in relation to the nature of the bill itself. The bill does considerably more than order the return to work — it imposes a contract on health-care workers and, as such, gives the Chair considerable difficulty in coming to a decision under Standing Order 81.
The question the Chair must balance in these circumstances is whether the form of the bill removes it from the embrace of Standing Order 81, and as the Leader of the Opposition stated in her remarks, it gives the Chair serious difficulty.
However, it is the Chair’s view that a continuation of the existing strike puts thousands of British Columbians at risk and to prolong this situation for three or more days would, in the Chair’s view, be unacceptable.
I have had great difficulty in coming to a decision on this application, but I must, on balance, make my decision on the representations I have received that there is a legitimate crisis resulting from the withdrawal of the workforce, and it is paramount that the workers return to the workplace at the earliest possible moment.
While I am granting the Government’s application that Bill (No. 37) may proceed through all stages this day, the Chair is of the view that a bill drafted in such a way as to cast too wide a net may not qualify under Standing Order 81.
The process for considering an application under Standing Order 81 was reflected in a decision of Speaker Barisoff, who acknowledged that two tests need to be met — the first requiring the scope of the bill to be limited, and the second being that the bill needs to address an urgent or extraordinary matter. In his decision, Speaker Barisoff laid out the following (B.C. Journals, January 17, 2009, pp. 156-7):
I have had an opportunity to peruse the Bill and note that as an amendment to the Vancouver Charter it only applies to the Municipality of Vancouver and in fact is limited to borrowing authorization with respect to one project, namely the construction of the Olympic Athletes’ Village. Under these circumstances, I am of the opinion that the bill is sufficiently limited in scope to qualify under Standing Order 81.
Reference has been made by both House Leaders to the decision of Speaker Barnes on a similar application. On that occasion, the reason Speaker Barnes rejected the government’s request to apply Standing Order 81 was that the legislation, which was before the House at that time, failed to isolate the crisis which had to be addressed and was of considerably broader application than the problem which the House was attempting to resolve. Not so with today’s application which in my respectful view has been carefully drawn to cover the specific problem which has arisen in Vancouver.
The second test which applies under Standing Order 81 is that the matter involves an urgent or extraordinary occasion. The House Leader tabled a letter from the Mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson to the Honourable the Premier dated January 13, 2009. In that letter the Mayor made it clear that the situation was unprecedented and that the legislation was urgently required. The House Leader also tabled a copy of a letter dated January 15, 2009 from the Leader of the Official Opposition to the Mayor of Vancouver, which reiterated the urgency of the situation and stated that “It is not in the interests of the taxpayer to delay consideration of legislation which may provide relief from financing deals that harm the public interest.”
It would appear to the Chair that the Mayor of Vancouver, the Government House Leader and the Leader of the Official Opposition are all of the view that the need for legislation is urgent.
I have carefully considered the submissions of the two House Leaders and in my view, the occasion is clearly one of urgency and scope which would qualify under Standing Order 81. Standing Order 81 provides an alternative process for considering legislation on an extraordinary occasion and should be used sparingly. This case is an example of an appropriate usage of the Standing Order. In making this ruling, I am mindful of the guidelines outlined in previous Speakers’ rulings, including those given in this House by Speaker Richmond on March 12, 2003 and April 28, 2004.
10.11.3Result of the Speaker’s Decision
If the Speaker grants the request under Standing Order 81, recognizing the urgent nature of the bill, debate at second reading typically commences immediately after the Speaker delivers the decision. The bill may subsequently proceed through all legislative stages in the same day.
If the Speaker does not grant the request under Standing Order 81, the sponsor of the bill then moves the regular administrative motion that the bill be placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting day.
10.11.4Consideration of Interim Supply in One Sitting
In the Legislative Assembly, consideration of interim supply bills has been completed in one sitting day. This was done on occasions when the degree of urgency justified more than one stage in a day, on the basis that the public service and government creditors could not be paid without the bill’s passage. It was therefore determined that it was an “urgent” or “extraordinary” occasion (see B.C. Journals, March 30, 1995, p. 12; March 26, 1986, p. 31; March 26, 1985, pp. 34-5; September 13, 1984, p. 125).
10.11.5Consideration of Final and Supplementary Supply in One Sitting
As previously noted, the details of expenditure are determined in the Committee of Supply, making the passage of final and supplementary bills an administrative act. Further information is outlined in Chapter 12 (Financial Procedures).
As an alternative to closure (Standing Order 46, further outlined in Chapter 7 (Rules of Debate)), the Legislative Assembly first adopted Standing Order 81.1 by Sessional Order in 2001. It provides for time allocation on stages of consideration of a bill. Standing Order 81.1 became a permanent provision in 2004 (see B.C. Journals, February 10, 2004, p. 202). Simply put, time allocation allows for specific and limited periods of time to be set aside for the consideration of one or more stages of a public bill. It does not end debate immediately; rather, it sets that a decision on a particular stage or stages of a public bill must conclude within a certain time period.
STANDING ORDER 81.1
(1) When a Minister of the Crown, from his or her place in the House, states that there is agreement among the representatives of all parties to allot a specified number of days or hours to the proceedings at one or more stages of any public bill, the Minister may propose a motion, without notice, setting forth the terms of such agreed allocation; and the motion shall be decided forthwith, without debate or amendment.
(2) A Minister of the Crown who from his or her place in the House, has stated that an agreement could not be reached under the provisions of section (1) of this Standing Order in respect to proceedings at one or more stages of a public bill, may propose without notice a motion for the purpose of allotting a specified number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at one or more stages of a public bill. The motion shall be decided forthwith, without debate or amendment. Any proceedings interrupted pursuant to this section of this Standing Order shall be deemed adjourned.
Pursuant to Standing Order 81.1, a Minister can move time allocation to any public bill, though in practice, such motions have only been applied to government bills. Time allocation has most often been proposed by the Government House Leader, but may be moved by any Minister. The intention of Standing Order 81.1 is that it be used in limited circumstances.
At times, the use of time allocation is controversial. As noted in Erskine May:
Sometimes, in attempting to secure the passage of particularly important or controversial legislation, governments are confronted with a series of choices, none of which are entirely satisfactory: taking special powers to curtail debate, cutting down their normal programme to an undesirable extent, prolonging the sittings of Parliament, or acknowledging the impotence of the majority of the House in the face of the resistance of the minority. Before the introduction of programming of bills, in such circumstances resort was had sooner or later to the most drastic method of curtailing debate known to procedure, namely, the setting of a date by which a committee must report, or the allocation of a specified number of days to the various stages of a bill and of limited amounts of time to particular portions of a bill. (24th ed., p. 468).
In the Legislative Assembly, two types of time allocation may be imposed:
1. With agreement of all recognized caucuses (Standing Order 81.1(1)), or
2. Without agreement (Standing Order 81.1(2)).
As an alternative to closure, time allocation allows for specific and limited periods of time to be set aside for the consideration of one or more stages of a public bill.
The interpretation of Standing Order 81.1 has been somewhat flexible in the Legislative Assembly, remaining consistent with the general notion that it can permit the government to fulfill its legislative agenda within a certain time frame. Thus, while Standing Order 81.1 only explicitly applies to bills, it has also been applied to the consideration of estimates in the Committee of Supply (see B.C. Journals, May 31, 2011, pp. 46-7).266
10.12.1Time Allocation — With Agreement of All Recognized Caucuses
Pursuant to Standing Order 81.1(1), time allocation on the consideration of bills may be imposed by agreement reached between recognized caucuses, typically between the House Leaders. The Government House Leader will then move a motion, of which notice is not required, that reflects the terms of the agreement, if desired. If there is agreement, no motion may be needed. The motion may apply to any stage of consideration of a bill. It must set the date and the time that consideration of the bill in question must conclude, or set the number of hours after which debate on the bill will end. All remaining questions are then put by the Speaker. However, there have been instances when the Government House Leader chose to advise the Legislative Assembly of an agreement reached under Standing Order 81.1(1), rather than move the requisite motion (see B.C. Journals, February 12, 2009, p. 161).
The provision of Standing Order 81.1(1) has not been used frequently (see B.C. Journals, May 6, 2008, p. 100; November 26, 2007, p. 153).
10.12.1.1Government’s Legislative Agenda — Completion by Agreement
On occasion, an agreement on the allocation of time has been reached between the recognized caucuses. Such an agreement does not result in any motion in the Legislative Assembly, and the Assembly may not be informed of it. However, there have been instances when the Government House Leader advises the Legislative Assembly of an agreement to conclude consideration of the government’s legislative priorities or agenda prior to the conclusion of a sitting period (see B.C. Hansard, October 31, 2005, p. 1399):
[Government House Leader:] I rise pursuant to Standing Order 81.1 to make the following statement to Members. The tabling of Bill 11 completes the government’s anticipated legislative agenda for this fall 2005 session. I want to advise the House that following discussions with the Opposition House Leader, we have come to an agreement regarding the completion of scheduled business for the balance of the current sitting, which ends on November 24 this year. The Opposition House Leader and I have agreed that all of the estimates and attendant supply legislation will be completed on or before November 24, together with the legislation that is presently before the House.
This information is conveyed to the House by agreement in lieu of a formal motion contemplated by Standing Order 81.1. I believe the Opposition House Leader is in a position to acknowledge and approve the information I’m conveying now.
[Opposition House Leader:] I am in a position to confirm that, and I’m happy to do so. I think this is something that’s unique in this history of this Legislature, where we’ve been able to come to an agreement around how legislation shall proceed and in terms of the completion of the estimates process by November 24. I think it has worked to the benefit of both the government and the opposition in allowing this House to get its business completed in a timely fashion. I think that’s a positive step forward, and I thank the House Leader for his cooperation.
10.12.2Time Allocation — Without Agreement
Pursuant to Standing Order 81.1(2), time allocation on the consideration of bills may be imposed without agreement. In such circumstances, the Government House Leader will move a motion to effect time allocation that may apply to any stage of consideration of a bill. The motion, of which notice is not required, must set the date and the time that consideration of the bill in question must conclude, or set the number of hours after which debate on the bill will end. All remaining questions are then put by the Speaker. If adopted, the timeline for consideration of the bill contained in the motion is imposed.
Time allocation motions moved under Standing Order 81.1(2) typically contain the following provisions (B.C. Journals, May 30, 2007, p. 112):
Unless previously completed at the times and dates mentioned, the Speaker and the Chair of Committee of the Whole will forthwith put all necessary questions for the disposal of various stages of the Bills indicated, without amendment or debate. Any divisions called on the second or third reading of the Bills may be taken in accordance with Standing Order 16 and all other divisions, including amendments in the House and divisions in the Committee of the Whole, will be subject to the provisions of Practice Recommendation No. 1. Proceedings under this motion shall not be subject to the provisions of Standing Order 81 or the Standing or Sessional Orders relating to times and days of sittings of the House.
The provision of Standing Order 81.1(2) has been used sparingly (see B.C. Votes and Proceedings, May 30, 2019, p. 3; May 29, 2019, p. 2; B.C. Journals, November 27, 2018, pp. 166-7; November 6, 2018, pp. 133-4; May 27, 2014, p. 92; May 30, 2012, pp. 147-8; May 31, 2011, pp. 46-7; June 2, 2010, pp. 91-2; April 26, 2010, pp. 51-2; May 6, 2008, pp. 100-1; November 26, 2007, pp. 153-4; May 30, 2007, p. 112).
10.13Administrative Arrangements for Bills
STANDING ORDER 82
When a Bill is read in the House the Clerk shall certify upon it the readings. After it has passed he or she shall certify the same, with the date, at the head of the Bill.
Standing Order 82 provides for the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly to certify all bills as they pass through the required stages of consideration. Failure to certify does not invalidate a bill that has passed all of its stages of consideration, and the Clerk may later rectify this omission. It is the fact that the Journals, as the official record of House proceedings, show that the bill has passed which should govern (see Beauchesne, 6th ed., §756(2), p. 218). Notes taken by the Clerks at the Table constitute the original record of any particular transaction made by the Legislative Assembly and may be consulted in cases of omission in the Votes and Proceedings, Journals or the certification process.268
Furthermore, the provincial Constitution Act mandates the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly to endorse the date that every act is assented to by the Lieutenant Governor (s. 5(1)). The provincial Constitution Act also charges the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly to keep custody of all original acts adopted by the Legislative Assembly (s. 6).
10.14Effect of Prorogation and Dissolution
Prorogation of a Session of a Parliament brings to an end all proceedings before the Legislative Assembly. As such, bills that have not received Royal Assent before prorogation “die on the Order Paper” and must be reintroduced in the new Session.
Similarly, bills, along with all business in the Legislative Assembly, end upon dissolution. Dissolution terminates a Parliament and is followed by a provincial general election.
The traditional term for an act that becomes law is “statute.” Statutes are amended every year, with new provisions being added and existing provisions being repealed or replaced. Some acts are frequently amended to reflect changing circumstances or policy, while others are seldom amended. In either case, an act that had a logical organization when it first became law can lose that structure with each amendment, making it difficult for readers to find and understand the information they need.
The Statute Revision Act (R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 440) provides a solution to this problem by authorizing the Chief Legislative Counsel to consolidate, renumber and reorganize amended acts into more coherent and readable “revised” acts. The Statute Revision Act establishes a continuing statute revision authority and outlines the types of modifications that the Chief Legislative Counsel may prepare in a revised statute (s. 2). No substantive changes to a law may be made by statute revision.
Prior to 1992 when the Statute Revision Act was enacted, each revision was separately authorized by an act that would establish the position of Revision Commissioner and authorize this official to prepare a revision that would be presented to the Legislative Assembly. The new process established in 1992 was unique to British Columbia at the time, but has since been adopted by other Canadian jurisdictions.
The Office of Legislative Counsel within the Government of British Columbia prepares a revision to an act in consultation with the ministry responsible for the act. When completed, the revision is submitted to the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly. The review of the proposed revision is delegated by the Legislative Assembly to a designated select standing committee of the Assembly. Recent practice has been to present the proposed revisions to the Select Standing Committee on Parliamentary Reform, Ethical Conduct, Standing Orders and Private Bills for examination.
If the committee to which the proposed statute revisions have been presented agrees with the revisions, the committee will recommend to the Lieutenant Governor that the 269 revisions be brought into force. A report reflecting the decision of the committee is also presented to the Legislative Assembly. In effect, this recommendation is equivalent to third reading of a bill, as the revision does not become an act until the Lieutenant Governor gives direction that a copy of the revised statute be deposited with the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly as the official copy of the revision. The official copy is signed by the Lieutenant Governor and countersigned by the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly.
The Lieutenant Governor in Council may specify by regulation when such a revision comes into force. When the revised statute comes into force, it is assigned a chapter, as if it were enacted by the Legislature. The Statute Revision Act (s. 7) provides that provisions of the previous act that are replaced by the revision are repealed when the revision comes into force.
Acts enacted by the Legislature often include provisions delegating certain powers to the executive branch of government, including designated government entities. “Some acts of Parliament delegate to ministers, departments, agencies, boards or other authorities the power to make and apply subordinate legislation described only in general terms in the acts” (House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd ed., p. 807).
As noted in Erskine May:
The volume of legislation which Parliament has passed over the last half-century or more has steadily increased. Such legislation has extended the activities of government into a great number of fields. It often involves provisions of considerable complexity. At the same time, it has been recognized that the greater the number of details of an essentially subsidiary or procedural character which can be withdrawn from the [floor of the House], the more time will be available for the discussion of major matters of public concern. Consequently, Parliament often delegates legislative power upon the executive by statute….
The justification and advantages of delegated legislation arise from its speed, flexibility and adaptability. Once Parliament has by statute laid down (often in some detail) the principles of a new law, the executive may by means of delegated legislation work out the application of the law in general detail within these principles, adapting it to fit changing circumstances. (24th ed., p. 667).
An act may provide the general framework, with executive legislation filling out the details. The act, or “enabling legislation,” must include the regulation-making authority — that is, the extent and scope of executive legislation permitted by the Legislature to be made by the executive branch of government. Executive legislation is, therefore, a form of law made by the executive branch of government. Although it is often referred to as “subordinate,” “delegated” or “subsidiary” legislation, executive legislation is a subset of these forms of law. It is also commonly referred to as “regulations.”