The Parliament of Canada examines legislation in a wide variety of areas in the form of bills. There are two types of bills:
Most bills considered by Parliament are public bills.
While bills can be introduced either in the Senate (in which case their number is preceded by the letter S) or in the House of Commons (in which case their number is preceded by the letter C), the Senate cannot initiate money bills (i.e. bills imposing taxes or providing for the collection or spending of public money).
Bills can be introduced either by the Government (i.e. a Cabinet minister) or by private members (i.e. a senator or a member of the House of Commons).
All bills must be considered and passed by both the Senate and the House of Commons before receiving Royal Assent from the Governor General, the final step in a bill’s passage into law.
Passing bills in the Senate is similar to passing them in the House of Commons. There are five steps:
If the bill was introduced in the Senate, it is sent to the House of Commons, which will examine it in a similar three-reading process. If the bill was introduced in the House of Commons and was not amended in the Senate, it is now ready for Royal Assent.
If a bill introduced in the House of Commons and was amended in the Senate, a message about the amendments is sent to the Commons, asking for their agreement. If the Senate and the House of Commons do not agree on the contents of a bill, they may propose amendments until they reach agreement. Once the two Houses agree on a final version, the bill is granted Royal Assent by the Queen or one of her Canadian representatives (usually the Governor General or a deputy), making it law.
1 “Reading” is the term used for a stage in the consideration of a bill in a House of Parliament. It is a holdover from the early days of the parliamentary tradition in Britain before mass reproduction was available. A clerk would read the bill aloud to those assembled in the Chamber: hence the term “reading.” Today, of course, printed copies of bills are circulated and the bill number, and sometimes title, is all that is read aloud.