Definition of a Bill

A Bill is a draft of a legislative proposal, which, when it has been passed by the Legislative Assembly and assented to by the Lieutenant-Governor, will become law.

Bills may originate from either the executive branch of government, the cabinet, from private members of the Legislative Assembly, or from outside persons or bodies

Types of Bills

In New Brunswick, there are two main types of Bills: Public and Private.

Public Bills relate to matters of public policy and are introduced directly by members of the Legislature. They are Bills which affect the public as a whole. There are two types of Public Bills: Government Bills and Private Members' Public Bills. Government Bills are those Public Bills introduced by a Minister of the Crown while Private Members' Public Bills are introduced by private members of the Legislature. In our Legislative Assembly, practically all Public Bills that are introduced are Government Bills though there is nothing to prevent an ordinary member bringing in a Public Bill. However, no such Bill may contain provisions which infringe on the Crown's prerogative in financial matters. Such Bills can only be introduced by a Minister of the Crown since only Ministers receive the required authority ("Royal Recommendation") from the Lieutenant-Governor to include in their Bills provisions for raising or spending money.

Private Bills are those relating to private or local matters or for the particular interest or benefit of any person, corporation or municipality. Private Bills are not usually promoted by members of the Legislature, but by outside persons or bodies. They confer special powers upon companies, municipalities and private persons and are not of general public concern.

Because the legislative process of a Private Bill is somewhat different than that of a Public Bill, the following procedure relates only to Public Bills. The procedure applicable to Private Bills and a simplified chart showing the route a Private Bill takes through the New Brunswick Legislature can be found on pages 4 to 6.

A Bill must receive three separate readings on different days before being passed, however, the Standing Rules of the Legislative Assembly make provision for a Bill to be advanced two or more stages in one day with the unanimous consent of the House.

The following depicts the normal procedure whereby a Bill becomes a law.

The Stages of a Public Bill

Before a Bill becomes law, it goes through the following stages:

DRAFTING STAGE

A Minister of the Crown is requested by his department to introduce legislation with respect to a specific area of their responsibilities. A draft of the Bill is prepared by the staff of the Department of Justice. The draft Bill is then presented by the Minister to his colleagues in cabinet and caucus and subject to their approval is forwarded to the Queen's Printer for printing. Copies of the Bill are prepared by the Queen's Printer and delivered to the Minister.

A Private Member's Public Bill is drafted by the member with the assistance of the staff of the Legislative Assembly and does not have to be presented to the member's caucus or to the executive. The member wishing to introduce the Bill forwards the Bill to the Queen's Printer for printing and the copies are returned directly to the member by the Queen's Printer.

INTRODUCTION AND FIRST READING

The Minister or private member then introduces the Bill to the Legislative Assembly on motion "that a Bill entitled . . . . . . be now read a first time". The member introducing the Bill may give a brief explanation on the provisions of the Bill. No debate or amendment is permitted at this stage.

When a Bill is read a first time, it stands ordered for second reading at the next sitting of the House. The Bill cannot be read a second time until it has been printed and copies have been deposited with the Clerk of the House and distributed to the members who can acquaint themselves with its content.

SECOND READING

Second reading is considered the most important stage in the passage of a Bill. At this stage, the principle and object of the Bill are debated and either accepted or rejected. Debate at this stage is general and addresses the Bill as a whole. If a Bill passes second reading in the House, it is referred for a more detailed study to the Committee of the Whole House or to another legislative committee designated by the sponsor of the Bill.

COMMITTEE STAGE

When a Bill is referred to the Committee of the Whole, the House itself is the Committee. When the House resolves itself into a Committee of the Whole, the Speaker leaves the chair and the Deputy Speaker or one of the members acts as Chairman and the Minister responsible for the Bill is the witness. The Minister answers questions on the details of the Bill. Departmental advisors can accompany the Minister into the Chamber to give technical advice, but they cannot speak. Members can speak on any clause of the Bill being studied, ask any number of questions and can propose amendments to any clauses of the Bill. Amendments in Committee must be in keeping with the principle of the Bill as agreed to at second reading in the House. After the Committee has completed its consideration of the Bill, it orders that the Bill be reported to the House.

REPORT STAGE

In its report, the Committee may recommend the Bill favourably to the House with or without amendments. If no amendments are offered, the Bill is reported by the Committee as being agreed to.

THIRD READING AND PASSAGE

The motion at this stage is "that the Bill be now read a third time." As in second reading, during third reading the debate is confined to the contents of the Bill as a whole.

When a Bill has been read a third time, the further question is then put by the Speaker: "This Bill having had three separate readings, is it the pleasure of the House that it does now pass?" This is carried, and the Bill is then ready for Royal Assent.

ROYAL ASSENT

The Constitution Act states that the approval of the Crown, signified by Royal Assent, is required for any bill to become law after passage by the House.

After third reading the Bill stands on the Order and Notice Paper for Royal Assent. The Lieutenant-Governor attends a session of the Legislative Assembly and gives Royal Assent to the Bill.

The ceremony of Royal Assent consists of the reading by the Clerk Assistant of the titles of the Bills to be approved. The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly on behalf of the Crown's representative then announces the Royal Assent in the following words:

In Her Majesty's name, His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor assents to these Bills, enacting the same and ordering them to be enrolled.

It is at this stage that the Bill becomes law.

PROCLAMATION

Normally a Bill comes into force on the day of Assent unless otherwise provided in the Bill itself.

Provision is sometimes made for the Bill to come into force on a certain day or a day fixed by Proclamation. Public Bills are usually subject to proclamation. Some Bills are proclaimed forthwith, others are proclaimed on a specific day and still others are to be proclaimed and must receive the date of proclamation from the Executive Council.

The Procedure for a Private Bill

The procedure in connection with Private Bills differs very materially from that which governs Public Bills. A Public Bill is simply prepared and introduced, but before a Private Bill can be brought before the Legislative Assembly, there are several matters which must be attended to. A Private Bill is one which relates to private or local matters, or is for some particular private interest or benefit. Therefore, before any special favour of this nature is granted, the Legislative Assembly requires to be satisfied that no other rights or interests would be prejudiced by granting the special legislation sought to be obtained. The Standing Rules of the Legislative Assembly require that a notice specifying clearly and distinctly the nature and objects of a proposed Bill be published once in the Royal Gazette and at least once a week for three successive weeks in a newspaper having a general circulation in the area where reside the parties or the majority of the parties, interested in, and affected by, the Bill. Proof by affidavit or statutory declaration that the requirements of the Standing Rules have been complied with must be furnished.

The following steps briefly summarize the procedure for a Private Bill before its introduction in the Legislative Assembly.

DRAFTING STAGE

A Member of the Legislative Assembly, not a Minister of the Crown, has been requested by constituents to introduce legislation on their behalf with respect to a matter falling under the definition of Private Bills.

The Private Bill or proposal is turned over by the constituents to a lawyer practising in New Brunswick who drafts a Bill for presentation by a member of the Legislative Assembly.

ADVERTISING

The advertising for a Private Bill should be completed early in the calendar year so that the Bill may be considered in the Spring sitting. As required by the Standing Rules, a notice of the proposed legislation must be published in both official languages in the Royal Gazette at least two weeks prior to filing the application. The notice must run once a week for three successive weeks in at least one newspaper circulated in the locality most affected by the Bill. The notice must specify, clearly and distinctly, the nature and object of the proposed legislation. The notice must also state the name and address of the applicant.

FILING

The applicant files a draft of the Private Bill in both official languages with the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly together with an affidavit or statutory declaration proving publication of the necessary notices.

The Clerk forwards a copy of the draft Bill to the Deputy Minister of Justice.

The Bill will be examined to determine whether the subject-matter is within the competency of the Legislature; to remove any errors or improprieties; and, generally, to ensure that it is in proper form. Any substantial point in connection with either the form or substance of a Bill is settled after discussion with the applicant's solicitor.

The Clerk then forwards a copy of the final draft to the Queen's Printer who prints all Private Bills. Copies of the Bill are made and delivered to the member of the Legislative Assembly who will sponsor the Bill on behalf of the constituents.

Once the requirements for an application for a Private Bill are met, the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly so certifies and the member of the Legislative Assembly sponsoring the Bill may introduce the Bill for first reading.

The following chart shows the route of the Private Bill through the New Brunswick Legislature.

FIRST READING

When a Private Bill has received first reading it stands referred to the Standing Committee on Private Bills. The Bill is ordered printed and is available for public distribution.

STANDING COMMITTEE ON PRIVATE BILLS

The Standing Committee on Private Bills familiarizes itself with the Bill and determines whether or not it shall be approved with or without amendments. Sponsors of the Bill or their agent are required to appear before the Committee. Persons whose interest or property may be affected by the Bill may also appear before the Committee to express consent or any objection, or may consent in writing.

REPORT STAGE

The Standing Committee on Private Bills then reports the Bill to the House:

  1. 1. favourably
  2. 2. favourably, with amendments
  3. 3. unfavourably (not recommended to the favourable consideration of the House)

SECOND READING

When ordered for second reading, the Bill title and number as printed on the Order and Notice Paper are read by the Clerk. A Bill on second reading is debatable.

THIRD READING

After second reading, Private Bills are ordered for third reading unless five members signify that the Bill should be ordered for the Committee of the Whole House. When ordered for third reading, the Clerk reads the title and number of the Bill a third time.

ROYAL ASSENT

The Lieutenant-Governor attends a sitting of the Legislative Assembly and gives Royal Assent to the Bill. The Bill becomes law at this stage.

Following Royal Assent the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly forwards to the applicant a certified copy of the Act.