The Legislative Process - A Guide to a Bill's Life:
Introduction of a Bill
A law starts with an idea and when an idea is presented to the legislature, it is in the form of a bill. A bill goes through several stages before becoming a law. These stages give all members and voters a chance to study and make their views known. Many suggestions may be made about how to improve the bill.
Introduction and First Reading
The member who is proposing to make a bill law motions to introduce it to the other members. After being introduced, it goes through a first reading which explains its objectives. Then, MPPs decide whether to accept the bill for future debate. If the answer is yes, then it is assigned a number and scheduled for a second reading. Each member gets a copy of the bill.
A Bill's Life: Second Reading
Here, members discuss the bill’s details further on why it should or should not become a law. After the debate, the MPPs vote to let the bill proceed to the next step.
A Bill's Life: Bill at a Committee Stage
Committees of the House
I am sent to a standing or select committee for a more detailed study. I can be at the committee stage for a few days or up to several months! Each of my sections is discussed. A vote is taken on each section and there can be amendments or changes. The committee will then report to the House on what they have decided about me.
A Bill's Life: Third Reading
This is the last debate about the bill. After the debate is over, the Speaker calls for a final vote about making the bill a law. If there is a majority, the bill goes to the next step in becoming law, Royal Assent.
A Bill's Life: Royal Assent
The bill is passed to the Lieutenant Governor, who through a special ceremony signs and affixes the Great Seal of Ontario. This is called Royal Assent and officially makes the bill law.
What is a Member of Provincial Parliament?
Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) are elected by the people to represent them in their electoral districts (constituencies). MPPs represent the approximate 12 million citizens in the various areas of Ontario, and address people’s opinions and concerns in the Legislative Chamber. They introduce petitions on behalf of the people in their riding and debate issues which they feel should or should not become law. They also make amendments to current or potential laws. Each member takes on an active role as your Member of Provincial Parliament.
What is the role of the government?
The role of government is to protect the interests of the province by developing and proposing policies that determine how the province is run. The government is the political party which has the majority of the seats in the Legislature. That party remains in power as long as it has the majority of support in the Assembly for its main policies.
What is the role of the Opposition?
The principal role of the opposition is to present an alternative to the government of the day. The opposition may be comprised of one or more parties. The leader of an opposition party has a number of roles in our current political system, and will often lead debate on various bills and other matters. Providing leadership, being a prominent critic, and examining the government administration, legislation and decisions, are major parts of the role of the opposition.
What is Cabinet?
The Executive Council of Ontario, more commonly referred to as “the Cabinet”, is a body of high-ranking members, generally from the governing party, who have been appointed by the Premier to serve as heads of government ministries. Members belonging to the Cabinet are called Cabinet ministers and they formulate and administer government policy, such as curriculum standards or environmental standards. These policies relate to the various responsibilities of the provincial government, such as education and the environment. For a list of Ontario’s ministries, you can visitwww.gov.on.ca.
What is a Backbencher?
A backbencher is a Member of Provincial Parliament who is not a minister, parliamentary assistant or leading member of the opposition. Historically, he or she occupied a back bench in the Legislative Chamber, hence the term “backbencher”. Today, these Members tend to occupy the back rows of the Chamber.
What is a Critic?
A critic is a member of the opposition who scrutinizes the programs and policies of a particular ministry/minister. The body of opposition critics is known as the shadow cabinet in each of the opposition parties.
What is a House Leader?
Each party has one member who is appointed House Leader. The House Leader is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the party in the Legislature. The House Leader for the governing party is always a member of Cabinet and is responsible for announcing the daily order of House business. All House Leaders meet weekly to plan the business of the Legislature.
What is a Whip?
A Whip is a member of each party who ensures the presence of party members in the Legislature or at committee meetings to maintain adequate representation should a vote be held. This member also arranges the business of his or her party in the House and informs party members of forthcoming business. Should the Whip be unable to serve, Deputy Whips are assigned.
What is a Committee?
A Legislative Committee is a small working group of MPP’s, responsible for detailed consideration of any matter that it is authorized to review. Most often the committees consider new laws or revisions to existing laws that have been proposed by the Legislature. A committee may hold public hearings, allowing citizens from across Ontario the opportunity to comment on, or provide evidence relating to the matter under review. The three most common ways in which individual organizations can engage in the committee process are by appearing as a committee witness; submitting written material to a committee; or attending committee hearings. There are three types of committees: Standing Committee, Select Committee, and the Committee of the Whole House.
A committee which exists for the duration of a parliament. This committee examines and reports on the general conduct of activities by government departments and agencies, and reports on matters referred to it by the House, including proposed legislation.
Select Committees are set up specifically to study certain bills or issues and according to the Standing Orders, consist of not more than 11 members from all parties with representation reflecting the current standing in the House. In some cases, the committee must examine material by a specific date and then report the conclusion to the Legislature. After the final report, the committee is dissolved.
Committee of the Whole House:
A committee consisting of all members of the House which meets in the Chamber. The Speaker vacates the Chamber and the Deputy Speaker takes over as chair of the committee.