Myths of Legislative Research: Part 3 – Bills

This week in our myth-busting mini-series we focus on bills, bills, bills!


Myth: Federal bills and Ontario bills are formatted the same way

Fact: While both Federal and Ontario bills follow sequential numbering, Federal bills are assigned a letter to signify where the bill originated. For example, take Bill C-10, the letter C denotes that the bill originated in the House of Commons of Canada whereas bills originating from the Senate are marked with an S, for instance, Bill S-5.


Myth: Bills are never modified as they go through the legislative process

Fact: All bills must pass through certain stages of the legislative process, and oftentimes changes are implemented during this staged process. Usually, the bill is referred to a Standing Committee as designated by the Minister or Parliamentary Assistant. During the committee stage, the bill is examined in greater detail and sometimes amendments to the text are proposed. If amendments were made and adopted by the House, Senate, or Legislature, the Bill is reprinted to reflect the changes.


Myth: All bills introduced reach Royal Assent

Fact: For a bill to become an Act it must receive Royal Assent, however, not all bills receive Royal Assent. For example, if a bill does not pass through all the legislative stages during a session of Parliament, it then “dies on the order paper.” For a list of all the legislative stages a bill must pass through, check out this guide produced by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario or this guide produced by the Parliament of Canada.


Myth: Bills cannot be reintroduced in a new session

Fact: While the end of a legislative session means the end of all bills and motions that have not passed during that session, members may choose to reintroduce bills at the start of the next session. Just keep in mind that with a new session comes a new sequential numbering of bills!


Myth: All bills that receive Royal Assent are proclaimed into force

Fact: If a bill that received Royal Assent remains unproclaimed for 10 or more years after being enacted, that statute is then repealed under either the Legislation Act, 2006 , S.O. 2006, c. 21, Sched. F for the Ontario jurisdiction, or under the Statutes Repeal Act S.C. 2008, c. 20 for the Federal jurisdiction (unless the House or Senate adopts a resolution to say otherwise).