Legislation in Canadian House of Commons and Senate

In the Canadian legislative process, a bill passes several stages in the House of Commons and the Senate before it becomes law (Parliament of Canada, 2016). The legislative process starts in one of the Houses of Parliament when the author of the bill (one on the members of the House of Commons) introduces the bill at the first reading. Then the bill is discussed in the second reading and possible amendments are suggested at this stage. In the third stage, it is presented to the special committee, and after that, the bill should be given the Royal Assent. Thus, all three components of the Canadian Parliament are involved in the legislative process: the House of Commons, the Senate, and the Crown.

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Constitutional Provisions

The colony of Canada appeared as a result of uniting two colonies “into One Dominion under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland” (Russell, 2010, p. 22). That is why the Canadian Parliament includes the Crown as a third component of the legislative process (Keyes & Diamond, 2016; Smith, 2013). Canadian Constitution defines the House of Commons and the Senate, their functions and responsibilities. All legislation must be approved by both Houses of Canadian Parliament. The House of Commons and the Senate have equal powers concerning the approval of a bill (Kendall & Rekkas, 2012).

Types of Bills

Two main types of bills are introduced to the Canadian Parliament: public and private bills. Public bills consider the issues of national interest; they prevail over private bills that are developed to grant some individual, group of individuals, or corporation certain rights or authority. Public bills are further classified into government bills that are introduced by Cabinet Members and private members’ bills that are introduced and sponsored by Members of Parliament (Parliament of Canada, 2016).

The proposed bills cannot be controversial and cannot “cover the same ground as a measure already put forward by the government” (Savoie, 2010). It is commonly believed that bills introduce new regulations; however, in the majority of cases, they propose certain changes to current legislation (Thomas, 2010).

Legislative Process

In general, a bill should go through several stages: introduction and three readings of the bill in the House of Commons, the same procedure in the Senate, and the Royal Assent stage. At the first stage, the bill is introduced to the House of Commons. The author briefly describes the main objectives of the bill as well as its contents, and then the printed bill is distributed to all Members of Parliament (Thomas, 2010). The second reading is preceded by the referral of the bill to the committee to receive its approval of the principle of the bill. Then second reading takes place, and Members of Parliament have an opportunity to debate over the principle of the bill (Parliament of Canada, 2016).

After the second reading, the bill also should be referred to the committee for amendments; however, the committee may propose only technical amendments, since the principal of the bill has been already approved and accepted at the House of Commons in the second reading (Parliament of Canada, 2016). After the second referral to the committee, the bill goes through the report stage when the House of Commons discusses the proposed amendments. In the third reading, “the insistence of the Opposition parties can bring about prolonged debate before the final vote” (Parliament of Canada, 2016, p. 309).

After the final vote, the bill is finally passed and sent to the Senate, where it goes through the same procedure before being referred to the Crown for the Royal Assent. At the Royal Assent stage, the bill is “approved by a representative of the Crown and is given the complement and perfection of a law” (Parliament of Canada, 2016, p. 525). The bill becomes law after it is passed by the Houses of Parliament and comes into force when receives the Royal Assent if a particular date has not been specified in the text of the bill and during the readings.

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Surveillance Functions of the Parliament

Canadian Constitution defines the executive authority of the Government that is exercised by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. The Government is accountable to the House of Commons, which means that the Canadian Parliament controls the executive organs to make sure that no improper and unlawful activity takes place. There are three main surveillance functions available to Parliament for holding the Executive accountable: committee system, question period, and oversight roles (Kendall & Rekkas, 2012).

Committees scrutiny the Executive activities, “ensuring government accountability and transparency to Parliament” (Open and accountable Government, 2015, para. 58). Through question periods, Members of Parliament exercise the power to demand certain information from the Executive, detecting the abuses of power and demanding to redress the injustice. Oversight mechanisms allow examining malfeasance of the Executive: they “do not only approve budgets but also oversee their implementation and enforce proper auditing” (Open and accountable Government, 2015, para. 65). These functions are effective in case of cohesion of political parties and Parliamentary access to information.

Conclusion

The legislative process in Canada defined by the Constitution and includes three Parliamentary components: the House of Commons, the Senate, and the Crown. To come into force, a bill should successfully go through three readings in the House of Commons and the Senate and receive the Royal Assent. The main surveillance functions available to Parliament for holding the Executive accountable are the committee system, question period, and oversight mechanisms.

References

Kendall, C., & Rekkas, M. (2012). Incumbency advantages in the Canadian Parliament. Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d’économique, 45(4), 1560-1585.

Keyes, J. M., & Diamond, C. (2016). Constitutional inconsistency in legislation–interpretation, remedies and the ambiguous role of ambiguity. Ottawa Faculty of Law Working Paper.

Open and accountable Government. (2015). Web.

Parliament of Canada. (2016). The legislative process. Web.

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Russell, P. H. (2010). Constitution. In J. C. Courtney & D. E. Smith (Eds.), Oxford handbook of Canadian politics (pp. 21-38). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Savoie, D. (2010). First ministers, cabinet and the public service. In J. C. Courtney & D. E. Smith (Eds.), Oxford handbook of Canadian politics (pp. 172-190). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Smith, D. E. (2013). The invisible crown: The first principle of Canadian Government. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.

Thomas, P. G. (2010). Parliament and legislatures: Central to Canadian democracy? In J. C. Courtney & D. E. Smith (Eds.), Oxford handbook of Canadian politics (pp. 153-171). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

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