How a Bill Becomes a Law in BC

To create a new law, also called an act or a statute, the government first introduces a bill which must pass through various stages in the Legislature in order to become law.

What is a Bill?

A bill is a proposed law that can amend or repeal existing law or can contain completely new law. Bills can be introduced in the Legislature in one of three ways:

  • as a Public Bill (also called a Government Bill), pertaining to public policy and introduced in the Legislature by a Minister
  • as a Private Bill, for the benefit of a particular person or group, presented by petition from an individual or special interest group and introduced by an MLA
  • as a Member's Bill, introduced by a member of the opposition or government backbencher.

What Stages Must a Bill Pass in Order to Become Law?

1st Reading:
 This is a formality whereby the bill is introduced in the Legislature. The bill is then printed in its 1st reading form, often with explanatory notes.

2nd Reading:
 Members of the Legislative Assembly debate the main principle(s) and purpose of the bill. If passed, the bill is then referred to committee for further study. Bills are not re-printed at 2nd reading.

Committee:
 Clause by clause debate takes place, usually in Committee of the Whole House. At this time, amendments to the bill may be proposed.

Report Stage:
 The committee reports the bill as either complete without amendments or complete with amendments.

3rd Reading:
 The bill, as reported by the committee, is passed by the Legislature and is then printed in its final, 3rd reading form. The 3rd reading copy of a bill includes any amendments made to the bill and is generally what becomes law.

Royal Assent:
 This formal ceremony, presided over by the Lieutenant Governor, completes the enactment process. The Legislature must be sitting in order for a bill to receive Royal Assent. Bills are assigned chapter numbers for the Statutes of British Columbia upon Royal Assent.

When Does An Act Come Into Force?

An act comes into force on the date of Royal Assent, unless the Act itself states that it comes into force on some other day. Different sections of an act can come into force on different days. An exact date may be specified or a "commencement" section may state that the Act or certain sections of the Act will come into force "by regulation of the Lieutenant Governor in Council". This means a regulation is required to fix the date that the Act or sections of the Act come into force. These regulations are generally referred to as proclamations. The Legislature does not have to be sitting in order for a regulation to be issued to proclaim an act or sections of an act into force.

What Happens if a Bill is not Passed?

Not all bills become law. If a bill does not pass through all of the stages described above during one session of the Legislature, the bill "dies on the order paper". A bill that has died on the order paper can, however, be reintroduced as a new bill, with a new bill number, in the next session.