The examination and enactment of laws is one of the primary constitutional functions of the Legislative Assembly, and the legislative process uses a considerable portion of the time of the House each sitting day. A bill must pass through a number of stages before becoming law. Except in urgent cases, each stage occurs on a different day to allow detailed examination of each bill.
Types of Bills
Public Bill: A public bill is one that affects the general population. Most bills considered by the Legislative Assembly are public bills.
A public bill introduced by a cabinet minister, also known as a government bill, is a legislative proposal put forward as part of government’s public policy agenda. Only a government bill can authorize spending or impose a tax. Government bills are accompanied by a recommendation or “message” from the Lieutenant Governor, the Crown’s representative.
A public bill that is introduced by a Member who is not a cabinet minister is called a “Public Bill in the hands of a Private Member”.
Private Bill: A private bill is introduced by a Member on behalf of a person, a group, a municipality, or a corporation, and generally deals with a specific issue affecting that person or entity.
How a Bill Becomes a Law
First Reading: The bill’s sponsor briefly introduces the proposed bill and explains its purpose. Other Members do not discuss the bill’s merits at this point, but simply vote on whether to accept it for future debate. If they vote yes, the bill will proceed to Second Reading debate.
Second Reading: All Members may debate the bill’s general principles and goals. After the debate, they vote on whether the bill will proceed to Committee Stage.
Committee Stage: Each section of the bill is examined in detail in a Committee of the Whole House comprising all Members, except the Speaker. Members may ask the bill’s sponsor about the meaning and purpose of each section or propose amendments to certain sections.
Report Stage: At the end of Committee Stage, Members vote to report the bill back to the House with or without amendment before the bill can proceed to Third Reading.
Third Reading: Although limited debate may take place at Third Reading, in practice, further debate at this stage rarely occurs.
Royal Assent: The Crown’s approval of the bill is the final step. The Royal Assent ceremony takes place in the Chamber. The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, or another Clerk at the Table, will read the title of the bill and the Lieutenant Governor, or the Administrator, will simply nod to signify Royal Assent. What started out as a bill is now a law of the Province of British Columbia. Unless the bill specifies otherwise, the new law comes into force upon receiving Royal Assent.
Bills that have been introduced in the House are public and can be viewed on the Legislative Assembly website under Bills and Legislation.
There you can also find information on the progress of bills before the House, a list of bills with the accompanying Hansard transcripts of debates, and other information on bills.