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Thursday, June 30, 2016
Saskatchewan Justice

Stages of a Bill:

First Reading: The Bill is introduced and "read" for the first time, Its provisions are made public.

Second Reading: Members debate the principle or purpose of the Bill.
Committee Stage: A Committee of the Assembly examines the Bill and on some occasions, may hold public hearings on it. The committee then reviews the Bill clause by clause and reports it and any amendments adopted back to the Assembly.

Third Reading: Members may debate the Bill one more time before voting on it for a third and final time.

Royal Assent: The Lieutenant Governor, or his representative, gives the Bill Royal Assent.  

Making Laws In Saskatchewan

Laws that apply in Saskatchewan are made by many different law-making bodies such as the federal Parliament, the provincial Legislative Assembly, or a city council. The laws made by Canada's parliament or the provincial legislative assemblies are called "statutes", which in Latin means "it is decided". Sometimes these law-making bodies will use a statute to delegate authority to another body to make "rules and regulations." Rules and regulations have the force of law and often affect people's lives as much as do statutes. Other bodies, such as a human rights commission or a supreme court, also may be said to "make law", as their decisions often include directions for someone to do something in a way not yet prescribed in a statute or regulation. The following will focus on how statutes are made by our Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly.

Role of the Legislative Assembly

For sixty five days spread out over two periods in the fall and spring, the Members of the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly meet for a "session" of the Legislature. It is during these sessions that Government is held responsible for its actions and policies. It is also the time when the business of Government is announced in a Throne Speech, taxing and spending approvals are requested through the presentation of a budget, and laws are passed through the consideration of Bills.

Drafting and Printing a Bill

Before a proposed law can be considered by the Assembly, it must be prepared and printed as a "Bill". There are two types of Bills: Private Bills and Public Bills. A Private Bill originates as a petition from a group of citizens and is sponsored by a Member of the Legislative Assembly who is not a cabinet Minister. This type of Bill affects only a small number of people. Bills that affect the entire province are known as Public Bills and are usually introduced by a cabinet Minister. However, Public Bills are sometimes proposed by a Member of the Assembly who acts on his or her own initiative, and not as part of the Government's legislative programme. These Private Members' Public Bills are drafted and printed by the Law Clerk of the Assembly (français) working closely with the sponsoring Member. It is the Law Clerk's job to see that all Bills come before the Assembly in proper form.

An important parliamentary principle is that Bills proposed by Private Members cannot require the Government to levy a tax or spend money - only a Member who is a cabinet Minister, having first obtained the Lieutenant Governor's "Royal Recommendation", may sponsor a "Money Bill."

The majority of Public Bills are brought forward by the Government. They are prepared by a legal draftsperson from the Legislative Drafting Branch in the Department of Justice, who works closely with the Bill's sponsoring Minister and the Minister's departmental officials. Sometimes representatives of those most affected by the public policy proposed by the Bill are consulted. Frequently the Government caucus (consisting of all Members of the Assembly who belong to the political party forming the Government) will review the Bill at some point in the drafting stage, as well. Once a final draft has been agreed to, the Bill is printed in a form suitable for consideration in, and passage by, the Legislative Assembly.

Stages of Passing a Bill

The method of passing a Bill into law used by the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly is modeled on British parliamentary procedure. These stages are known as: introduction and first reading; second reading; committee stage; third reading; and Royal Assent. A "reading" of a Bill refers to a time in British parliamentary history when printing was not very common (and most Members could not read or write in any event!), so it was necessary to inform Parliament of the contents of a Bill by having it read aloud by the Clerk. Today the reason for passing each Bill through several readings, or stages, is to ensure thorough consideration and sufficient time for the public to be made aware of the content of the legislation. A brief description of each stage follows.

Introduction and First Reading of a Bill

The Member sponsoring the Bill will rise from his or her seat when the Speaker calls the Bill for introduction. The Member will then "move" that the Bill be now "introduced" and "read" a first time. If the motion is adopted, the contents of the Bill are made public by distributing printed copies to the Members and by posting the Bill to the Assembly's website. To see Bills currently before the Assembly click here.

The sponsoring Member at this point has the option of proposing a motion to refer the Bill to a committee for consideration. The purpose of doing so is to allow the committee to conduct public hearings on the broader subject matter of the proposed law. Once the committee has concluded its consideration, it will report the Bill and any recommendations agreed to back the Assembly.

Second Reading Debate

The second reading stage is dedicated to a debate on the principle of the Bill. This stage is commenced by the sponsoring Member speaking to the purposes and reasons for the Bill. Other Members of the Assembly will join the debate in turn. The opposition Member responsible for criticizing the policy contained in the Bill is usually the first to respond if it is one sponsored by a Minister. When there are no more members wishing to speak for or against the Bill, the Assembly will vote either to agree with the principle of the Bill and grant it second reading or to disagree with it and defeat the Bill. If second reading has been granted, the Bill will be referred to a committee of the Assembly.

Review by a Committee

This is the time during which each clause of the Bill is reviewed in detail. The Minister responsible for the Bill, accompanied by department officials, appears and answers questions posed by committee Members. The committee will then consider each clause of the Bill in order and any amendments that may be proposed. When each clause is finally adopted, the Bill is reported back to the Assembly.

The Rules of the Assembly provide for each Bill to be considered by both a small seven member policy field committee and a large 57 member Committee of the whole. Consideration in either of these forums may be waved if all Members of the Assembly are in agreement. The Rules also permit a policy field committee to hold public hearings on a Bill, provided that hearings were not previously held after first reading and that the scope of the hearings is restricted to the content of the Bill.

Third Reading Passage

The Bill at third reading may be commented upon and criticised one final time, but the debate centres upon the effects of the Bill if passed. Adoption of the Bill at this stage is known as "passing" the Bill.

Royal Assent

Once a Bill has received third reading, the Lieutenant Governor, acting on behalf of the Monarch, is asked by the Speaker to give "Royal Assent". This completes the "enactment'' of the Bill. It is now called an "Act", and is assigned a chapter number. The Act in its final form is printed and bound as part of the Statutes of Saskatchewan under the year in which the session was held.

Coming into Force

An Act becomes "law" upon Royal Assent if nothing is stated in the Act as to when it is to come into force. However, sometimes an Act specifies that it is to come into force on a date specified in the Act, or that it is to come into force upon "proclamation" of the Lieutenant Governor. If the Act is subject to proclamation, the Lieutenant Governor issues an Order in Council proclaiming the Act in force as of a certain date. The choosing of this date is usually dependent upon the sponsoring department having completed the steps necessary for the administration and enforcement of the Act, and a reasonable time for those persons affected by the Act to have time to prepare, for its implementation.

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