Legislative Process

The statutes of Nova Scotia are enacted by the Legislature which consists of the Lieutenant Governor and the House of Assembly. (Before May 31, 1928, the Legislature also included an appointed Legislative Council.) The formal legislative process to enact a statute in Nova Scotia consists of three readings of a bill in the House of Assembly [Rule 53 of the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly] followed by Royal Assent by the Lieutenant Governor or, if the Governor is unavailable, by the Administrator of the Province [section 67 of the Constitution Act, 1867].

Upon prorogation of a session of the House of Assembly or dissolution of the Assembly for an election, any bill that has not received third reading dies on the order paper and, if it is to be dealt with further by the Assembly, must begin the process again from the beginning.

First Reading

The first stage in the legislative process is the introduction of a bill in the House of Assembly by a member of the Assembly. During the daily routine with which each day in the House begins, under the item "Introduction of Bills" [Rule 17], a member wishing to introduce a bill, upon recognition by the Speaker, rises in his or her place and begs leave to introduce "a bill entitled (title of bill)" [Rule 44]. Unless the bill is ruled out of order (for example, only a minister of the Crown may introduce a money bill), the bill is assigned a number by the Clerk of the Assembly, is printed and distributed to all the members and is placed on the order paper under the heading bills "For Second Reading" [Rule 45].

A bill may not be introduced unless it has been approved as to form by the Legislative Counsel [Rule 79]. The stamp and signature of the Legislative Counsel appears on the cover of the original bill.

The pro forma bill introduced at the opening of each session is not assigned a number, is not placed on the order paper and is not dealt with further. The annual appropriations bill has its own special procedure [Rule 62G(3)].

Second Reading

The next stage is for the bill to be called for second reading. Except by unanimous consent, second reading may not begin until the bill has been printed and distributed to the members and this has been signified on the order paper[Rule 45].

The second reading debate is a debate on the principle of the bill. No amendments may be made to the bill at this stage [Rule 56].

Standing Committees

If the bill is passed at the second reading, it is automatically referred by the Speaker to either the Law Amendments Committee or the Private and Local Bills Committee [Rule 46]. Government bills and private member's bills are referred to the Law Amendments Committee and private bills and local bills are referred to the Private and Local Bills Committee.

The two standing committees hold public hearings on the bills referred to them. Each committee considers all written and oral submissions made to it. In the case of a Government bill, the Law Amendments Committee may also receive, after the public hearings have concluded, a written recommendation from the minister of the Crown who introduced the bill. The committee decides upon any changes to the bill that it wishes to recommend to the House of Assembly and the chair of the committee reports the bill back to the House [Rule 47(1)] or, infrequently, the committee decides not to report the bill back. The bill may be reprinted at this stage, showing the changes recommended by the committee.

Committee of the Whole house on Bills

Upon a bill being reported back to the House of Assembly by a standing committee, it is automatically committed to the Committtee of the Whole House on Bills [Rule 47(2)]. The Committee subsequently considers the bill clause by clause. In doing so, the Committee of the Whole considers any changes recommended by the Law Amendments Committee or the Private and Local Bills Committee, as the case may be, [Rule 47(3)] and makes any changes to the bill it wishes to make, whether or not recommended by the standing committee that considered the bill. The Committee of the Whole may then report the bill back to the House [Rule 58].

Upon a bill being reported back to the House of Assembly by the Committtee of the Whole House on Bills, the bill is placed on the order paper under the heading bills "For Third Reading" [Rule 50].

Third Reading

The next stage is for the bill to be called for third reading. Unless the House of Assembly orders third reading to begin immediately, third reading takes place on a future day (after being reported back) [Rule 50].

The third reading debate is a debate on the principle of the bill as recommended by the Committee of the Whole House on Bills. No substantive amendments are normally made to the bill at this stage but the bill may be recommitted to the Committee of the Whole House on bills or to another committee [Rule 51].

Royal Assent

After a bill has passed three readings, it receives Royal Assent from the Lieutenant Governor (or, if the Governor is unavailable, from the Administrator of the Province). This is usually done in a short ceremony in the House of Assembly chamber on the last day of the sitting.

The Lieutenant Governor does not sign the original bill but rather an "engrossed" bill certified by the Speaker and by the Clerk of the House of Assembly to be the bill as passed by the House. Engrossing a bill means making a new copy with all the amendments incorporated.

Effective Date

A statute may provide that all or part of it comes into force by proclamation or on a specified date. Proclamations are made by the Governor in Council (the Executive Council -- i.e. the Cabinet -- acting with the advice and consent of the Lieutenant Governor). To the extent that the statute is silent with respect to it, or part of it, coming into force, it came into force on Royal Assent.

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This page and its contents published by the Office of the Legislative Counsel, Nova Scotia House of Assembly, and © 2006 Crown in right of Nova Scotia. Updated January 27, 2006. Send comments to legc.office@gov.ns.ca.