Understanding the workings of a Private Member’s Bill

This week is a busy one back in Ottawa as the House resumed session on Monday morning.

This week is a busy one back in Ottawa as the House resumed session on Monday morning.

The House of Commons stood united as leaders from all parties marked the opening of Parliament with a tribute to the memory of Jack Layton.

Question Period is often the most covered in the media however there are many parliamentary functions of lesser notoriety where Parliamentarians do indeed work together in a much more civil and constructive manner.

The comments reserved in memory of Jack Layton served as a reminder that all Members of Parliament are elected to serve the public and though we may at times disagree on the means to achieve that goal we must always be mindful of the need to be respectful and constructive in our dealings.

The introduction of government bills will also be heavily on the agenda for this week including many Private Member’s Bills.

It should be noted that PMBs serve the public interest by giving rank and file MPs the opportunity to propose legislative changes.

Private Member’s Bills generally fall into two categories. The first category applies if a bill calls for the expenditure of tax dollars, in such cases there is a constitutional requirement that a royal recommendation would apply and this can only come from government through a minister.

In other words a Private Member’s Bill cannot force a government into a public spending commitment without the support of government.

The second and more common type of Private Member’s Bill may reduce a tax, or impose or increase an exemption from taxation, or suggest another action of government.

There are currently roughly 70 Private Member’s Bills being proposed with topics as varied as “ An Act to establish Leif Erikson Day”  to  “An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (prohibition against the transportation of oil by oil tankers on Canada’s Pacific North Coast.)”

There are far too many bills to individually reference in this report, however if there is a specific bill you would like further information on please do not hesitate to contact me.

I also follow your comments and email closely and if there is a specific Bill (such as the now defunct Bill 428) that attracts a significant amount of inquires I will reference it in my future MP reports.

Aside from bills, Members of Parliament may also introduce a Private Member’s Motion into the House.

A motion can cover a wide range of different issues that typically attempt to propose an opinion or direction for a course of action to government. motions, unlike bills, are generally less specific in details.

It should be noted that government is not bound to adopt a motion from a private member.

That being said, a private member may give notice of a motion requesting specific papers or documents be compiled or produced by the government to be  tabled into the house.

If such a motion is adopted, the requested action can be carried forward.

PMBs are but one of the many fascinating aspects to our Parliamentary system.

PMBs offers Members of Parliament the opportunity to build awareness around an issue or direct legislative change.

Many PMBs are not passed, some are later adopted by government.

Private Member’s Bills are as varied and diverse as the hundreds of ridings across Canada and represent the full spectrum of ideas from throughout our great country.

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla and can be reached at dan.albas@parl.gc.ca


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