Mr. Speaker, one of my favourite things about this job is that every day I learn something new. Obviously, I’ve had to learn a lot about how laws are made . The specifics of the legislative process aren’t as widely known as they could be, so I thought that today I would share what I have learned with the public.
It all starts with an idea about how to make things better. That idea is developed, expanded, refined, or combined with other ideas into a bill. Just because an idea gets turned into a bill doesn’t mean that the idea was good to begin with, so the legislative process helps us improve on worthy ideas and weed out bad ones.
The first mention of a bill in the Legislative Assembly is when the sponsor, which is either a Minister or a Regular Member, gives notice of first reading. Two days later, the sponsor makes a motion that the bill be read for the first time, and Members vote as to whether or not the bill should proceed further. If it passes, then the bill is reprinted and members and the public can see its contents.
Prior to the vote, no one other than the sponsor actually knows what is in the bill. If defeated, the bill never sees the light of day, and its merits are never publicly debated. Mr. Speaker, because Members don’t know the contents of the bill, what they are really voting on is whether or not they want to be exposed to a new idea.
Because it is commonly accepted that the ability to present and debate ideas is an indispensable cornerstone of democracy, first reading is usually just a formality, and many legislations don’t even bother with a vote.
However, new ideas can be scary. They can pose a threat to the status quo and to existing power structures, so those who fear change may prefer to censor new ideas.
The ability to kill a bill at first reading is a wonderful tool for partisan governments where suppression of the minority is key, but I find it oddly out of place in our consensus model. Perhaps the power to put people back in their place when they step out of line is just part of the colonial baggage that we inherited as part of the Westminster system.
However, Mr. Speaker, I’m optimistic that we’ll shed that baggage yet, because like I said at the beginning of this sitting, change is on the horizon.
Uh oh, Mr. Speaker, I had hoped to explain the entire legislative process, but it looks like I’ve run out of time. I guess I won’t make it past first reading, but I appreciate the common decency and commitment to free speech that you’ve displayed by allowing me to speak.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.