ODA Committee Update
dated Sept. 21, 2004
posted Oct. 11, 2004
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
ODA Committee Provides Introductory Guide On The Process That An ODA Bill Goes Through At The Ontario Legislature
September 21, 2004
The Ontario Government has committed to introduce a new ODA bill this fall.
The ODA Committee wants to help all ODA supporters follow and take full part
in the legislative process.
To help with this, the ODA Committee is again circulating a guide on the
process a bill goes through when it is before the Legislature. (See below)
We circulated an earlier version of this Guide in 2001 when the previous
conservative Government was about to introduce its ODA bill.
We hope you find this Guide helpful and informative. It is written for
readers who are not familiar with the details of the Legislature's workings.
Circulate this Guide to others who might find it helpful.
Send us your feedback at:
Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee
HOW A BILL MAKES ITS WAY THROUGH THE ONTARIO LEGISLATURE
An Guide for ODA Supporters
September 20, 2004
The Ontario Government has committed to introduce its new ODA bill into the
Legislature this fall. You might find it helpful to review background
information on the steps that a bill must take to become a law. Especially
for those who are newcomers to this process, it can seem unpredictable and
confusing. We hope this introduction will help ODA supporters.
We explain the steps in this process, including three votes by all MPPs and
possible Legislative Committee proceedings and hearings in between these
STEPS FOR GETTING A BILL THROUGH THE LEGISLATURE
When a law has been passed by the Ontario Legislature it is called
"legislation" or a "statute" or an "Act". New legislation must first start
out as a "bill." A "bill" is a proposal for a new law. A bill is written
just like a piece of legislation but it has not yet become a law.
To get before the Legislature to be considered, an MPP (member of Provincial
Parliament) must introduce a bill into the Legislature. Once a bill is
introduced into the Legislature, it is up to the Legislature to decide
whether to pass it into law. Until it is passed into law, it continues to be
called a "bill." Once it is introduced, a bill is given a bill number. When
it is dealt with by the Legislature, it is referred to by that number e.g.
Bill 125. Only after a bill is passed into
law, can it be called a "statute" or an "Act," like the "Ontarians with
Disabilities Act."Thus, we talk about the Government planning to introduce
an "ODA bill" this fall into the Legislature.
A bill does not become a law unless a majority in the Legislature votes in
favour of it three separate times. Each vote is called a "reading." The
separate votes on the bill are called first, second and third readings. If
the bill is defeated at one of these readings, it dies and does not proceed
any further. If a bill dies and an MPP wants to start again, he or she must
re-introduce it and the whole process can start all over again.
In describing the steps that it takes to get a bill through the Legislature,
it is assumed here that the Government party has a majority of the seats in
the Legislature which is the case right
now for the Liberal Government. In this situation, the Government has
general control over the process and the timing of the bill. Things are very
different where there is a "minority government." This summary does not
address that situation.
If the Government party has a majority in the Legislature, it can usually
ensure that a bill passes all three readings. The bill will pass unless
enough of the Government's individual members take the unusual step of
voting against their own party's bill. That happens infrequently.
If the Government has a majority it can also pass a motion for "time
allocation" or "closure" at any point in the process. This motion can impose
time limits on how long the Legislature will
spend debating the bill at any of the stages of the process described here.
(b) First Reading
The Government decides when it will place a bill before the Legislature for
first reading. The government can decide if it wants to tell the public in
advance when it plans to introduce the bill. We have asked the Government
to give persons with disabilities notice of each time the ODA bill will be
taking a major step in the Legislature so that persons with disabilities can
make arrangements to attend the proceedings.
When the bill is first introduced into the Legislature for first reading,
the Minister who is sponsoring the bill stands up, tables the bill and moves
a motion for first reading. There is an
immediate vote. There is no debate over the content of a bill at this point.
When the MPPs vote on the bill at first reading, they usually give the bill
unanimous approval regardless of its
content. The fact that the bill passed first reading means only that it is
now a bill before the Legislature. It is not yet a law which the public must
The minister who introduces the bill will then make a speech summarizing
what the bill contains, either right then or a little while later that day.
No amendments to the bill are discussed or
voted on at this time.
(c) Second Reading
After a bill has received first reading, the Government decides when it will
bring that bill forward again to the Legislature for second reading. It can
do so at whatever time it wishes, either a few days later or weeks or even
months later. This is subject to some rules that may limit how many steps
can be taken on a bill in a single day.
When the government brings its bill forward for "second reading," MPPs
usually have the opportunity to make speeches for or against the bill before
they all vote. This is subject to any time limits imposed by a "time
allocation" or "closure" motion.
The "second reading" vote is called "approval in principle." The idea at
this point is that the Legislature is deciding whether to approve the
principle of the bill at this stage. However MPPs may plan to suggest
changes to improve the bill before the final vote on the bill. Again,
amendments to the contents of the bill are not discussed or voted on at this
(d) Public Hearings on the Bill Before a Committee of the Legislature
Once a bill has passed second reading, the Legislature, dominated by the
Government's majority, may decide to have the bill sent to a committee of
the Legislature for study and debate before the
Legislature again considers it at third reading.
Infrequently the Legislature may send a bill to Committee right after first
reading, rather than waiting for second reading. This is considered to be a
signal that the Government is more open to
the idea of seriously entertaining major amendments to the bill.
A majority of the members of each Legislative committee come from the
governing Liberal Party since that party has a majority of seats in the
Legislature. There will also be members from the two opposition parties on
the committee. Because the Government has a majority, it controls the
proceedings at the committee including the time spent on any bill.
This legislative committee can choose to hold public hearings if it wishes.
"Hearings" before a legislative committee at this stage are very different
from previous consultations that the Government has conducted on the ODA
issue. For example:
(a) Previous consultations by the Government usually do not involved the
opposition parties at all. In contrast, in the case of a Legislative
Committee's "public hearings," all three parties may
be on the Legislative Committee that holds the hearings.
(b) In previous Government consultations on the ODA, they have not brought
forward a specific bill for us to comment on. In contrast, the Legislative
Committee's public hearings would focus on a specific bill before the
Public hearings usually take place at Queen's Park in Toronto. However,
there are some occasions when a Legislative Committee has agreed to hold
Legislative Committee public hearings outside Toronto as well. The ODA
Committee has urged that open, accessible hearings be held on any new ODA
bill, and that these travel outside Toronto.
The Legislative Committee decides who it will allow to make presentations at
its public hearings. Even if the legislative committee decides to hold
public hearings on a bill, there is
certainly no guarantee that the committee will allow anyone and everyone to
make a presentation who wants to do so. If one is not allowed to make a
presentation in person, the Committee will accept written submissions. It is
hard to know how many MPPs on the Committee read the written submissions,
and what they do with them.
Once the ODA Committee learns which Committee will be dealing with the
forthcoming ODA bill, and how to apply to make a presentation to that
committee, we will publicize this information. Ultimately with its majority,
the Government decides whether there will be hearings, and if so, where and
when and for how long there will be hearings. When in opposition, the
Liberal Party was on record supporting accessible public hearings.
(e) Detailed Study of the Bill by the Legislative Committee
After the Committee holds hearings, it undertakes "clause-by-clause" debate
on the bill. During this, the Committee goes through the bill, one section
at a time. It is only at this time that the
Committee considers possible amendments to the bill. Any MPP on the
Legislative Committee can put forward amendments, including MPPs from the
opposition parties. The Government may itself place a package of amendments
before the Committee to respond to the matters raised during the hearings
that the Government thinks deserve some action or correction.
In the case of the ODA bill, we can expect that the Government MPPs will
take their directions from the Citizenship Minister or the Premier's office
on which amendments they can vote for, and which they should vote against.
It is possible during this process to get some changes made to a bill.
Members of the public can contact individual MPPs, and especially those on
the Committee, to urge desired amendments. The membership of the Committee
may not be the same as those posted on the Legislature's web site. Sometimes
other MPPs substitute in for the usual members of the Committee. It is
always worthwhile to approach any MPP, and especially any Government MPP, to
advocate for amendments that you want.
(f) Third Reading
If the bill goes to the Committee after second reading, then once the
legislative committee finishes its work on the bill, the Government can
bring the bill back before the Legislature for its
third and final reading. If the Government sends the bill to Committee after
first reading, then the Government decides whether or when to bring the bill
back before the Legislature for second
and third reading. If a Government decides in the interim that it no longer
wants to proceed with the bill, it may never bring it back before the
Before the third reading vote, MPPs again can make speeches about the bill,
called "third reading debate." Again, the Government can limit the time for
this debate with a motion for "time
allocation" or "closure." Amendments generally cannot be put forward at
Finally, the Legislature is asked to make its third and final vote on the
bill. If the bill is defeated at this stage, it is dead.
(g) Royal Assent
If the bill passes third reading, then it must go through one more
formality. The bill goes to the Lieutenant Governor of the Province of
Ontario to get Royal Assent. This formality is
automatically given. At this stage, we say that the bill has been passed
(h) Proclamation of the Bill
This is not necessarily the end of the process. Sometimes a bill states that
it does not go into effect until the Cabinet "proclaims" it. This gives
Cabinet the power to delay the law
actually going into operation until some future date that the Cabinet
chooses. We do not know if the Government plans to include this kind of
clause in its ODA bill.
WHAT IF THE LEGISLATURE TAKES A BREAK BEFORE COMPLETING THIS PROCESS?
What happens if the bill does not make it all the way through all three
readings before the Legislature stops sitting some time in December before
the holidays? The answer is not clear or simple. The Legislature sits for a
prolonged period called a "session." Each session begins with a Speech from
the Throne, during which the Government announces its plans for that
The Legislature's session then continues until the Government decides to end
the session. It ends the session by taking a formal step called "proroguing"
the Legislature. It is up to the Government alone to decide when to
"prorogue" the Legislature, and when to call the Legislature back for a new
If the Legislature decides to take a break over the holidays, and the
Government chooses not to "prorogue" the Legislature, then it is said that
the Legislature has "adjourned" the current session
for the holidays. When the Legislature comes back, the session merely
resumes where it left off. All bills that are in progress continue to be
alive, and can pick up where they left off in December.
If the Legislature adjourns this December, and if an ODA bill receives
second reading before it adjourns, then it is possible that a legislative
committee will deal with the bill over the
winter break. This could include public hearings over that period, if the
Government agrees to do this.
On the other hand, if the Government chooses to prorogue the Legislature
after it finishes its sittings in December, then all bills before the
Legislature "die on the order paper." Normally the
Government has to start all over from scratch when the Legislature resumes.
If the ODA bill dies on the order paper at Christmas time, the Government
would have to re-introduce it when
the new session begins some time in the new year, with first reading
happening all over again.
Even if the Government decides in late December to prorogue the Legislature,
there is one way for the Government to keep an ODA bill alive over the
winter, and even to hold public hearings over that time. All the Legislature
has to do is to pass a motion in December, before they rise and prorogue,
declaring that the ODA bill will be carried forward into the new session,
and that the
Legislative Committee can hold hearings on the ODA bill over the winter. The
Government would of course have to agree to this.
HOW DO YOU GET A COPY OF THE ODA BILL WHEN INTRODUCED?
When a bill is introduced, it usually takes the Legislature two to five days
to get the bill printed up. After that you can find it on the Legislature's
web site at: http://www.ontla.on.ca
As soon as the bill receives first reading, you can ask the Citizenship
Minister's office for a copy of the bill, by writing:
Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, Minister of Citizenship
400 University Avenue 6th Floor
Toronto ON M7A 2R9
The ODA Committee will circulate the ODA bill as soon as it can, through Email and its own web site at: http://www.odacommittee.net
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