18 Ontario Legislative Process


In the Ontario context, “legislative process” is the term for the progression of a bill through the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Along the way, it will go through a series of debates and votes. If all of these votes are successful, a bill will become an act.

Types of Bills

Bills generally were discussed previously. However, there are finer gradients to Ontario bills, that can greatly impact the likelihood of a particular bill successfully making it through the legislative process. Bills can be thought of in two ways; by sponsor, and by population impacted by the bill:

Type of bill by sponsor:

  • Government Bills: Introduced by Cabinet Ministers, have a higher chance of success.
  • Private Members’ Public Bills: Introduced by any member not a Cabinet Minister. Can be introduced by member of party in power or any other party. Generally, may have a lower chance of success.
  • Committee Bills: A relatively short lived (but still theoretically possible) method of creating bill, where the bill would be written within and introduced by a Standing Committee. There haven’t been many, and there haven’t been any for quite a while.

Type of bill by application:

Unlike in the Federal system, Ontario does not use a numbering system for bills that indicates much about them, with the exception of the “PR” suffix on private bills (as seen in Bill PR1, Loretto Ladies’ Colleges and Schools Act, 2014). This does mean that in a given session, there is likely to be a Bill 2 (public bill) and a Bill PR2 (private bill), so it is important to note this prefix or lack thereof.

To determine if a bill is a government bill, versus a private member’s public bill, look at the sponsor column from the list of a session’s bills or from within a bill, directly under the bill name. If the sponsor has their status as a Minister listed (in italics, often) after their name, then it is a government bill. If, on the other hand, the sponsor’s name appears by itself, then the bill in question is a private member’s public bill.

Omnibus Bills

When researching Ontario legislation, do not forget about the popularity of omnibus bills . While not a “type” of bill as described above (although omnibus bills are almost exclusively government bills), nonetheless they present special challenges for researchers, as the huge volume of material in them often means that discussion is much higher level, and does not necessarily get down to the level of detail that we are looking for.

Legislative Process

Finding Ontario Debates

Especially in comparison to the Federal government, Ontario was relatively late to begin producing Hansard, with the first official volumes produced in 1947. Previous to these dates, some record of what was said in the Legislative Assembly can be found in the Scrapbook Debates, which are literal newspaper clippings, first microformed, and now digitized.

The Ontario legislative process is not dramatically dissimilar from the Federal process, with the notable difference that the Federal system is bicameral, while Ontario is unicameral. For research purposes, means that there is usually less to read for an Ontario bill!

First Reading

All bills in correct format will be granted first reading, and can be presented to the Legislative Assembly with a brief introduction by the bill sponsor. For private members’ public bills, first reading is often the first and last reading.

Second Reading

At second reading, a bill will often be presented with a much more detailed explanation by the sponsor, after which the members of the Legislative Assembly can debate the bill. This debate may be brief, or it may be extensive, possibly stretching over multiple days. After debate, the bill will be voted on, and if successful, either ordered for third reading, or more often, referred to committee.


Most bills are referred to a standing or select committee. Committees are able to travel the province to gather witness testimony, public comment, or even view a particular situation, if relevant. After receiving public submissions, the bill will be examined on a clause-by-clause basis (most useful for researchers!) and can be amended at this point.

It is important to know that Ontario has, at various points in the past, occasionally been in the habit of using the “Committee of the Whole House.” This “committee” consists of all Members of the Legislature, and takes place in the Chamber. Essentially, the Legislature sits in the Chamber, and with the wave of a procedural wand, turns into the Committee of the Whole House. For our purposes, this type of committee does essentially the same work as a standing or select committee. The major difference is that instead of the records of their business being located elsewhere, any debates etc will be part of the main Legislative Assembly materials.

Third Reading

After going to committee, a bill will be reported back to the Legislative Assembly by the committee Chair. At this point, a bill can be ordered for third reading. While this is the last opportunity for the Members of the Legislative Assembly to debate the bill, usually there is little to no actual discussion. Once debate concludes, the bill is presented for its final vote. If it passes, it is ready to present to the Lieutenant Governor for assent in the name of the Sovereign.

Royal Assent

Upon receiving Royal Assent (RA) from the Lieutenant Governor as the representative of the monarch, the bill graduates from the legislative process and becomes an act. At this point, it is assigned a chapter number in the Statutes of Ontario, which is what it should be referred to from then on.

Coming Into Force

Becoming an act doesn’t mean that a piece of legislation now is “the law” and needs to be followed. It still may need to come into force.

Historically, there are some significant quirks around the in force process for any act that did not explicitly state how it came into force, and the current rule of “in force on Royal Assent” in the absence of anything else is not universal:

“Until 1918, silence in an Ontario Act in fact meant that the Act came into force upon assent. In 1919, the rule was changed to provide that unless otherwise provided, an Act came into force on the 60th day after assent. Yet a different rule was adopted in 1925 and continued to apply until 2007. In particular, during this period the Statutes Act held that, in general, unless otherwise provided, every Act took effect on the 60th day after the end of the session at which it was passed.
See The Interpretation Act, S.O. 1867-68, c. 1, s. 4; The Statute Law Amendment Act, 1918, S.O.
1918, c. 20, s. 1; The Statutes Act, 1925, S.O. 1925, c. 6, s. 2; and the Statutes Act, R.S.O. 1990,
c. S.21, s. 5. Section 134, para. 4 of the Legislation Act, 2006 repealed the Statutes Act.”
Research Paper B31 (revised March 2018)

To determine how an act comes into force, look at its in force information, usually found at the end of the act (or end of each schedule for omnibus acts). For acts assented to after 2007, if the act is silent as to its coming into force, it comes into force on Royal Assent. Otherwise, the coming into force information should include one or more of the following:

  • On Royal Assent​: the date on which the act received RA. Look at the front page or top of the act for this information.
  • Deemed date​: “This act comes into force December 31, 2021.”
  • Might be dependent on something else​: “This act comes into force sixty days after the coming into force of section 15 of An Act to Amend Another Act, SO 2021, c 5.”
  • On proclamation​: “This act comes into force on proclamation.” It is impossible to predict when proclamations will happen. Proclamations are published in the Ontario Gazette, and can appear shortly after Royal Assent, or never.
    • Check the Proclamations table, which lists “public statutes and provisions of public statutes that were included in the Revised Statutes of Ontario, 1990, or were enacted on or after January 1, 1991.”
    • For older proclamations, every annual Statutes of Ontario volume has a Table of Proclamations covering from the previous RSO to date, IE the table in the 1989 SO would cover from when the RSO 1980 came into force, to the end of 1989.
  • Retroactive​: Usually retroactive in force dates are only for acts related to financial issues (especially taxation), to cover a complete fiscal year.
  • Some combination​ of above: in force dates can cover a whole act… or sections (or subsections!)​. So, some sections might be in force on RA, other sections might require proclamation, and other sections again have a deemed in force date.
  • Talk to a librarian! Coming into force information can be complex and complicated. Get help to either verify your research, or be guided through the research process.

What About Regulations?

As subordinate legislation, regulations do not go through the legislative process. They are created under the authority of an act, by the person/office to whom authority has been granted, and appear in the Ontario Gazette. Advance notice of regulations, and calls for comment may be available through Ontario’s Regulatory Registry. Unless otherwise specified, regulations come into force on filing.



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Legal Research - A Practical Perspective Copyright © 2022 by Meris Bray is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book