Private Bills

Private Bills are a special type of legislation that differ from public Bills by their intent, content and method of passage.

Public Bills propose to regulate matters of a much wider or general nature than private Bills. For example, a public Bill might attempt to regulate an entire industry, impose a new tax, amend existing legislation or affect the administration of justice. A public Bill, if enacted, applies throughout the province and to all persons or classes of persons. A private Bill, on the other hand, applies only to specific individuals or entities within society rather than to the population as a whole, and is used in very specific circumstances. As with any other Bill introduced in the Legislative Assembly, once enacted, a private Bill is a law that is enforceable like any other law.

Private Bills Exist to

Accommodate extraordinary situations

Private Bills may be enacted to provide a right or benefit when no equitable remedy can be found within existing law, but they cannot be used to create an inequitable personal benefit or perceived competitive advantage for a specific group or individual.

Provide limited exemption from public legislation

In very limited circumstances private Bills may be enacted to exempt an individual or group from a public law deemed inequitable or that would result in a miscarriage of justice in a particular situation, but they must avoid creating inequity or unfairness with other individuals or groups.

 

If you want to propose changes to public legislation of general application, information about how to petition the Legislative Assembly can be found here.

“Today private legislation accounts for only a minuscule percentage of House business. Most private Bills now deal with the incorporation of or amendments to the Acts of incorporation of religious, charitable and other organizations . . .”

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Applying for a Private Bill

The reasons must be extraordinary for the Legislative Assembly to pass a private Bill. It is the Legislative Assembly’s first priority to consider public policy issues in the context of making laws that apply to everyone equally. Before applying for a private Bill petitioners are encouraged to consider a number of factors.

Confirm a remedy does not exist

Before applying for a private Bill, a petitioner must consult applicable legislation to see if a remedy for their situation can be achieved under existing laws or through the courts, a Government department or agency, a private law firm or a lawyer.

Ensure provincial jurisdiction

For matters within provincial jurisdiction the Legislative Assembly of Alberta is the appropriate body to apply for a private Bill. Matters that are within federal jurisdiction such as divorce, military issues, exemption from or variance of the terms of a federal statute and immigration and citizenship must be addressed to the Parliament of Canada.

Confirm the sitting date

Private Bills may only be considered while the Legislative Assembly is sitting. All requirements to submit an application for a private Bill must be met by a petitioner within 15 days following the first day of the first sitting in any calendar year. The Legislative Assembly’s sessional calendar is typically made public on or before January 15 each year. Refer to the sessional calendar to confirm the scheduled sitting days of the Legislative Assembly.

Contact Parliamentary Counsel

Before applying to the Legislative Assembly for a private Bill, petitioners are strongly encouraged to contact the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, which provides legal advice and support to the Standing Committee on Private Bills and Private Members’ Public Bills and Members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.

The Office of Parliamentary Counsel is responsible for:

  • providing information on the private Bills process to petitioners
  • reviewing draft Bills to ensure they reflect Alberta’s legislative drafting standards and style
  • arranging for the printing of a private Bill prior to its introduction in the Legislative Assembly
  • co-ordinating the hearing before the Committee to hear from each petitioner
  • notifying other authorities or Government departments that the Committee may wish to consult with on the contents of a private Bill
  • notifying individuals whose rights might be affected by a private Bill

E-mail Parliamentary Counsel at parliamentary.counsel@assembly.ab.ca

The information on this page has been prepared as a general description of the process for applying for a private Bill and does not constitute legal advice. Carefully review the Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. Petitioners are responsible for ensuring their application for a private Bill complies with all applicable rules and conventions, and may wish to consult a lawyer for legal advice.

Navigating the Private Bills Process

The Standing Committee on Private Bills and Private Members’ Public Bills receives applications for private Bills through the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, on behalf of the Clerk. The Office of Parliamentary Counsel is responsible for providing legal advice and support to the Committee and Members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. The procedure for applying for a private Bill is primarily set out in Chapter 8 of the Standing Orders, which are the written rules and protocols of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. Other parliamentary rules and conventions also apply.

Prepare in duplicate two letters of petition describing the private Bill and its objective, one addressed to the Lieutenant Governor and the other to the Legislative Assembly. The letters of petition must be original and signed by the petitioner or their legal counsel. In some instances petitioners must be 18 years of age or older.

See Private Bill Petition Samples for more

The petitioner must submit in Alberta legislative drafting style a copy of the private Bill the petitioner would like passed. The Office of Parliamentary Counsel can assist the petitioner to ensure the draft Bill reflects Alberta legislative drafting style and form, but petitioners may want to seek legal counsel for legal advice on the contents of the Bill.

Examples of drafting rules in Alberta

If the Bill proposes the creation of a new private Act, each section of the draft Bill must have a heading that accurately describes the section. Subsections and clauses should not have headings.

If the Bill proposes amendments to an existing private Act, explanatory notes must be completed on the page opposite each major amending provision, typically for each section and subsection, of the Bill.

The form and style of a private Bill are the same as the form and style of a public Bill. Petitioners may wish to consult the Statutes of Alberta for drafting examples and to research similar private Acts from previous years or from other jurisdictions before preparing a draft.

The petitioner should also keep in mind the following drafting practices:

  • use gender-neutral language – refer to the individual or the person instead of using pronouns
  • each section or subsection should be no more than one sentence – clauses and subclauses should be included in one carefully drafted sentence at the end of a section or subsection;
  • only use short titles, for example ABC College Act.

A notice must be published once a week for two consecutive weeks in the legal notices section of an Alberta newspaper circulated in the region where the petitioner lives or where the subject matter of the private Bill is located. The notice must be published no earlier than November 1 of the year preceding the sitting in which the application for the private Bill will be presented. Refer to the sessional calendar for sitting days.

The notice must briefly set out the objects of the private Bill or the remedy requested from the Legislature, and be in the required form.

Request a statutory declaration from the newspaper’s publisher to confirm the dates the notice was published. A copy of the notice must also be attached as an exhibit to the statutory declaration.

Only a private Member can introduce a private Bill in the Legislative Assembly. A private Member is any Member of the Legislative Assembly who is not part of cabinet. It is not required for a private Member to represent the petitioner’s constituency or the constituency that may be the subject of the private Bill.

Petitioners pay a fee of $500 when applying for a private Bill not exceeding 10 pages (450 words per page) and an additional $10 for each page in excess of 10 pages. Payment is made by certified cheque, law firm cheque or money order payable to the “Minister of Finance – Legislative Assembly Office” and submitted to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel with the petitioner’s application. Petitioners are not entitled to a refund if a private Bill does not proceed, is not passed by the Legislative Assembly or is withdrawn for any other reason.

Petitioners must submit the following documents to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel no later than the 15th day following the first day of the first sitting in any year:

  1. duplicate originals of each of the letters of petition
  2. two copies of the draft Bill
  3. statutory declaration
  4. name of the private Member sponsoring the private Bill
  5. certified cheque or money order

Petitioners may submit other materials that may be relevant to the Committee in considering the application for the private Bill such as similar private Acts from previous years or other jurisdictions or background information.

Once the Member who has agreed to sponsor the private Bill has introduced it in the Assembly for first reading, it will stand referred to the Standing Committee on Private Bills and Private Members’ Public Bills for consideration.

The Standing Committee on Private Bills and Private Members’ Public Bills typically conducts a hearing on all applications for private Bills. Petitioners, their legal counsel and any witnesses will be invited by the Committee to attend a hearing and respond to questions about the private Bill. The Office of Parliamentary Counsel will advise petitioners of the hearing date, proper attire, formal address, procedural issues and protocol before the hearing. All evidence at the hearing is given under oath and on the public record, similar to a courtroom.

Hearing process

Bill presentation

The petitioner will be invited to make a brief presentation to the Committee to explain the purpose of the private Bill.

Questions

The Committee may direct questions to petitioners or witnesses. Certain questions may also be asked by Parliamentary Counsel, who are responsible for advising the Committee on points of law and possible contentious issues in the Bill and recommending certain considerations of the Bill’s contents.

Other parties

Individuals whose rights may be adversely affected by a private Bill or any interested Government departments may decide to oppose an application. The petitioner will be advised before the hearing if there are opposing parties. If the Committee considers it appropriate, the petitioner may be given the opportunity during the hearing to respond to or cross-examine an opposing party.

Unwilling witnesses may also be summoned to appear by warrant of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly pursuant to the Legislative Assembly Act. Only the Committee can authorize the issuance of a warrant by resolution.

Following the hearing, the Committee may make one of three recommendations to the Legislative Assembly with respect to the private Bill:

  • to proceed as originally presented in the Assembly;
  • to proceed with certain amendments as recommended by the Committee;
  • not to proceed.

If the Committee recommends the Bill proceed as originally presented or proceed with amendments, and the recommendation is accepted by the Assembly, the Bill will continue to debate at second reading. If the Committee recommends that the Bill not proceed and the recommendation is accepted by the Assembly, the Bill is dropped from the Order Paper and no further consideration of the Bill takes place.

If the Bill is passed by the Assembly and receives Royal Assent, it will become an Act and part of the laws of the province of Alberta. Parliamentary Counsel will notify petitioners of a Bill’s progress once consideration by the Assembly is complete. 

Private Bill Petition Samples

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To Her Honour The Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Alberta.

The Petition of the Undersigned John Smith and Mary Smith, of the City of Edmonton, in the Province of Alberta, humbly shows:

That (State the object desired by the petitioner in soliciting a private Act)

Wherefore your petitioner humbly prays that Your Honour may be pleased to sanction the passing of an Act for the purposes mentioned.

And as in duty bound your petitioner will ever pray.

(Signature)

(Date)

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To the Honourable, the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, in Legislature Assembled:

The Petition of the Undersigned John Smith and Mary Smith, of the City of Edmonton, in the Province of Alberta, humbly shows:

That (State the object desired by the petitioner in soliciting a private Act)

Wherefore your petitioner humbly prays that Your Honourable Assembly may be pleased to pass an Act for the purposes mentioned.

And as in duty bound your petitioner will ever pray.

(Signature)

(Date)

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NOTICE

(Name of proposed private Act here)

NOTICE is hereby given that petitions will be submitted by [John and Mary Smith] to the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Alberta for the passage of a Bill that (State the object desired by the petitioner in soliciting a private Act).

Any person whose rights or property are materially affected by the proposed legislation may contact the Legislative Assembly in writing no later than the 15th day following the first day of the first sitting in a year should they wish to make a representation relevant to this application. Correspondence should be addressed to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, 3rd Floor, 9820 - 107 Street NW, Edmonton, Alberta, T5K 1E7. Telephone 780.422.4837. Fax 780.427.0744.

Email parliamentary.counsel@assembly.ab.ca

DATED at the City of Edmonton, in the Province of Alberta, this ____ day of ______________, 20__.

(Name(s) and address(es) of petitioner(s) or petitioner’s counsel)

Frequently Asked Questions

No. Although both types of Bills are sponsored by a private Member, a private Member’s Bill is a type of public Bill.

Public Bills that are introduced by Cabinet Ministers are referred to as “Government Bills.” Public Bills introduced by Members of the Legislative Assembly who are not Cabinet Ministers are called “Private Members’ Public Bills” (or “Private Members’ Bills”).

While it is unusual to make changes to the text of a Bill after it is submitted, changes are sometimes necessary when unforeseen circumstances arise. In the event of a change the Office of Parliamentary Counsel should be notified immediately so that they can advise on the necessary steps to be taken to implement the change.

Yes. The Legislative Assembly may refuse to pass a private Bill that would grant an exemption to a petitioner from the operation of public law even if the operation of that law might be seen by some to create an injustice. Some reasons why the Legislative Assembly might refuse to grant an exemption are if it would result in inequity with other Albertans or if the overall ramifications of such legislation would create serious public policy difficulties by leading to overwhelming requests for similar extraordinary remedies.

In some instances petitioners must be 18 years of age or older. In the case of a Bill for the incorporation of a company the persons named in the Bill must be 18 years or older, consent to become incorporated and be capable of effecting the objects of the corporation.