A Teachable Moment: How a Private Member's Bill Becomes a Law

Ted Hsu
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I am posting this blog to point out what I hope is a “teachable moment” for students across Kingston and the Islands interested in following along as their MP moves his bill forward in the hope that it will become a law. Here is an opportunity for teachers and parents to engage kids in democracy and government.


It’s Tuesday, November 4, 2014.

My private member’s bill, Bill C-626, will be debated on Thursday this week in the House of Commons. The bill aims to reinstate the mandatory long-form census and strengthen the independence of the Chief Statistician. Why do we need this bill? Researchers who try to piece together an accurate picture of Canada, and how it is changing, are reeling from the elimination of the long-form census in 2011. Without trustworthy information, we cannot govern ourselves wisely.

At the beginning of each Parliament, there is a lottery and each MP (except Cabinet Ministers) are given a number. MPs are able to present only one bill or motion when their number comes up. An MP can table in the House as many bills or motions as he or she wants, but can only pick one for the House to debate and vote on.

My place in the lottery held after the general election in May 2011 was #153. After three years, my turn has finally come up. I have several private member’s bills on the Notice Paper, but I chose to bring forward Bill C-626 for debate and vote. I believe that having accurate and reliable data is crucial to developing evidenced-based policy and being able to govern ourselves wisely. I only have one chance to bring forward a bill, and this bill most reflects how I view good government.

Knowledge about the community from the census helps elected representatives make good laws and policy decisions. On this map of Kingston, areas known as “census tracts” have had their information on things like average education, average income, housing and education suppressed by Statistics Canada because not enough surveys were returned in 2011. Before 2011, filling out the long-form census had been a legal obligation, a duty much like paying taxes or serving on a jury.

Kingston - Census tracts

There will be a another session of debate, probably in early February, followed by a second reading vote. The second reading vote is a vote on whether or not to support the bill in principle. Only if it passes that vote will the bill be sent to committee for detailed study. Follow the progress of the bill at Legisinfo

Legisinfo page

click to go to the actual page

For more information on a Bill becoming a law, read Follow that Bill!”