Q33. What is Royal Assent?

Royal Assent is approval by the lieutenant governor; it is automatic

A33. A bill that has passed third reading in the House of Assembly is presented to the lieutenant governor for approval. If the lieutenant governor signs the bill—and he or she always does—the bill has received Royal Assent.

Under Canada’s constitution, a bill cannot become law until it is approved by the lieutenant governor. The lieutenant governor represents the Crown, which is the organizing idea behind our system of government.

If that seems very old-fashioned, it is. Today, it is almost inconceivable that the lieutenant governor would refuse to sign a bill that has been approved by the House of Assembly. Royal Assent is a formality.

A bill can go to the lieutenant governor for Royal Assent any time after third reading. If the government is in a hurry, they will rush the bill to the lieutenant governor. Otherwise, Royal Assent can wait for a few days, or until the end of the legislature’s spring sitting or fall sitting.

If the lieutenant governor is not available for any reason, Royal Assent can be given by the Chief Justice of Nova Scotia.

Unless the bill says otherwise, a bill comes into force immediately upon receiving Royal Assent.

Author: Graham Steele

A former MLA in Nova Scotia, currently Professor of Business Law in the Rowe School of Business at Dalhousie University

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