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. When the lieutenant governor signs the bill, the bill has received “Royal Assent”.

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

Although the lieutenant governor theoretically has the power to refuse Royal Assent, in practice 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.

Especially on a very controversial bill, you may hear about people writing to the lieutenant governor asking him or her to refuse Royal Assent. This is a wasted effort. You will likely get a reply from the lieutenant governor’s staff saying something like this:

In accordance with the Constitution Act of 1867 and the conventions that have developed since the attainment of Responsible Government in 1848, the Lieutenant Governor does not become involved in disputes or issues that are before the courts or which fall into the area of a public policy matter that is normally administered by the Provincial Government.

Under the circumstances in which you have contacted the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, it is the practice of this Office to advise you to contact the Premier, the respective Minister of the Crown and/or your Member of the Legislative Assembly to express your views. These are the representatives who have the responsibility for deliberating on these matters.

That is an actual message sent by the lieutenant governor’s staff to a citizen who had written to ask that Bill 75 (February 2017) be refused 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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