Q34. What is proclamation?

A Cabinet order declaring a law to be in force

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A34. Normally a bill that passes through the five-stage law-making process and receives Royal Assent comes into force immediately. In other words, it is now the law of Nova Scotia.

But there are two exceptions to this immediately-in-force rule:

  1. If the bill itself specifies a different date on which it comes into force. For example, a bill that is approved by the House of Assembly in May 2017 might say “This bill comes into force on July 1, 2018.”
  2. If the bill itself specifies that it comes into force by proclamation. The typical words are “This Act comes into force on such day as the Governor in Council orders and declares by proclamation”. Those are the words used, for example, in Bill 148.

A proclamation is a Cabinet order stating the date on which a bill comes into force.

There are several reasons why a government might wish to delay bringing a law into force. The government might delay proclamation because

  1. It wants to hold public consultation or to provide public information about the new law.
  2. It needs to set up administrative systems to support the new law.
  3. It needs to write regulations authorized by the new law and that are needed to fill out the details.
  4. It wants to hold the law “in reserve” until it’s needed, perhaps as a negotiating tactic.
  5. It believes that circumstances have changed so that the new law is no longer needed or appropriate.
  6. It has changed its mind about whether the new law is a good idea.

It is possible for a bill to pass through the five-stage law-making process, receive Royal Assent, and never be proclaimed. Nova Scotia has a surprisingly large number of unproclaimed laws.

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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