One of the tasks a law librarian might carry out is legislation monitoring. At the Field Libraries we keep a detailed spreadsheet of which bills lawyers or clients may want status updates for, we monitor legislation from any jurisdiction and we email interested parties whenever there is a status change for a bill. We also watch for regulations, proclamations, government news releases and other published legislation hints. It is one of those tasks that is best carried out by a small organized team so that only the relevant information is disseminated to the many. I confess to a geeky interest in the legislative process.
One of the most interesting questions that comes to mind when looking at a new bill is “Why are they doing that?” This is different than legislative intent, more a question of legislative motivation.
Sometimes the sound bite title of a bill will offer some fairly clear political motivation for a legislative change, like these bills from the current federal parliament the example:
- C-16 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (Ending House Arrest for Property and Other Serious Crimes by Serious and Violent Offenders Act)
- C-23B An Act to amend the Criminal Records Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act)
- C-50 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (interception of private communications and related warrants and orders) (Improving Access to Investigative Tools for Serious Crimes Act)
- S-6 An Act to amend the Criminal Code and another Act (Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act)
It is clear from the short titles listed above that our federal government is serious about crime.
Federally, there are also very useful information pieces attached to most bills via LEGISinfo – departmental information, legislative summaries, and links to debates about the bill. For regulatory changes on the federal level, new regulations have a regulatory impact analysis attached with the regulation’s publication in Canada Gazette Part II. These easy tools can often give pretty clear hints on legislative motivation.
For Alberta, and other provinces, information on the WHY behind a legislative change is more elusive. Current and historical Alberta Bills and their status are available from the Legislative Assembly website. Assembly documents such as a searchable Hansard (like the federal debates) are also available from the site.
To find the motivation behind a provincial legislative change, a broader search strategy is required. If you are lucky government news releases, newspaper articles, case law, policy papers or law reform publications will give some background.
For a movitation search example, I offer up Bill 8, Alberta’s new Missing Persons Act. Without the government news release, the need for the bill and the policy reasons for it’s drafting could be unclear.
I leave it to the lawyer readers whether the text of the bill makes sense and whether the motivation for this legislative change is met by its drafting.
Is there any special place you search for the legislative why?