Following several months of review with stakeholders, including a transparent comment period in early 2016, the Underground Infrastructure Safety Enhancement Act was tabled by Senator Grant Mitchell in the Senate this afternoon.
This bill creates a federal underground infrastructure notification system that requires, among other things,
- a) operators of underground infrastructure that is federally regulated or that is located on federal land to register that underground infrastructure with a notification centre and provide information on it;
- b) persons planning to undertake a ground disturbance to make a locate request to the relevant notification centres; and
- c) operators of registered underground infrastructure, as a result of the locate request, to mark the location of the underground infrastructure on the ground, provide in writing any other accurate and clear description of the location of the underground infrastructure or indicate that the ground disturbance is not likely to cause damage to the underground infrastructure.
Finally, the enactment also provides a mechanism by which reserves and some other lands subject to the Indian Act can become subject to this notification system, after consultation with the council of any band in question.
There are five steps to passing a bill in the Senate:
1. First reading
The Senate receives the bill, and it is printed and circulated among senators. This is an introductory proceeding in the Senate Chamber and takes place without debate or vote.
2. Second reading
Senators debate the principle of the bill in the Chamber (Is the bill good policy?). To help with this process, the Senate may refer the subject matter of the bill to a Senate committee for closer examination before voting on whether to proceed with it.
3. Committee stage
The Senate refers the bill to one of its committees. The committee may invite Cabinet ministers, Government officials, experts, and members of the public who have an interest in the bill to share information and perspectives in public hearings. Committee members then study the bill clause by clause. Members of the committee may propose changes to the bill (known as amendments) during this process.
After it has completed the clause-by-clause analysis, the committee adopts a report on the bill. The report will recommend to the Senate that the bill be accepted as is; that it be accepted with amendments; or that it be rejected. Committees often also append observations to their report. These comments may highlight issues raised by the committee’s study of the bill.
4. Report stage
If the committee’s report recommends adopting the bill as is (i.e., with no amendments), there is no report stage in the Senate and the bill goes directly to third reading. If, however, the report suggests amendments to the bill, senators must debate the report in the Senate Chamber and either accept, amend, or reject the amendments, in whole or in part.
5. Third reading
This is the final stage of debate in the Chamber. Senators may propose further amendments at this stage before voting to pass or reject the bill.
If the bill was introduced in the Senate, it is sent to the House of Commons, which will examine it in a similar three-reading process. If the bill was introduced in the House of Commons and was not amended in the Senate, it is now ready for Royal Assent.
If a bill is introduced in the House of Commons and was amended in the Senate, a message about the amendments is sent to the Commons, asking for their agreement. If the Senate and the House of Commons do not agree on the contents of a bill, they may propose amendments until they reach agreement. Once the two Houses agree on a final version, the bill is granted Royal Assent by the Queen or one of her Canadian representatives (usually the Governor General or a deputy), making it law.