Province House viewed from the courtyard. Image credits: Communications Nova Scotia, 2006.
The Nova Scotia Legislature sits at Province House on Hollis Street in downtown Halifax. Province House is the oldest legislative building in Canada, and the smallest provincial Legislature building. I am lucky to have Province House right in the centre of my constituency.
There are 55 constituencies in Nova Scotia, and each one's residents elect a single Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) during a provincial election. You can read more about the other sitting MLAs, their constituencies, and their roles in Legislative business at the Legislature's official website.
On this page, I will break down the day-to-day elements of a Legislative Sitting you might find me doing (and which I have done) when the House is in session.
My role as Deputy Speaker
The Legislative Chamber, the room where all the MLAs meet for a Sitting of the Legislature, is presided over by the Speaker. The Speaker, even though they are chosen from a caucus' elected MLAs, acts as a non-partisan and impartial referee for all proceedings that happen in the Chamber.
I currently serve as a Deputy Speaker, which means that I take on the Speaker's duties when they are unable to do so or need a break...days can get long! I also help chair Committees of the Whole House.
Statements By Members
Every day in the Legislature begins with the Daily Routine. This is the standard agenda for a day of Legislative business in Nova Scotia, and runs independently of whatever the Government has chosen as their daily tasks (this is called Government Business). One part of the Daily Routine is Statements By Members, commonly known as Member's Statements. Depending on the amount of MLAs in the House at the time and how much time is remaining to complete Daily Routine, each MLA is given up to two 60-second time frames to make a statement about anything that isn't being discussed as Legislative business in some other way on the House floor.
If you take a look at my YouTube channel, you will see just how many different things can be recognized in a Member's Statement. If you know someone in the constituency who deserves to be recognized in the Legislature, please let us know! We are pleased to offer congratulations, recognition, and condolences. Just get in touch with my office and we will see what we can do.
Oral Questions Put To Ministers By Members
Once the time allotted for Statements By Members expires, it's time for 50 minutes of Oral Questions Put To Ministers By Members - which you might already know as Question Period. This time is for any opposition MLA to ask a government Minister one question with a chance for one follow-up question. Essentially, any MLA in the NDP caucus, Liberal caucus, or the Independent Member can use this time to seek clarification or explain their issues with the government's stance on various issues as well as their legislation.
Since I am my caucus' spokesperson for Agriculture, Finance, Communications Nova Scotia, Economic Development, 2SLGBTQ+ Affairs, Mental Health & Addictions, Acadian Affairs & Francophonie, Advanced Education and L'nu Affairs, you will notice that most of the questions I ask during Question Period are related to these portfolios.
Government and Private Members' Bills
A bill is a piece of legislation that an MLA introduces to the House for their consideration to debate and potentially make law. There are Government Bills, which the governing caucus introduces, and Private Members' Bills, which other caucuses and MLAs introduce. All MLAs can vote on and debate all bills. The Nova Scotia Legislature website goes into further detail about the life cycle of a bill. The bills I have introduced in the Legislature since being elected are all Private Members' Bills - see below. You also can view the bills I've debated or commented on through my YouTube channel.
This is a more unique process in the Legislature. Every Spring, the Government presents their budget of spending through the next 12 months (tables it) for every caucus to read and respond to. As the Finance critic for my caucus, I get to deliver our response. Once any interested parties have read their response to the budget, opposition MLAs are able to give detailed speeches about what they think should have been, or should not have been included. This can be programs, offices, departments, or even just specific amounts of money. This is called a Supply Motion.
After this, the House splits into two committees: the Committee of the Whole House on Bills and the Subcommittee of the Whole House on Bills. During these committee meetings, MLAs are able to ask Cabinet Ministers detailed questions about their respective departments and how it relates to the budget that was just tabled.