Provincial Legislative Assemblies in Canada

New Brunswick Legislative Assembly
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In Canada, a legislative assembly is the body of people elected in each province and territory to create and pass laws. The legislature of a province or territory is made up of a legislative assembly along with the lieutenant governor.

Canada's Constitution originally gave broader powers to the federal government, but over time, the provinces and territories were assigned more responsibilities. Legislative assemblies are assigned powers in "generally all matters of a merely local or private Nature in the Province," according to the Constitution. These include property rights, civil rights, and the sale of public lands.

Different Names for Legislative Assemblies

Seven of Canada's 10 provinces, and its three territories style their legislatures as legislative assemblies. While most provinces and territories in Canada use the term legislative assembly, in the provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, legislatures are called the House of Assembly. In Quebec, it is called the National Assembly. Though many legislative assemblies in Canada originally had upper and lower chambers, all now are unicameral, consisting of one chamber or house.

How Bills Move Through the Assemblies

Bills are required to move through a formal first reading, then a second reading where members can then debate the bill. It then gets a detailed review by committee, where it is examined thoroughly and witnesses can be called. Amendments can be added at this stage. Once the bill has been voted out of committee it goes back to the full assembly for a third reading, after which it is voted on. If it passes, it goes to the lieutenant governor, who can accept or reject it.

Representation by Legislators

Representation can range widely. For instance, one member of the legislative assembly in Prince Edward Island represents about 5,000 constituents, while a member of the assembly of Ontario represents more than 120,000, according to figures compiled by a regional councilor. Most, however, are somewhere between those extremes.

Party Makeup of Legislative Assemblies

The combined number of seats in Canadian legislative assemblies is 768. As of May 2019, the party makeup of legislative assembly seats consisted of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada (22 percent), the Liberal Party of Canada (19 percent), the New Democratic Party (18 percent), and 10 parties, independents and vacant seats making up the remaining 41 percent.

The oldest legislative assembly in Canada is Nova Scotia House of Assembly, established in 1758. Other Commonwealth countries with states or territories that use the legislative assembly structure include India, Australia, and Malaysia. 

How Territorial Assemblies Differ

Territorial assemblies work differently than their provincial counterparts. In the provinces, assembly members run for office by party membership. Each province has a premiere, who is a member of the party with the largest number of elected officials.

But in the Northwest Territories and Nanavut, members run without party affiliation in what is known as a "consensus government." They then elect a speaker and a premier from among these independent members. They also elect cabinet ministers. While Yukon is also a territory, it elects its members by parties the same as provinces.

The three territories don't have the control over the sale and management of federal land that provinces do. They also cannot borrow money without permission of a governor in council.

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Munroe, Susan. "Provincial Legislative Assemblies in Canada." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Munroe, Susan. (2021, February 16). Provincial Legislative Assemblies in Canada. Retrieved from Munroe, Susan. "Provincial Legislative Assemblies in Canada." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 10, 2023).