The House of Assembly is the legislative branch of the provincial government of Nova Scotia. The Assembly is the oldest in Canada, having first sat in 1758, and in 1848 was the site of the first responsible government in colonies of the British Empire.
In 1758 the Legislature consisted of the Governor (later a Lieutenant Governor), the appointed Council (the upper chamber which met in the Red Chamber which is now used for committee meetings and social functions), and the elected House of Assembly (lower chamber). The Council had both executive and legislative functions. In 1838 the Council was replaced by an Executive Council with the executive function and a Legislative Council with the upper chamber legislative function. In 1928 the Legislative Council was abolished.
There are 51 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) representing 51 electoral districts. Members nearly always represent one of the three main political parties of the province – the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia, the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia, and Nova Scotia New Democratic Party.
The Assembly meets in Province House, a National Historic Site and Canada’s oldest and smallest legislative building. It is located in Halifax. It opened on February 11, 1819. The building was also the original home to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia and the location of the “Freedom of the Press” trial of Joseph Howe.
The building is ornately decorated with British falcons made of plaster. Several are missing their heads! In the 1840s a Member of the House, Laurence O’Connor Doyle, went on a rampage, knocking the heads off with his cane upon hearing that a dispute between the United States and New Brunswick had been ruled in favour of the Americans. He had mistakenly assumed the falcons were eagles.
The Liberal Party has formed the current government with 34 of the 51 seats. The Progressive Conservative Party holds 10, and the New Democratic Party holds 6 seats, and there is 1 member sitting as an independent.