Province House National Historic Site of Canada
In older countries, the visitor is struck by the atmosphere and ambience created by public buildings used steadily throughout the centuries. In such places, history seems to come alive. This quality is in Province House, with today's provincial legislature still meeting in the assembly chamber first used in 1847.
With 27 members, Prince Edward Island has the smallest Provincial Assembly in Canada. These elected officials are assisted by the staff of the Legislative Assembly Office, an essential part of the democratic process, headed by the Speaker.
The Speaker has two separate but closely related roles. In the Legislative Assembly he or she serves as an impartial referee, controlling the flow of business and ensuring that all MLA's have an equal chance to air their views. The Speaker is also an administrator, maintaining the records of the Assembly and providing financial and administrative information.
The Speaker has two assistants to help carry out his or her duties. The Deputy Speaker referees the debates when the Speaker cannot be present and also serves as Chairman of the two committees of the whole Assembly where the Speaker's presence, by tradition, is not allowed.
The Speaker has another deputy, the Clerk, and his or her own police force, the Sergeant-at-Arms. Both positions date back to the 14th century. At that time, the Clerk's most important skills were reading and writing. Most people, including most Members of Parliament, could do neither, so the Clerk read petitions, bills and resolutions to the Assembly and kept House records. The modern Clerk advises the Speaker on procedure and calls the daily order of business; as well, he still reads petitions. Outside the Chamber he is responsible for keeping records and producing House documents.
The Sergeant-at-Arms is responsible for MLA security, both in the House and in their constituencies. He also has custody of the mace, and in the procession that begins each day's sitting, he carries the mace to the Table, where it remains throughout the sitting as a symbol of the Assembly's authority.
The Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees backs up the Clerk and is responsible for producing the House's daily agenda and minutes, and for the safekeeping of House documents. He also provides administrative support to the committees the House establishes to deal with various matters of public interest.
During the Charlottetown Conference in 1864, the Assembly Chamber was the setting for a colourful ball hosted by Islanders for the conference delegates. Truly, the past and present unite at Province House.