Province House

November 27th, 2012 by Katie Reidel

During my first visit to Nova Scotia in well over a decade, I had the great fortune to tour Province House in Halifax. It was a Friday afternoon in late November and the MLAs had retired for the week, leaving the building relatively empty. While seeing a legislature in session is fascinating, having relatively free reign over the building was even more so.

Province House, in which the Nova Scotia Legislature has met every year since February 1819, is Canada’s oldest seat of government. “As a landmark in the constitutional evolution of Canada, it has been said that more history has been made within these fours walls than in all other legislatures combined.” Halifax, being erected as a British stronghold in 1749, needed a legislature from which the King’s representatives could govern the new territory. Province House was eventually built after a speech from the throne in 1811 referenced the need for a government building in line with “the prosperous state of the Province.”

In contrast to many other legislatures across the country, Province House is a small building designed expressly as a meeting place for the Assembly (and former Legislative Council); the MLAs have their offices off-site. The main level houses the Red Chamber (which currently serves as a meeting room), the ornate Legislative Library, and the Assembly Chamber. The 52 MLAs that serve the province meet in the Assembly Chamber, with a viewing gallery for the public overlooking a floor above.

Because I visited Province House during a quiet period in the building’s day, I had the freedom to explore the entire main floor of the building. I took an up-close look at the Speaker’s chair, the MLAs’ desks, as well as the private call booths and members lounge just outside the chamber. The staff at Province House were most welcoming and encouraged me to see as much as I wanted. I highly recommend stopping by if you find yourself in Halifax (it is free to enter!) or a visit to your provincial legislature if you’re out of province.



Here are some additional links you might be interested in:

– The CIVIX team has visited many legislatures this year. Take a look at our gallery on Pinterest!
– There are lots of neat facts about other legislatures, too. We compiled some of the best.
– While Province House is currently hosting a session of the Legislative Assembly, not all provincial legislatures are sitting right now. Read our blog to find out more.
– Are you a student? Would you like to be a Legislative Page? Find out how!

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