|Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick|
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Part 4 - The Legislative Process
New Brunswick's system of government, like the federal system in Ottawa and those in other provinces, is based on the British parliamentary system.
It is the only officially bilingual province in Canada, having passed into law an Official Languages Act which recognizes the equality of the English and French languages in the legislature, courts, public service and schools.
Under our system of parliamentary democracy, each of the 55 members of the provincial Legislative Assembly is elected individually to represent the voters in one constituency or district.
Although a member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) need not be affiliated with an organized political party, historically it has been the case in New Brunswick for members to belong to either the Liberal Party or the Progressive Conservative Party. Only those two parties have been able to win sufficient seats in a general election to form a government. The first member of the legislature to represent the New Democratic Party was elected in 1982. The first members of the Confederation of Regions Party were elected in 1991.
Following a provincial election, the political party with the largest number of elected representatives forms the government. The leader of the party with the majority of seats, the premier, is also an MLA. The premier appoints a cabinet from among the members of his party elected to the legislature. Cabinet ministers are, in our system, collectively responsible to the Legislative Assembly, and thus to the people at large, for implementing legislation (laws) passed by the legislature and for conducting government affairs.
The legislature meets once and sometimes twice a year. It can be dissolved at any time by the lieutenant-governor on the advice of the premier or, in the event the government is defeated, by a vote in the legislature. The latter circumstance is an indication the Legislative Assembly has lost confidence in the government.
The party with the second largest number of seats in the legislature forms the official Opposition, and its leader becomes leader of the Opposition. There can be more than one opposition party and that with the largest number of members is styled the official Opposition.
The role of the Opposition is to question the government policies and actions, and to offer alternatives to government policies.
The speaker of the Legislative Assembly, elected by the members of the legislature by secret ballot, presides over the Legislative Assembly proceedings. It is the speaker who assures that parliamentary rules are observed. Those rules basically provide for orderly debate and free expression of views.
Another important position in our system of government is the lieutenant-governor. The lieutenant-governor is not elected and only appears before the Legislative Assembly on the invitation of its members. Appointed by Canada's Governor General-in-Council, this person is the Queen's representative in New Brunswick. Before any legislation passed by the assembly becomes law, it must have "royal assent" -- that is, approval by the lieutenant-governor.
The opening of the legislature each year is highlighted by the Speech from the Throne. It outlines the program that will be introduced to the legislature by the government party.
Business conducted during a legislative session consists of the following: debate on the Speech from the Throne; budget debate; bills, which become the laws of the province when they are passed and receive royal assent; questions of cabinet ministers, both oral and written, asked by individual MLAs, and motions which can be introduced by government or individual MLAs.
Once decisions are passed by the Legislative Assembly and have received royal assent, they are implemented by cabinet, through the civil service in the various government departments and agencies.