Do Canada’s provincial legislatures all have the capacity they need to represent citizens, review legislation, and scrutinize government actions? These are the questions that Graham White and I tackle in our chapter in the 3rd edition of Provinces, edited by Chris Dunn.
The provincial assemblies all have the same basic institutional structure, the same constitutional powers, and pass roughly the same number of government bills each year (around 50). However, each legislature also operates differently from the others, with drastic variations existing in terms of the hours spent in session, the size of the executive, the resources available to members, the use of standing committees, and legislative procedures.
While most comparisons of provincial legislatures focus solely on differences in size, we looked more broadly to see how the whole range of factors listed above can interact to potentially shape the overall level of capacity available. For instance, while the Legislative Assembly of Ontario has fewer members than the National Assembly of Quebec, it spends more time in session, with the result that Queen’s Park has more “legislator-hours” available each year. Similarly, while the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia legislatures are quite close in size, the former sits over 50 percent longer on average each year, while the latter has a much more elaborate and active system of standing committees.
We hope that our chapter starts sparks further research into Canada’s provincial legislatures. While we identify potential differences in capacity, additional study is needed to see how such differences translate into actual performance in terms of amendments to bills and other measures of legislative productivity.