Terms Used in the House of Assembly


Act – A law or Statute. (see: Bill)

Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne – An address expressing the Assembly's thanks to the Sovereign for the Throne Speech, adopted after a debate dealing with various aspects of the government's program.

Adjournment of the House – the termination of a sitting (either by motion or pursuant to a Standing or Special Order) within a session. An adjournment covers the period between the end of one sitting and the beginning of the next. The House may adjourn for a few minutes or several months.

Amendment – An alteration proposed to a motion, a stage or clause of a bill, or to a committee report. It may attempt to present an improved formulation of the proposition under consideration or to provide an alternative to it.

Bar (of the House) – A barrier inside the south entrance of the Chamber beyond which uninvited representatives of the Crown and other non-Members may not be admitted. It is here that witnesses must appear when formally summoned.

Bill – Proposed legislation that is introduced by a Minister. To become a law, a Bill must pass three Readings, and receive Royal Assent.

Cabinet – Also known as Executive Council, the Cabinet includes the Premier and the heads of government departments (Ministers) who are chosen by the Premier.

Cabinet Minister – A member of the government who is part of the Executive Council (or Cabinet), and who is responsible for a government department.

Caucus – All of the elected members from one political party.

Chamber – The room where the House of Assembly holds its sittings.

Clause (of a Bill) – A numbered division of a bill. Once a bill becomes law, its clauses are referred to as “sections”.

Clerk – The permanent Officer responsible for the administration of the House.

Constituency – An electoral district whose voters elect and send a representative to the Legislature.

Committee Clerk – The procedural clerk acting as administrative officer and advisor on parliamentary procedure to a committee and its chair. The committee clerk takes the minutes of proceedings at all committee meetings and may draft rulings on procedural questions for the committee.

Committee of Supply – A committee of all Members of the House of Assembly that meets to discuss the government's budget estimates in detail.

Committee of the Whole (House) – A committee of all Members of the House of Assembly that meets to discuss Bills in detail presided over by a chair rather than by the Speaker.

Committee stage (of a bill) – Detailed study of the clauses of a bill by a committee. This stage is the first at which amendments may be proposed to specific provisions of the bill.

Deputy Speaker (of the House) – Title given to the Member elected as Chair of Committees of the Whole at the beginning of every General Assembly. The Deputy Speaker replaces the Speaker when the latter is unavoidably absent.

Dissolution – The bringing to an end of a General Assembly by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor. It is followed by a general election.

Division – A vote; the dividing of the members into two groups (the yeas and nays) in order to reach a decision.

Electoral district – Any place or territorial area entitled to return a Member to represent it in the House of Assembly. During debate, Members are identified not by their own names but by the name of their electoral district.

Estimates – The government's proposed expenditure for each government department.

First reading – A pro forma stage in the passage of a bill. The motion for first reading is voted on without debate.

Hansard – The official transcript of the House of Assembly debates and proceedings.

House Leader – The Member of a party responsible for its management in the House. The Government House Leader determines a schedule of House business through consultation with the Opposition House Leader.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice – The procedural authority providing a complete description of the rules, practices and precedents in the House of Commons. Published for the first time in 2000, that version is sometimes referred to as Marleau and Montpetit. The second edition, from 2009, was edited by O'Brien and Bosc.

Law Clerk – An Officer of the House appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council who offers comprehensive legal and legislative services to the Speaker, the House of Assembly Management Commission, Members and House managers. As Legislative Counsel, he or she assists Members in the preparation of private Members' bills and amendments to government bills and related legislative matters.

Leave (of the House) – unanimous consent of all Members.

Leader of the Opposition – The head of the political party with the second largest number of seats in the House of Assembly.

Lieutenant Governor in Council – The Lieutenant Governor acting by and with the advice and consent of those members of the Executive Council who make up the Cabinet.

Lieutenant Governor – The individual who represents the Monarch and is the formal head of state in the province.

Maiden speech – The first speech made in the House by a new Member. By tradition, the Speaker recognizes a Member rising to make such a speech in preference to others, and the Member may read from notes on this occasion.

Mace – The ceremonial staff carried into the Assembly each day before the sitting commences. It symbolizes the authority of the House of Assembly.

Main motion – The principal question before the House or a committee. A proposed modification to it, or an attempt to supersede it, is considered a subsidiary or secondary motion.

Member of the House of Assembly (MHA) – One of the elected representatives.

Motion – A proposal moved by a Member for the House to do something, to order something to be done or to express an opinion with regard to some matter. In order to be placed before the House for consideration, a motion must be duly moved and seconded. No seconder is required in committee. Once adopted, a motion becomes an order or a resolution.

Notice of motion – An oral announcement of an intention to bring a substantive proposal before the House. Following this notice, the proposal is added to the next day's order paper.

Office of Legislative Counsel – A division of the Department of Justice, the Office is responsible for the provision of legislative drafting services to government, and in conjunction with the Queen's Printer and the House of Assembly, the publication and dissemination of the Legislation of the Province.

Official Opposition – The party that has the second largest number of seats in the House of Assembly. It is accorded certain financial and procedural advantages over other parties in opposition.

Order Paper – A document which sets out the daily business of the House of Assembly.

Parliamentary procedure – The rules by which the House conducts its business, based on statutes, the Standing Orders, authoritative procedural works, precedents, and tradition. Decisions by the Speaker on points of order and questions of privilege are based on these rules.

Point of order – A question raised by a Member with respect to any alleged departure from the Standing Orders or customary procedures, either in debate or in the conduct of House or committee business. Points of order are decided by the Speaker whose decision is final, or, in committee, by the chair, whose decision may be appealed to the committee.

Premier – The leader of the party holding the most seats in the House of Assembly.

Private Member – Any MHA who is not in the Cabinet.

Prorogation – The ending of an individual Session of a General Assembly. Prorogation also refers to the period of time an Assembly stands prorogued.

Question Period – The period during a day in the House of Assembly when Members of the opposition pose questions to the Minister regarding government activity.

Report progress – To report to the House from a Committee of the Whole, indicating that the Committee has not concluded its deliberations. Such a report is necessary because a Committee of the Whole has no power to adjourn its own sitting or to adjourn consideration of a matter to a future sitting.

Responsible government – The principle that Ministers are collectively responsible to the House for the actions of the government. The legislative branch of government thus exercises control over the executive.

Right of reply – The right of the mover of a substantive motion or a motion for second reading of a bill to speak a second time in debate. As this second speech closes the debate, the Speaker will so inform the House when recognizing the Member.

Royal Assent – The final stage in the making of a law. The act whereby the Lieutenant Governor concurs with the House in passing a Bill, and converts it into a Statute.

Schedule – An appendix to a bill that contains matters of detail not suitable for inclusion in a clause, or the text of an agreement that the bill brings into effect. Schedules form part of a bill and are subject to amendment.

Second reading – The stage in the passage of a bill at which the principle and object of a bill is either accepted or rejected. Detailed consideration is not given to the clauses of the bill at this stage.

Sergeant-at-Arms – The Officer responsible for the security of the Chamber and the MHAs, and for custody of the mace.

Session – A series of meetings of the House of Assembly opened by Royal Proclamation and closed by the Lieutenant Governor on the advice of the Premier. When the sessions are divided into spring and fall periods, these periods are called sittings, as are the daily meetings of the Assembly.

Speaker – The Member elected to preside over the House of Assembly, ensuring that all members abide by the rules and procedures.

Speaker's Chair – The chair at the north end of the Chamber occupied by the Speaker or another Presiding Officer when the House is in session. When the House is in Committee of the Whole, the Speaker's Chair is vacated and the Chair of the Committee occupies the Clerk's place at the Table.

Speaker's Parade – A parade consisting of the Speaker, the Sergeant-at-Arms with the Mace, the Clerk of the House and other House officials, departing from the Speaker's Office for the House several minutes prior to the opening of the sitting.

Speech from the Throne – The speech delivered by the Lieutenant Governor which opens each new Session and outlines the government's proposed spending and lawmaking plans.

Standing Orders – The collection of the permanent written rules adopted by the House to govern its proceedings.

Statements by Members – A daily 6-minute period preceding the oral question period, when Members who are not Cabinet Ministers may make statements on matters of national, regional or local importance. Statements are limited in length to one minute and opportunity to speak is given equally to all private Members.

Statements by Ministers – A heading under Routine Proceedings during which a Minister may, if he or she desires, make a short factual announcement or statement of government policy. Spokespersons of recognized opposition parties are given an opportunity to comment.

Stranger – Anyone who is not a Member of the House of Assembly or an official of the House. This includes departmental officials and journalists, as well as members of the public. Strangers are admitted to the galleries but may be expelled if there is a disturbance or if the House so orders.

Table Officers – The clerks who provide procedural advice during sittings of the House, take the votes, and keep the minutes of proceedings.

Unanimous consent – The consent of all Members present in the House that is required when the House wishes to set aside its rules or usual practices without notice. Actions taken by unanimous consent do not constitute precedents.

Whip – A Member charged with keeping other Members of the same party informed concerning House business and ensuring their attendance in the House or in committee, especially when a vote is anticipated.