History of the House of Assembly

The development of institutions of self-government in the Colony of Newfoundland was the objective of a reform movement in the 1820s under the leadership of two distinguished Newfoundlanders, Dr. William Carson and Patrick Morris. As a result of this movement, Representative Government was established in 1832. The Governor and Legislative Council (Upper House) were appointed by the Crown. The Assembly, consisting of fifteen representatives from nine electoral districts, was elected.

In 1855, Newfoundland was granted Responsible Government. The House of Assembly was increased to thirty members, and the Cabinet became responsible to the Assembly. Prior to this time, the appointed Legislative Council was the Cabinet and was not responsible to the Assembly.

Following the recommendations of the Amulree Royal Commission, and because of the deteriorating financial situation of the Dominion in 1933, the Legislature requested the suspension of the Constitution and Responsible Government. On February 16, 1934, dominion status was suspended and from that date until 1949, Newfoundland was governed by an appointed Commission consisting of an appointed Governor and six appointed Commissioners, three from Newfoundland, three from the United Kingdom.

In 1946, Newfoundlanders went to the polls for the first time in fourteen years to elect members of a National Convention. The National Convention debated the future political and constitutional status of Newfoundland and Labrador. The British Government decided to hold a referendum in which the electorate would be given the opportunity to choose among three forms of government: return to Responsible Government, retention of Commission of Government and Union with Canada. Confederation was accepted in a second referendum as the choice of the majority of Newfoundlanders.

Newfoundland joined Canada on March 31, 1949. Since Confederation, Newfoundland has had a unicameral Legislature consisting of the House of Assembly which now has forty-eight Members. The appointed Legislative Council has not been activated.

The first House of Assembly met in 1833 at a tavern and lodging house owned by Mrs. Mary Travers. It met in a number of locations until 1850 when the Colonial Building on Military Road was completed. In 1960, the House of Assembly moved to the 9th and 10th floors of the Confederation Building. In 1991, the House of Assembly opened for the first time in its present location.

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