Why I started this Citizens’ Guide

To be effective, citizens have to know how their legislature works

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The 40th Nova Scotia general election was held on May 30, 2017. The final results were: Liberal 27, Progressive Conservative 17, NDP 7. A new Cabinet was sworn in on June 15, 2017. The ministry is led by premier Stephen McNeil. The legislature will begin sitting on Thursday, September 21st. A budget will be delivered on Tuesday, September 26th. A budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year was not passed before the legislature was dissolved for the May 2017 election.

I started this Citizens’ Guide in December 2016 because of a startling political event. That event—which morphed into Bill 75 in February 2017— is behind us now, but the need remains for a good explainer.

To be an effective citizen, you have to know how decisions are made. The legislature is part of the decision-making process, yet most Nova Scotians know very little about what really goes on there. Because I’ve been hanging around the legislature since 1998, I have a pretty good sense of how it really works, and I’m happy to share that experience.

You can browse this Citizens’ Guide from top to bottom simply by scrolling down. If you’re looking for something specific, I recommend using the Search function. If you’re looking for something more general, the Categories list is likely the best starting point. You might find the category “Advice for Citizens” especially useful, because it includes tips on communicating with your MLA, making a presentation to the Law Amendments Committee, and having an impact on the annual budget. The posts on the law-making process and the budget-making process are also good starting points. They will lead you deeper into this Citizens’ Guide via the links. There’s also a post on all the vocabulary, because the legislature uses a lot of jargon, acronyms and slang.

I’m going to keep building this Citizens’ Guide in response to events and your questions. If you send me your questions, I’ll do my best to answer them. Factual questions only, please. I won’t answer questions that are partisan, or that are about specific individuals, or that require speculation or opinion. To keep this Citizens’ Guide manageable, I’ll answer questions only about how the legislature works, and not about politics, elections or government in general.

Every question about the legislature is a good question. If you’ve been wondering something about the legislature, then chances are that lots of other people are wondering the same thing.

Author: Graham Steele

A former MLA in Nova Scotia, currently Professor of Business Law in the Rowe School of Business at Dalhousie University

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