Province House is perhaps best known to Canadians as the Birthplace of Canada, where the Fathers of Confederation met in 1864. A sandstone structure with Greek and Roman architectural lines, it was completed in 1847. It is now a national historic site, tourist mecca and still continues as a legislative chamber. Over the years, it has been witness to Royal visits, state funerals, countless demonstrations, protests, sit-ins, celebrations, rallies, vigils, debates, deliberations and occasional random acts of graffiti artists. This paper will examine the evolution of the legislature, the electoral system, the Island’s political culture and how it is reflected and legislative procedures and processes.
The Prince Edward Island Legislative Assembly, established in 1773, is the second-oldest parliament in Canada, the first having been established in Nova Scotia in 1758. The establishment of the colonial government, and its subsequent evolution, was the result of one of the most unusual arrangements in British colonial history. Land in the colony, then part of Nova Scotia, was awarded by lottery to proprietors in 1767 who undertook, as part of the conditions of their grants, to settle the colony with Protestants, pay quitrents (a form of taxation) to the Crown and to fulfill various other conditions. The new proprietors, many of whom were to not fulfill the conditions of their grants, petitioned the Crown for the establishment of a separate government free from the influences of Nova Scotia. In return, the proprietors agreed to defray the expenses of the new colonial government. Prince Edward Island thus became a separate colony in 1769. The subsequent conflicts between absentee proprietors and tenants, known as the “Land Question,” dominated Island politics for more than a century.