Purpose & History
The origins of the Office of the Legislative Assembly can be traced to the 14th century in England when Parliament elected its first Speaker and appointed its first Clerk. In New Brunswick, the Office of the Clerk can be traced to 1833, and may have originated with the first session of the Assembly held in 1786.
Today, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly is the head of the office and the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly serves as the deputy head, responsible for administrative matters. The Speaker is the Member elected by the House to serve as its spokesperson and to preside over its proceedings. In particular, he or she is responsible for maintaining order and decorum. As Chair of the Legislative Administrative Committee, the Speaker oversees the administration of the House. The Clerk of the House is also the chief procedural advisor to the Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly. Section 40 of the Legislative Assembly Act establishes the Office of the Legislative Assembly and makes its current name official.
The most common misconception about the Legislative Assembly Office is that it is a branch of government and that staff are government employees. In fact, in the parliamentary system, the government is the executive branch and is responsible for applying and enforcing the laws. The Legislative Assembly is part of the legislative branch and is responsible for establishing the laws of the province.
Function of the Legislative Assembly Office
The main function of the Legislative Assembly Office is to support and assist the Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly in the performance of their constitutional and parliamentary duties by ensuring the proper and efficient functioning of the Assembly and its committees.
The staff of the Legislative Assembly Office are answerable to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly for administrative purposes and ultimately responsible to the Members of the Assembly.
The Legislative Assembly Office provides various support services to the entire Assembly including Members of opposition and government parties alike.
The Office resembles in general the normal structure of a government department with the Speaker at the head. Although the Office has sometimes been called the Speaker's department, it is not a government department and the Speaker does not belong to Cabinet, he or she cannot be asked questions during Question Period and cannot participate in the Assembly's debates. The Speaker does have administrative authority and responsibility similar to that of a minister of a government department, while the Clerk is the Speaker's chief administrative deputy and has authority and responsibilities similar to that of a deputy minister of a government department.
The components of the Legislative Assembly Office are: the Clerk's Office, the Hansard Office, Debates Translation, and the Legislative Library. Also under the umbrella of the Office of the Legislative Assembly are the Government Members' Office, the Office of the Official Opposition and any Third Party or Independent Member's Office. Lastly, the Legislative Administration Committee, chaired by the Speaker and composed of Members of each political party represented in the Legislative Assembly, is responsible for administrative and financial matters concerning the Legislative Assembly and Members of the Assembly.
The role of staff is to provide impartial and confidential advice and services to all Members. The word services covers a broad spectrum:
- Procedural and administrative advice from the Clerks-at-the-Table.
- Parliamentary transcripts for House and committees and audio and recording services through the Hansard Office.
- Communication and translation services through the Debates Translation Office.
- Library Services through the Legislative Library.
- Security and visitor information services through the Sergeant-at-Arms.
- Financial, technical, and human resource services through the Clerk's Office.
The other components of the office are the caucus offices: the Government Members' Office, the Office of the Official Opposition and any Third Party or Independent Member's Office. Each party grouping or caucus of elected Members is a branch of the Legislative Assembly Office. Although theoretically, the Speaker has authority over the administration of each caucus office, for obvious reasons, these branches operate with considerable autonomy.
The Clerk of the Assembly is the chief administrative officer and the Clerk's Office is primarily responsible for the operation of the Legislative Assembly Office. It operates on three different levels:
1. As a Legislative Office
The Clerk's Office provides professional, impartial advice on Parliamentary law, procedure and practice to the Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly. The Office prepares all parliamentary documents related to the proceedings of the House, committees, and ceremonial functions.
Since 1786, the Office has been charged with preparing, maintaining, and archiving the parliamentary records of the province. The Office is a storehouse of documents and the central distribution centre of annual reports, sessional papers, and all House documents. In addition to maintaining paper copies of documents, the Office maintains current electronic versions at this web site.
The Office maintains close connections with other Canadian legislatures and almost daily exchanges of information on procedural developments and changes to existing legislation affecting Members. The Office frequently receives visiting delegations from other legislatures. The Office provides information on the role and function of the Legislative Assembly to Members and staff, to government departments, and school groups. The Office fulfills an educational role and daily responds to inquiries from the public, the press and from other parliamentary jurisdictions.
2. As a Business Office
The Clerk's Office administers payments to Members and ensures that the services provided comply with the Legislative Assembly Act and other relevant statutes, regulations, guidelines, and directives. The Office provides personnel and human resource services to all branches constituting the Office of the Legislative Assembly.
3. As a Historic Site
The Clerk's Office operates the Legislative Building as a protected historic site and maintains the exterior and interior of the building. The artifacts throughout the Complex are treated in a manner that reflects conservation and environmental policies. The Office facilitates tours for visitors, provides information on the history of the building, and accommodates a broad range of functions and visits every year.