Prince Edward Island. Legislative Council

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Prince Edward Island. Legislative Council

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As part of Governor Walter Patterson's instructions of 1769, a seven member Council was established to advise the Governor on matters of administration. When the first Assembly was called in 1773, the Council acted as both an Executive Council when fulfilling its advisory role, and as a Legislative Council when dealing with legislative matters. The Chief Justice acted as president of the Legislative Council. Because of the small population in Prince Edward Island, it was difficult to find enough qualified individuals to serve and meet a quorum. Early Colonial government in Prince Edward Island was overrun with nepotism, in-fighting and incompetence. The Executive and Legislative Councils were separated in 1838 at which time the Chief Justice and the Bishop of Nova Scotia were excluded from membership of either Council. Both the Legislative and Executive Councils were appointed and members were to be from all parts of the Island so as to represent interests of the whole population, not just Charlottetown residents. These changes helped to increase the effectiveness of the Executive Council and increase the importance of the Legislative Assembly. It also helped to lessen the power of influence of a few families over the government. Some overlapping of membership in the three bodies still occurred. The Assembly petitioned the Queen in 1840 to establish responsible government in Prince Edward Island. The Assembly did not have confidence in the Executive or Legislative Councils, whose members were appointed during pleasure which often translated into life appointments to individuals with vested interests and did not represent the interests of the population. Responsible or self government was granted in 1851 in Prince Edward Island although it was several years before the system was entirely integrated and the Councils adjusted to their new roles. After the passing of legislation in 1861, members of the Legislative Council were elected, no longer appointed. Members were elected in 13 electoral districts along with members of the House of Assembly, thus giving a Councillor and an Assemblyman representing each of the districts. Those eligible to sit or vote for a Councillor had to be of at least 30 years of age, a resident of P.E.I. for five years and be legally possessed of freehold or leasehold property of the value of 600 pounds.

In 1893, an act respecting the legislature was passed which abolished the Legislative Council of Prince Edward Island. The one house of government was then renamed the Legislative Assembly although two members were elected from each of the fifteen electoral districts and were known as Councillors and Assemblymen -- one from each district.


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