The Government of Nova Scotia

The Government of Nova Scotia

J. MURRAY BECK
Series: Heritage
Copyright Date: 1957
Pages: 372
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt15jjc5v
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  • Book Info
    The Government of Nova Scotia
    Book Description:

    A well-documented study of the structure, historical development, and present condition of the government of Nova Scotia.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5674-1
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-viii)
    R. MacGregor Dawson

    It is pleasant to welcome to this series the second volume on the government of a Canadian province. This, like its predecessor on Prince Edward Island, deals with one of the oldest constitutions, one which was not created by statute but by the prerogative power of the Crown, and hence is less likely to fit into any standard mould. Nova Scotia has, of course, two major claims to priority in the history of Canadian politics: she was the first province to receive representative institutions and the first (by a few weeks) to win responsible government. Owing in large measure to...

  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-x)
    J. Murray Beck
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. PART I. COLONIAL GOVERNMENT TO 1830

    • CHAPTER I THE BASIC DECISIONS IN NOVA SCOTIAN GOVERNMENT
      (pp. 3-12)

      The five decisions which determined the basic form and character of the government of Nova Scotia had all been made by 1867. Thereafter the development of the province’s political institutions paralleled that of British institutions generally as they adapted themselves to the requirements of a new day. The first decision—effected by the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) after a century of sporadic conflict—decreed that Acadia was to be British. At first it was so in little more than name, since the only English inhabitants prior to 1749 were a few soldiers and merchants at Annapolis and Canso, augmented in...

    • CHAPTER II ACTORS ON THE GOVERNMENTAL STAGE
      (pp. 13-34)

      The Nova Scottan governors of the eighteenth century were no better and no worse than could be expected from the prevailing mode of appointment “Governments have bin sometimes given,” went a commentary of that day, “as a reward for Services done to the Crown, and with design that such persons should thereby make their fortunes. But they are generally obtained by the favour of great Men to some of their dependants or relations… . The Qualifications of such persons for Government being seldom considered”¹ Even those who aspired to the governorship of so poor a colony as Nova Scotia brought...

    • CHAPTER III THE EXECUTIVE FUNCTION
      (pp. 35-43)

      The executive authority of Nova Scotia, as in all royal colonies, was vested in the Governor. Yet because his Commission and Instructions were by no means explicit in distinguishing between legislative and executive functions,¹ constitutional development could take the form it had assumed earlier in England whereby executive power once stemming solely from the prerogative came more and more to be regulated by statute. For that reason problems like the following periodically presented themselves: What powers were distinctly prerogative, and hence to be exercised solely by the colonial executive? What powers, originally prerogative, might appropriately be transferred to the General...

    • CHAPTER IV THE LEGISLATIVE FUNCTION
      (pp. 44-62)

      The legislative arm of government instituted in Nova Scotia after 1758 was the empirical product of long colonial experience elsewhere. In its essence a General Assembly¹ was empowered to make laws for “the public peace, welfare and Good Government of the said province.” The Governor’s Commission restricted this delegation of power somewhat by stipulating that the “said Laws, Statutes and Ordinances [were] not to be repugnant but as near as local circumstances will admit agreeable to the Laws and Statutes of this Our Kingdom of Great Britain.” The Instructions also had a limiting effect, particularly after 1767 when they prohibited...

    • CHAPTER V THE JUDICIAL FUNCTION
      (pp. 63-72)

      The plenary power in judicial matters which Cornwallis’s Commission conferred upon the Governor and Council could not have been avoided under the circumstances which prevailed at the time the original government was set up. Neither could the bewildering interconnection between the judicial and other functions of government whereby judges participated actively in the executive and legislative processes and the highest executive and legislative officers performed judicial duties. The early period was marked, not by efforts to make the judiciary independent of the other branches of government, but by the expansion of judicial functions and procedures to meet the needs of...

  6. PART II. COLONIAL GOVERNMENT FROM 1830 TO 1867

    • CHAPTER VI THE EXECUTIVE FUNCTION
      (pp. 75-99)

      “One hundred years ago” wrote Dr. D. C, Harvey in 1933, “Nova Scotians had already prepared themselves by intense economic arid intellectual activity for the greatest achievement of their history.”¹ His examination of the forces and agencies which had been operating to produce an intellectual awakening led him to conclude that, without minimizing the achievements of Joseph Howe, the Reform leader must be regarded more as “the embodiment of the spirit of the age” than “as having sprung Minerva-like from the rocks of the North-West Arm.” The general picture is that of Nova Scotians rubbing the sleep out of their...

    • CHAPTER VII THE LEGISLATIVE FUNCTION
      (pp. 100-127)

      It happened to be the opening of the Legislative Council and General Assembly, at which ceremonial the forms observed on the commencement of a new Session of Parliament in England were so closely copied, and so gravely presented on a small scale, that it was like looking at Westminster through the wrong end of a telescope. The Governor, as her Majesty’s representative, delivered what may be called the Speech from the Throne. He said what he had to say manfully and well. The military band outside the building struck up “God Save the Queen” with great vigour before his Excellency...

    • CHAPTER VIII THE JUDICIAL FUNCTION
      (pp. 128-133)

      Change characterized the judiciary between 1830 and 1867 as it did almost all the other branches of government. The same assemblymen who were bent upon remodelling the executive branch wanted also to establish a judicial structure more in keeping with Nova Scotian needs and resources. England, it was shown, had a population of 12,000,000 and twelve judges; Nova Scotia a population of 124,000 and nine judges. Even worse, the Chief Justice of Nova Scotia was receiving a larger salary than the Chief Justice of the United States and the judicial establishment of Nova Scotia was costing more than that of...

    • CHAPTER IX LOCAL GOVERNMENT
      (pp. 134-140)

      The system of local government remained practically unaltered in a period characterized by substantial change on the provincial level. This meant that the lack of general devolution of authority from the Governor and Council to local governing bodies, which was typical of early Nova Scotia, continued to apply after 1830, although not for the same reason. Originally those who desired local self-rule could not wrest it from the central government at Halifax: later their descendants would not accept the responsibilities which the central government and Legislature were anxious to confer upon them. In the intervening years some circumstance within Nova...

  7. PART III. PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT

    • CHAPTER X CONFEDERATION
      (pp. 143-153)

      From the legal point of view, Confederation was the most revolutionary of the five basic decisions in Nova Scotian government, since for the first time the political institutions and the status of the province were altered, not by exercise of the prerogative, but by an act of Parliament. This did not mean, however, that the British North America Act conferred a written constitution upon the province, for the constitution of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government—much of which rested on the prerogative—was continued except as the Act otherwise provided.¹ Nevertheless, a considerable portion of the former...

    • CHAPTER XI POLITICAL PARTIES
      (pp. 154-170)

      Although the long-rim effect of federation upon the established parties was slight, its immediate results were catastrophic. For the moment even the old shibboleths of Conservative and Liberal were discarded in favour of Confederate and anti-Confederate, and while the nucleus of the Confederates was Conservative just as that of the anti-Confederates was Liberal, the break in party ties was on such a scale as to create new parties in fact as in name. In the grand shuffle of supporters the Confederates had much the better of it at the leadership level, but the arguments of the anti-Confederates were far more...

    • CHAPTER XII THE LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR
      (pp. 171-185)

      The full emergence of a Governor entirely aloof from the party struggle dates back not to 1848 or 1867, but to 1871 when the Nova Scotian politicians had at last begun to accept the province's status as a part of the Dominion. For a very good reason the trying task of making the new federal system work smoothly in an anti-Confederation province was left to the Imperial soldier Hastings Doyle—no Nova Scotian Governor favourable to Confederation could have maintained harmonious relations with his ministry and no anti-Confederation one would have suited Ottawa.¹ Doyle's secretary, Harry Moody, paints a picture...

    • CHAPTER XIII THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL
      (pp. 186-207)

      Although in theory the executive power of Nova Scotia is still vested in the Lieutenant-Governor, in practice it passed to other hands in 1848. The individuals who actually wield it receive varying appellations in their collective capacity—most frequently the cabinet, but sometimes the government or the administration. Like its counterpart at Ottawa, the Nova Scotian cabinet (or government or administration) has no legal existence as such. To exercise its authority in a form recognizable in law, it must assume its official title, the Executive Council, which is the Nova Scotian counterpart of the Canadian Privy Council.

      There are distinct...

    • CHAPTER XIV THE ADMINISTRATION
      (pp. 208-230)

      Big government has come to Nova Scotia during the past quarter of a century. The annual revenues of the province, which had not reached $1,000,000 in 1900 and amounted to less than $5,000,000 in 1925, were about $60,000,000 in 1956; the fewer than 300 government employees in 1900 have grown to approximately 4,000; executive orders, which in 1900 could be contained in 83 written pages, required 206 typewritten pages in 1918 and 516 in 1949;¹ the number of departments is now fourteen instead of the three which existed before 1918.²

      No one would suggest, however, that the existing departmental system...

    • CHAPTER XV THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
      (pp. 231-252)

      While Nova Scotia retained its second chamber until 1928, scarcely a session went by after 1870 without some criticism being levelled at its activities, and every administration after 1878 at least professed sanctimonious hopes for its extinction. Curiously enough all of them possessed ample power to abolish the Council without their knowing it;¹ it continued to exist simply because no one took the trouble to determine what its constitution actually was, or at least what the courts said it was.

      That constitution was by no means simple. In essence it consisted of a statutory and conventional superstructure resting on a...

    • CHAPTER XVI THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY: REPRESENTATION AND PERSONNEL
      (pp. 253-273)

      Although the House of Assembly is primarily a representative body, it owes whatever representative character it possesses almost as much to accident as to human ingenuity. A primary test of the adequacy of representation in a political system operating through parties is the degree to which it brings a party’s popular vote and its representation in the Legislature into correspondence. In this respect it can at least be said that the party which polls the largest popular vote always controls the Nova Scotian Assembly. Thus the system performs the basic function of permitting the electorate to make a simple affirmative...

    • CHAPTER XVII THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY: PROCEDURE
      (pp. 274-285)

      The process of adapting the rules and procedures of the Mother of Parliaments to the needs of a small provincial Legislature continued after 1867 much as before. In the course of time the Assembly tended more and more to follow the rules, conventions, and forms of the Canadian House of Commons, but it also developed its own usages, and in 1955 it officially authorized its Speaker to be guided by them in making his decisions. On only four occasions has it modified its formal rules substantially, the last time in 1928 to meet the needs of a unicameral Legislature.¹ Then...

    • CHAPTER XVIII THE JUDICIARY
      (pp. 286-301)

      Confederation did not introduce far-reaching changes in the basic structure of die courts. The Dominion Parliament, it is true, used its power to “provide for the Constitution, Maintenance, and Organization of a General Court of Appeal for Canada”¹ by setting up the Supreme Court of Canada in 1875. This Court, since the abolition of appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 1949, has acted as the final court of appeal from the provincial courts in both civil and criminal cases. But Parliament’s right, notwithstanding anything in the B.N.A. Act, to constitute “any additional Courts for the better...

    • CHAPTER XIX MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT
      (pp. 302-325)

      The most far-reaching changes in Nova Scotian government since 1867 have occurred at the local level, for where there was one selfgoverning community, there are now 66; 2 cities, 40 towns, and 24 rural municipalities. The abandonment of the old non-elective system must not be attributed, however, to any sudden change of attitude on the part of the local authorities, but rather to serious exigencies at the provincial level. The clue to the origin of the County Incorporation Act of 1879¹ is to be found in the section which transferred the management of the road and bridge service to the...

    • CHAPTER XX NOVA SCOTIA IN THE CANADIAN FEDERATION
      (pp. 326-344)

      Nova Scotia has rested uneasily in the Dominion of Canada since its inception. Indeed, except for a brief period during the Laurier regime when it appeared that the province might achieve a higher destiny within the federation, a feeling of injustice and a sense of frustration have always existed in some quarters. It is not surprising, therefore, that in 1886 Nova Scotians pronounced in favour of secession at a provincial election; that in 1896 the Liberal majority in the Assembly indignantly voted down a proposal to have Dominion Day declared a holiday in the public schools;¹ and that within comparatively...

  8. APPENDIXES
    (pp. 345-358)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 359-372)