BILL NO. 257
2nd Session, 63rd General Assembly
69 Elizabeth II, 2020
Private Member's Bill
Member Equity Act
First Reading: March 10, 2020
WHEREAS all Nova Scotians deserve equal representation in the House of Assembly;
AND WHEREAS independent members and members who belong to the caucus of a recognized political party should share equivalent rights and privileges in representing their constituents;
THEREFORE be it enacted by the Governor and Assembly as follows:
1 This Act may be cited as the Member Equity Act.
2 (1) In this Act,
(a) "independent caucus" means a group of three or more independent members;
(b) "independent member" means a member who does not belong to the caucus of a recognized political party or an independent caucus;
(c) "member" means a member of the House of Assembly;
(d) "outside member" has the same meaning as in the House of Assembly Act;
(e) "party member" means a member who belongs to the caucus of a recognized political party;
(f) "Speaker" means the Speaker of the House of Assembly and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly when the Deputy Speaker is acting in the role of Speaker.
(2) Nothing in this Act may be interpreted as prohibiting or limiting reasonable business expenses in the course of staffing, stocking or operating independent-member offices.
3 In the event of a conflict between this Act and the House of Assembly Act, the House of Assembly Management Commission Act or the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly, this Act prevails.
4 (1) All members share equivalent rights and privileges in representing their constituents.
(2) An independent member must be treated equivalently with a party member in all matters respecting the allocation of the resources of the House of Assembly and must receive
(a) the same funding as a party member brings to the member's recognized political party; and
(b) a proportional percentage of the base funding allocation a recognized political party receives.
(3) The allocation referred to in subsection (2) must include an additional allowance to reflect that economies of scale are not available to independent members.
(4) An independent caucus must receive the same base funding allocation as a recognized political party receives.
5 (1) In providing the opportunity to pose questions during the period in the House of Assembly provided for members to ask questions of members of the Executive Council, the Speaker shall provide an equal opportunity to ask questions to each independent member and each party member.
(2) Where a member exceeds the proportional opportunity allocated to the member under subsection (1), the Speaker shall, in providing future opportunities to pose questions, attempt to restore proportionality.
(3) Subsections (1) and (2) apply, mutatis mutandis, to the Committee of the Whole on Supply, the Subcommittee on Supply and the chairs of those committees.
6 (1) Independent members are entitled to proportional representation on committees of the House of Assembly on the same basis as party members.
(2) Where membership on a committee cannot be evenly divided amongst independent members and party members, the membership of the committee is rounded in favour of the independent members.
(3) Independent members have the right to be heard at standing committees of the House, including the right to present amendments at the Law Amendments Committee.
7 Where the Labour Standards Code would provide a right or protection that would apply to a member if the member were an employee of the House of Assembly, the member is entitled to that right or protection.
8 All rights and protections afforded to an individual under the Human Rights Act are afforded to a member with respect to the member's relationship with other members and with the House of Assembly Management Commission.
9 (1) Subject to subsection (2), the House of Assembly Management Commission shall provide an annual budget to each outside member who is an independent member to
(a) maintain an office in Halifax that is proportional to that provided to recognized political parties to maintain caucus offices; and
(b) hire caucus staff for an office in Halifax consistent with the functional role and experience required and compensation paid for like staff in party caucus offices.
(2) The budget referred to in subsection (1) must include an additional allowance to reflect that economies of scale are not available to independent members.
10 (1) The House of Assembly Management Commission shall make all guidelines, rules and formulae used to determine the allowances of members publicly available.
(2) Subject to subsection (3), meetings of the Commission and its committees are open to the public.
(3) The Commission or any committee of the Commission may meet in closed session to discuss matters relating to
(a) acquisition, sale, lease and security of property;
(b) personnel matters;
(c) labour relations;
(d) contract negotiations;
(e) litigation or potential litigation;
(f) legal advice eligible for solicitor-client privilege; and
(g) public security.
(4) The minutes of all public meetings of the Commission must be made available in the Legislative Library and published on the Legislature's website within five days of the meeting.
11 (1) The House of Assembly Management Commission shall post expenses for all caucus and independent member offices in the same manner as for constituency offices.
(2) Members are entitled to a copy of any contract, lease or agreement made on the member's behalf by the Commission.
12 (1) The House of Assembly shall provide translation services to all members.
(2) The translation services must include oral and written translation availability into or from
(c) the Mi'kmaw language;
(d) American Sign Language; and
(e) other languages as determined by the House of Assembly Management Commission.
13 Communications Nova Scotia shall provide a current list of media contacts to each independent member.
14 Each independent member shall receive all information respecting the business of the House of Assembly provided to a house leader of a recognized party, including copies of all bills and notices of meetings of committees and the hours the House sits.
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