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New MLAs learn the basics about working in the P.E.I. legislative assembly

Bloyce Thompson, left, recently appointed as provincial minister of agriculture, justice, public safety and attorney general, was among 10 rookie MLAs, including fellow Progressive Conservative MLA Ernie Hudson, to receive orientation Wednesday of the legislative assembly, which sits twice a year.
Bloyce Thompson, left, recently appointed as provincial minister of agriculture, justice, public safety and attorney general, was among 10 rookie MLAs, including fellow Progressive Conservative MLA Ernie Hudson, to receive orientation Wednesday of the legislative assembly, which sits twice a year. - Jim Day
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

Bloyce Thompson is uncertain whether the legislative assembly will be more of a high or a low in his new job as Prince Edward Island’s agriculture minister.

“I’m not sure yet,’’ he says.

“Give me a month. I don’t know what’s coming at me.’’

Thompson, who defeated former premier Wade MacLauchlan in the provincial election April 23, was joined by nine other first-time MLAs Wednesday for orientation of the legislative assembly, which traditionally sits twice a year beginning in April and again in November.

The place is totally foreign to this dairy farmer who had never set foot, not even as a spectator, in this home to bill passing and lively debate.

“It’s all a brand-new learning experience for me,’’ he says.

In fact, Thompson had given little thought before Wednesday as to what it might be like to sit in the house.

Now, he is anticipating the prospect of fielding questions from members of the other two parties perhaps intent on digging for information and explanations in issues relating to Thompson’s busy portfolio of agriculture, justice, public safety and attorney general.

“I have to be ready for that,’’ he says.

“My staff has to have me ready for that. It’s something I can’t avoid, unfortunately. Hopefully, they take it easy on me the first couple of days.’’


Accountability

  • The 27 elected members of the Legislative Assembly of P.E.I. are responsible for approving the financial proposals of the government and for holding the premier and cabinet accountable for their actions and for departmental expenditures. It is a key function of the legislative assembly to ensure the public – through its elected members – has a say in how public monies are spent.

Source: Legislative Assembly of P.E.I.


Thompson is expecting a better mannered environment in the legislature under the minority Progressive Conservative government than some of the more raucous affairs of the past.

“I’m a pretty level-headed person, so I think I will be fine that way,’’ he says.

“I’ve got to meet a lot of the new MLAs and I’m getting a feel for their personalities. They all seem to be a level-headed group. I think it will be a very civil sitting – something that Islanders are craving for, I believe.’’

Joseph Jeffrey, clerk of the legislative assembly, says the orientation aims to help make the rookie MLAs feel comfortable when they get down to business for real.

“So that is really our main goal today is a general overview of the regular routine in the house – a little bit of background about the legislative assembly, the services that we offer here,’’ he says, noting a more detailed session on procedure will be held for the newbies

The real learning, he adds, will be hands-on when the MLAs are sitting in the house and “they’re taking it as it comes at them.’’

Premier Dennis King, who is also a first-time member of the legislative assembly, will soon get a private orientation “relatively similar’’ to what the other MLAs received Wednesday.

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