Representative of the People
The role of member of the legislative assembly (MLA) is an elected role that only a small percentage of Prince Edward Islanders have held over the past 145 years.
Only 31 women have served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island.
The role of MLA is not an easy one according to those who have served in the capacity - it is incredibly demanding, a 24-hour-a-day seven-day-a-week job.
In 1994, a special committee of the Legislative Assembly was created by a resolution of the House to look into various aspects of the legislature, including the role of an MLA, with the original motion moved by Premier Catherine Callbeck. The report was then presented and adopted in the following session of the legislature, and provides the only job description for a Prince Edward Island MLA officially adopted by the legislature.
It notes that in PEI, as in other parliamentary jurisdictions throughout Canada and the world, the role of the elected representative is basic to the function of modern democratic society. It was identified that the role has become more complex in recent times with “the greater involvement of state in the affairs of the people, the expansion of government programs and services, changing technology, and the new conflicts between social, economic, and environmental objectives”.
The report goes on to say that an MLA has two primary responsibilities, the first as a legislator and the second as a constituency representative and advocate. As a legislator, the MLA, is expected to develop and enact laws, participate in the parliamentary process and debate, vote funds, and be the guardian of the public purse.
In order to carry out this function properly all Members are required to:
- attend the sittings of the assembly;
- participate in the work of the committees; and
- serve on various boards and commissions as determined by government.
As a constituency representative, the MLA is expected to be an advocate for the concerns and interests of the individuals, as well as the community he or she represents. In addition, the MLA also is called upon to represent the best interests of the broader Island community. An effective constituency representative, as stated in the official job description, is a good listener, is well informed about the policies programs and services of government, possesses clear leadership skills, and is available to constituents.
Essentially, there job is to be accountable to those who elected them to the position, a job, as indicated earlier, that can be a 24-hour-a-day role.
The following is a full excerpt from that description, one that underlines the importance of the job:
“As a MLA of Prince Edward Island, we must recognize that our actions have a profound impact on the lives of all Islanders. We have an obligation to promote a better understanding of our responsibilities as Members and the role and operation of the Legislative Assembly. Discharging our duties and fulfilling our obligations, duties and responsibilities requires a commitment to the highest ethical standards."