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Local Government of Canada, 1915 — Nova Scotia

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Nova Scotia

This province has made no organic changes in its constitution since the union in 1867. In 1867, the Legislative Council consisted of 136 members and the Legislative Assembly of 55 members. The number of members of the Legislative Council is now 21 and of the Assembly 43. Legislative councillors are appointed for life, and the members of the Assembly are elected for four years, the Assembly term consisting of that period. The constitutional relations of the ministry to the Assembly are based on the well recognized principles of responsible government in accordance with which the ministry retains office only so long as it is supported by a majority in the Legislative Assembly. This rule applies to all the provinces of Canada. Many efforts made towards abolishing the Legislative Council in Nova Scotia have proved abortive. The local ministry or cabinet, styled the Executive Council, consists of the Prime Minister (being the Provincial Secretary and President of the Council), the Attorney-General and the Commissioner of Works and Mines. These are salaried officials, and the other members are six in number without office. Agriculture, immigration and education are under the control and management of the government through certain boards and councils, each with its secretary and staff of officials.

Nova ScotiaThe sources of the principal revenues are (1) mines and minerals upon which certain royalties are charged, together with license fees and rentals; (2) the federal subsidy and interest on balances due from the Dominion, paid by virtue of the British North America Acts; (3) interest on railway loans and advances, succession duties, payments from the Dominion Government under the Agricultural Instruction Act; (4) crown lands and other fees and dues paid in to the Provincial Secretary's office. In 1915 the total revenue from all sources was $3,154,359, including $1,000,000 temporary loan and $100,000 loan for war distress.

Municipal Institutions.—Municipal administration in Nova Scotia has been developed since Confederation. Previous to that event the local government of counties and townships was confided to the magistracy, which was an appointed body, holding their commissions for life and not responsible in any way to the electorate. In the early years of its history this body did much useful and important public service, yet abuses here and there existed on account of the irresponsible nature of their tenure of office, which rendered reform and public accountability very difficult to obtain. Public opinion, however, and the controlling influence of the legislatures operating steadily upon even irresponsible bodies of life-appointed magistrates made the institution as it existed fairly acceptable to the people generally. In 1864 an act providing for the optional incorporation of counties and townships was passed, but few counties or districts took advantage of the privilege thus accorded. In 1875, the incorporation of the counties and certain townships was made compulsory, twenty-four municipalities being then established. In 1895, the Towns Incorporation Act was passed making the incorporation of towns throughout the province optional. At the present time thirty-eight towns are incorporated.

The county councils consist of councillors elected by the ratepayers, usually one for each polling district, but in some districts two are provided for. The warden or presiding officer is chosen each year by the council. The mayor of the town is elected by the ratepayers and holds office for two years. The city of Halifax, the capital of the province, has a special charter, the mayor being elected annually and the eighteen aldermen (or members) for three years, six retiring each year but being eligible for re-election.

The establishment of these municipal institutions gave a great impetus to local improvements, and although the rate and amount of taxation were considerably increased, the credit of the towns and municipalities is excellent. The total assessed valuation of real and personal property of the twenty-four municipalities of Nova Scotia is not less than $42,717,000 and of the incorporated towns over $40,000,000, to which must be added the property owned by the municipalities and towns themselves, amounting to over $3,000,000. The total liabilities (bonded and other debts) of the municipalities are about $1,000,000, and of the towns about $6,500,000.

The exercise of the powers of the councils, the election of their members and the duties and responsibilities of their officials, their meetings, proceedings and by-laws, their methods arid forms of taxation, as well as the limitation of their borrowing powers, are controlled and regulated in each particular by statutes rigidly enforced by provincial authority or by the courts. The training of large numbers of public spirited citizens in the practical exercise of the duties of self-government is not the least of the advantages of the municipal systems of Canada. They furnish a rich fund of talent and experience upon which to draw for the wider spheres of provincial and federal legislation.

Judiciary.—The provincial courts consist of (1) the Supreme Court, which is a court of appeal and also a circuit court, and (2) county courts. The Supreme Court consists of a chief justice and six other judges. One of these is a judge in equity, who also acts in divorce causes and as admiralty judge of the exchequer court of Canada. This court has original jurisdiction in all matters not specially delegated to the lower courts and appeal jurisdiction from the county courts. The county courts have a limited original jurisdiction and an appeal jurisdiction from probate and magistrates' courts in certain cases. The judges of this court are seven in number, each having a district of jurisdiction covering a county or group of counties and holding terms of court in the county towns of their respective districts.

The judges of the supreme and county courts are appointed and paid by the Dominion Government, but the procedure of the courts in all civil matters is regulated by provincial legislation. The purely provincial courts and courts of probate have jurisdiction over wills and intestate estates. Stipendiary and police magistrates' courts and courts of justices of the peace are also under provincial jurisdiction. The judges of these courts and justices of the peace are appointed by the local government and are paid, in some cases by salaries and in others by fees. The sheriffs, clerks, registrars and officers of all the courts are appointed by the provincial authorities.

In criminal cases the jurisdiction and procedure of all the courts are fixed by federal statutes. The procedure as to the selection of grand and petit jurors, of revisers of voters' lists and assessment courts are fixed by the provincial statutes. In each county, and in some counties in one or more districts of a county, are offices for the registry of deeds and of all documents pertaining to transfers of or affecting titles to real estate as well as those creating and discharging liens on personal property.