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History of the Legislative Counsel

The history of the Legislative Counsel is not well-documented in official legislative publications. The Journals and Proceedings of the House of Assembly and the Statutes of Nova Scotia provide no clear answer to the question: Who is responsible for drafting the early laws of the Province of Nova Scotia ?

The position evolved from that of the Law Clerk of the Legislative Council. On March 14, 1759, the House of Assembly “resolved that the Entrys of the Acts be from the Originals, and that the Clerk of the Assembly join in Supervising the printed acts with the Clerk of the Council. Similarly, on August 11, 1767, the Journals and Proceedings of the House of Assembly state:

The House taking into Consideration the new Edition of the Perpetual Laws of this Province, lately published, and having highly approved of the clear, distinct, and perspicuous Method in which the same has been executed,
Resolved, that Mr. Speaker be desired to communicate to the Honorable Jonathan Belcher, Esq; Chief Justice of this Province, the Thanks of this House for his generous and public spirited Assistance, in the compiling and directing the executing so useful a work.

There was no single person who took on the role of what was to become the Legislative Counsel. In 1837, when the Council of Twelve became the Legislative Council, the term law clerk was used for the first time.

Early roles

1817 Henry H. Cogswell (prepared statutes at large 1804-1817)
1819 John Lawson, Jun. (drafted laws)
1820 John Widden (drafted laws)

Law Clerk of the Legislative Council

1837-ca.1864 John William Ritchie
1868-1878 Sir Robert Linten Weatherbe (Weatherbee, Weatherby)
1878 James Wilberforce Longley

Clerk of the House of Assembly

An Act to Abolish the office of Law Clerk of the Legislative Council (1879 , c. 35) places the duties of the Law Clerk with the Clerk of the House of Assembly.
1879-? Henry C. D. Twining

Law Clerk of the Legislative Council

In about 1900 the position of Law Clerk moves back to the Legislative Council. From 1914 to 1939, the Law Clerk does not appear in the House of Assembly records.
ca. 1900-1914 Adams A. MacKay
ca. 1914-1928 Unknown

Law Clerk

1928-1939 Unknown
From 1939 – 1941, Law Clerk shows as a separate line item under Legislative Expenses in the Public Accounts.
1939-1941 Charles Lovett Beazley

Legislative Counsel

The Legislative Counsel is created on April 5, 1941. The new position takes over all duties of the Law Clerk ( 1941, c. 45 ).

From 1941 – 1945, the Legislative Counsel appears as an employee of the Attorney General in the Public Accounts , while from 1946–1949, he appears under Municipal Affairs. From 1950 to 1979, Legislative Counsel appears as a separate division under the Attorney General in the Public Accounts .
1941–1950 Charles Lovett Beazley
1950–1967 Henry Muggah
1968-1971 Howard Edward Crosby
1972-1979 Graham D. Walker

Chief Legislative Counsel

In 1979, Legislative Counsel moves from the Attorney General’s Office to an office in and of itself. The position title changes to Chief Legislative Counsel and other lawyers in the office are given the title legislative counsel.
1979-1994 Graham D. Walker
1994-1997 Gordon D. Hebb (acting)
1997-Present Gordon D. Hebb