Since Liberal MLA Andrew Younger made the jump from city hall to the provincial legislature in June, he’s often been asked the difference between the two.
“My best answer is city hall is chaos and this is organized chaos,” Younger told Metro News last week.
The legislature can be a rude awakening for many new MLAs, especially during question period. The time for opposition members to question government ministers frequently breaks down into yelling and heckling across the floor.
“Decorum’s an issue,” Younger admitted.
“The thing about this is question period – provincially, federally – has become a show for the cameras. And although we’re trying to raise important issues, everybody’s trying to land that punch.”
It’s particularly daunting for the first-time MLAs who found themselves appointed to cabinet and fielding questions.
Service Nova Scotia Minister Ramona Jennex said the experience was exciting but also nerve-wracking.
“I was a bit intimidated and continue to be a bit intimidated by some of the theatrics that go on inside,” she said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to that, but I don’t take (the comments) personally.”
Question period is a big opportunity for opposition parties. It gives them a chance to grill the government and potentially catch a minister unprepared.
For the government, it can be a platform to tout the progress they’ve made, as well as to take swipes back at the opposition.
But during the fall session that ended last week, the dialogue often broke down into shouting matches. At some points, the heckling grew so loud the member answering a question was completely drowned out.
That left a bad taste in the mouth of Lenore Zahn, another first-time NDP MLA.
“I just feel there’s a lot of time wasted with bullying tactics,” she said. “It’s like unruly schoolchildren in a yard.”