The Chamber

The historical Legislature Building is the focal point of the democratic process in Alberta, and the Legislature Chamber is at its heart.
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Provincial representatives elected by Albertans meet to create legislation, debate government policy and decide how to spend tax dollars in the Assembly Chamber. The decisions made within its walls impact the daily lives of Albertans today and in the future.

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Each of Alberta’s 87 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) has a desk on the Chamber floor. The political party with the most Members forms the government and typically sits to the Speaker’s right. All other parties form the opposition and sit to the Speaker’s left.

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Featuring an impressive coffered ceiling with stained glass inlay, marble trim, Corinthian capitals and red mahogany paneling, the Chamber provides an inspiring backdrop for dynamic debate and thoughtful discussion by MLAs.

 

Did you know, there are 486 lights in the Chamber ceiling?

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Celebrating 110 years in 2021!

The first sitting in the Legislature Chamber took place on November 30, 1911.

Photo of Legislature Chamber, 1911-1913, PA-1073-2, Courtesy of Glenbow Archives, Archives and Special Collections, University of Calgary. (Image was edited for size and contrast.)

Learn about the history of the Chamber

The Speaker’s Chair

The most prominent feature within the elegant Chamber is the Speaker’s Chair.

It majestically sits at the head of the room opposite the main entrance. It has a high back covered with forest green upholstery that also appears on the seat and arms. The mahogany veneer features the provincial shield, framed by chains of wild roses. It was once customary for Speakers to be given their chair upon retirement. When Speaker N. Eldon Tanner, Alberta’s fifth Speaker, took on his new role in 1936, his chair did not arrive in time and so he presided over the Assembly in a regular office chair. The chair that was built for Speaker Tanner 85 years ago remains on the dais today.

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The Speaker’s Chair sits on a dais, which is a raised platform at the front of a hall. It is set against a canopy crafted of solid mahogany with cyma moldings to match chamber details. The canopy bears the Alberta Coat of Arms supported by fluted columns featuring both the wild rose, floral emblem of Alberta, and the marigold, official flower of the City of Edmonton. The canopy was presented by the City of Edmonton to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Province of Alberta on September 1, 1980.

From this commanding post the Speaker presides over the Legislative Assembly. Like all MLAs, the Speaker is an elected official who represents a constituency. The Speaker is elected by fellow Members following the commencement of a new Legislature.

 

Did you know that a replica of Alberta’s first Speaker’s chair is part of a display of the first Legislative Assembly at the Public Schools Museum in McKay Avenue school? The first chair was used by Speaker Fischer, who served from 1906 until his death in 1919.

The Assembly Table

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The Assembly Table, where the Clerk and other Table Officers work to support the Legislative Assembly, sits along the centre aisle between the dais and the desk of the Sergeant-at-Arms, which is positioned in front of the Chamber doors. The Table Officers and the Sergeant-at-Arms are Officers of the Assembly, providing procedural and security support respectively.

 

Did you know that the distance between the government and opposition benches is approximately 3.96 metres, which is said to be equivalent to two sword-lengths? This is a tradition passed down from Westminster parliaments of old to mitigate swordplay during vigorous debate.

Fun facts

Member's Desks

Each Member’s desk is equipped with a microphone so MLAs can be heard in the Chamber, on broadcast Assembly proceedings and for the official public record called Alberta Hansard.

The Mace

The Mace is carried into the Chamber each sitting day and placed on the Assembly Table with the crown pointed towards the government as a symbol of the Crown’s authority, as exercised by the Assembly, to legislate.

The Chamber Doors

Above the Chamber doors hangs a mahogany carving of Alberta’s Coat of Arms, which was carved by Korean Canadian artisan Chan Chun in 1990.

The Proceedings

The Legislative Assembly sits Monday through Thursday when in session. The Order Paper is prepared each sitting day and lists the items of business that may be considered by the Assembly.

The Portraits

Paintings of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the late Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh hang on the government and opposition sides of the Chamber respectively.

The Flags

Flags from each of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories hang at the head of the Chamber behind the Speaker’s dais.

 

Did you know that when the Speaker stands all Members and guests are expected to remain seated? Movement within the Chamber and galleries is permitted only when the Speaker is seated.

Alex Janvier, Sunrise and Sunset, 2019

The original work Sunrise and Sunset was installed in the Legislature Chamber on March 18, 2019. The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees donated the acrylic on linen diptych.

 

“In the observation of the sun’s duty and dedication to effortlessly do its job through all of human time, these paintings are a reminder to honour the simple essences of our past, while being mindful of our meaningful contributions to the now and to the future,”

Alex Janvier

The Galleries

 

Visitors to the Legislature can Watch the Assembly proceedings from the public gallery overlooking the Chamber. The Chamber has four galleries.

  • The Speaker’s gallery for invited and special guests of the Speaker
  • The Members’ gallery for invited and special guests of Members
  • The public gallery for people who book a visitor pass to watch session
  • The press gallery for members of the media
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A stained-glass insert entitled Alberta, the Land of Opportunities adorns the east window of the public gallery overlooking the Chamber.
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The piece was gifted by the City of Edmonton to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first session of the First Legislative Assembly of Alberta in 2006.
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It was created by husband-and-wife team, Pawel and Barbara Jozefowicz and unveiled on October 28, 2009.

The History

There was no time to wait for a Legislature; they had a province to build.
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First Legislature Opens

An estimated 4,000 Albertans gathered at the Thistle Rink in Edmonton on March 15, 1906 to witness the opening of Alberta’s first Legislature. The Thistle was chosen because it was the largest structure in Edmonton at the time. Spectators witnessed Lieutenant Governor George Bulyea’s Speech from the Throne, which referred to the advent of provincial autonomy in Alberta and Saskatchewan, both having attained provincehood just six months earlier.

Photo of Thistle Rink, 1906, A5629, Courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Alberta. (Image was edited for size and contrast.)

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Construction Begins

Following that inaugural session of the Legislature, Premier Alexander Rutherford hosted a reception in the McKay Avenue School assembly hall, which was where the Assembly convened until the Legislature Chamber was built. One of the first orders of business for the new Assembly during that first session was the construction of a Legislature Building. Construction broke ground in August 1907.

Photo of Alberta Legislature, 1911-1912, B3387, Courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Alberta. (Image was edited for size and contrast.)

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The Chamber is Complete

The Legislature Building was still under construction on November 30, 1911, when 41 Members of the Legislative Assembly opened the Third Session of the Second Legislative Assembly in the newly-complete Legislature Chamber. Members and guests accessed the Chamber by a simple wooden staircase not the grand marble staircase of today. Much of the building surrounding the Chamber remained unfinished, but there was no time to waste. They had a province to build.

Photo of Legislature Chamber, 1911-1913, PA-1073-2, Courtesy of Glenbow Archives, Archives and Special Collections, University of Calgary. (Image was edited for size and contrast.)

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A Historical Site

In the 1911 Speech from the Throne Lieutenant Governor Bulyea spoke about the expansion of the railway and control over natural resources. He also acknowledged, “the Chamber practically occupies the site of the old Council Chamber of the Hudson’s Bay Company, the earliest form of Government established in this country.” That first Chamber sitting took place almost a year before the Legislature Building officially opened on September 3, 1912.

Photo of Hudson’s Bay Company Fort with Alberta Legislature Building in background, 1912. NC-6-234, Courtesy of Glenbow Archives, Archives and Special Collections, University of Calgary. (Image was edited for size and contrast.)

Watch the Assembly

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Watch the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and its committees in action, live or at your convenience.