For the first time in recent history, the legislature's standing committee on rules, regulations, private bills and privileges is seeking public input on possible rule changes to the P.E.I. Legislature.
The committee is seeking feedback on the parliamentary calendar, which outlines when sittings of the assembly happen, as well as sitting hours, debate on the budget and whether outreach should be improved by things like holding committee hearings across the province.
"What we're looking at there is, are we sitting at the right times of year? What could we do to balance the calendar with the other responsibilities that MLAs have?" said Opposition House leader Hannah Bell, the committee's chair.
As well as collecting feedback from the public, the committee is also looking at what other legislatures are doing across the country, Bell said.
Sitting hours based on defunct trains
"The legislature has been in place since 1770, and they've changed a lot because the world has changed around us," Bell said.
For instance, she noted, the hours the House sits were designed around a passenger train schedule — and there haven't been regular passenger trains on P.E.I. for 60 years.
The government is currently a PC-led minority with the Green Party in Opposition, and Bell said the committees have changed and now have equal representation from each of the parties, which leads to better, less partisan discussion.
"In the case of rule changes, we're now talking about rules that might not have made it past perhaps the more personal or partisan barriers before. We're already having those conversations in a very non-partisan way, we're seeking input from all the right places, including the public."
Getting rid of evening sitting hours — which happen Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m. — has been discussed, she said, as well as the possibility of making evening hours more flexible.
Members are also considering having more frequent but shorter sittings, "so the work isn't so intensely packed into a couple of very intense six-week periods," Bell said.
The committee is also considering ways to make the work of government more open and accessible to Islanders.
"That could include taking meetings on the road and having them in different communities around the province," Bell said.
Individuals and organizations have until Oct. 25 to make written submissions to the committee.
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