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"Certain Messages from His Honour"

The Provincial Treasurer normally delivers the Budget Address on an evening set aside just for that purpose. That sitting opens with the Treasurer announcing: "I have received certain messages from His Honour the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor," and, "The Lieutenant Governor transmits estimates of certain sums required for the service of the province...and recommends the same to the Assembly."

These announcements recall the earliest days of the British Parliament, when monarchs were the actual as well as ceremonial heads of government. Government was expensive even then, but monarchs were wealthy and governed the land using their own money. But during the reign of King John in the 13th century, expenses continually outpaced income from the royal reserves, and to make up the difference, the king began taxing the nobles.  And the more money they needed, usually for war, the more people they had to get it from. Consequently, the "Commons," local leaders of the shires and boroughs - the word comes from "communities" or "communes" - as well as the nobles were asked to attend a Parliament and agree to collect taxes from the communities under their control and turn them over to the monarch. They, like the nobles, refused to hand over any money unless they had a say in how it would be spent. Thus, the House of Commons was born. The monarch would ask the House for a certain amount of money, and the House would debate the request and tell the monarch its decision.

Again, our evening Budget Address takes us back to those times. The Treasurer announces to the Assembly that the monarch, through the Lieutenant Governor, has sent a message asking for X dollars to run the province for the year and would like the Assembly to approve the request. The Treasurer, who, like the rest of the cabinet, governs in the monarch's name, then "transmits" that message to the rest of the Assembly. This process is but a formality, of course, because today it is the cabinet that decides how much money each department should request of the Assembly.


Reproduced from the Teacher's Guide to the Alberta Legislature, 1993 with the kind permission of the Legislative Assembly Office.
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