Manitoba's government is unicameral, a single legislative body elected by the people of Manitoba. There are 57 electoral divisions in Manitoba, and thus 57 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs). Originally, in 1870, there were 24 MLAs in the assembly. As the province grew in population and size, more electoral divisions were added.
After an election, the political party with the most MLAs elected forms the government. The leader of that party becomes the Premier. The party with the next largest number of elected MLAs forms the official opposition.
Manitoba's legislative chamber is unique among provincial legislatures in that the members' benches are grouped in a horseshoe shape. The chair for the Speaker of the House is located on the south wall below the press gallery. All debate is addressed to the speaker, who rules on points of order and procedure and has the responsibility of maintaining order and decorum.
When the legislature is in session, each day begins in accordance with procedures that have origins in the early beginnings of parliamentary rule. The speaker enters the legislative chamber followed by the clerks of the legislative assembly and preceded by the sergeant-at-arms bearing the mace.
The original desks and chairs of the chamber are fashioned of walnut with inlaid ebony. They are arranged in three tiers rising from a sunken floor in the centre of the chamber. Each desk is equipped with a microphone connected to a public address system and a recording machine used in the publication of Hansard, a verbatim report of debates and proceedings in the legislature. During question period, translators provide simultaneous translation from French to English. The chamber is also equipped for video and Internet broadcasts of question period and special events such as throne and budget speeches. Yet even as such changes have brought the house into the future, the original inkwells employed by an earlier generation of Manitoban politicians are still visible.