British Columbia - Government and Politics

Government and Politics

The Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, Judith Guichon, is the Queen of Canada's representative in the Province of British Columbia. During the absence of the Lieutenant-Governor, the Governor General in Council may appoint an administrator to execute the duties of the office. In practice, this is usually the Chief Justice of British Columbia.

British Columbia has an 85-member elected Legislative Assembly, elected by the plurality voting system, though in recent years there has been significant debate about switching to a single transferable vote system.

The province is governed by the Liberal Party under Premier Christy Clark. The previous election saw then Premier Gordon Campbell win a third straight majority government in May 2009, taking 49 seats to the opposition New Democratic Party's 35. Campbell had previously led the largest landslide election in British Columbia history in 2001, with 77 of 79 seats, but the legislature has been more evenly divided between Liberals and NDP following the 2005 (46 of 79) and 2009 (49 of 85) provincial elections. The New Democratic Party (NDP) and its predecessor the CCF have been the main opposition force to right-wing parties since the 1930s and have ruled majority governments 1972-1975 and 1991-2001. The Green Party of British Columbia plays a larger role in the politics of British Columbia than Green Parties do in most other jurisdictions in Canada. However, after a breakthrough election in 2001 (12.39%), the party's vote share has declined (2005 – 9.17%, 2009 – 8.09%).

The British Columbia Liberal Party is not related to the federal Liberal Party and does not share the same ideology. Instead, the BC Liberal party is a rather diverse coalition, made up of the remnants of the Social Credit Party, many federal Liberals, federal Conservatives, and those who would otherwise support right-of-centre or free enterprise parties. Historically, there have commonly been third parties present in the legislature (including the Liberals themselves from 1952 to 1975); the BC Conservatives are the current third party in British Columbia, with one seat in the legislature.

Prior to the rise of the Liberal Party, British Columbia's main political party was the British Columbia Social Credit Party which ruled British Columbia for 20 continuous years. While sharing some ideology with the current Liberal government, they were more right-wing although undertook nationalization of various important monopolies, notably BC Hydro and BC Ferries.

British Columbia is known for having politically active labour unions who have traditionally supported the NDP or its predecessor, the CCF.

British Columbia's political history is typified by scandal and a cast of colourful characters, beginning with various colonial-era land scandals and abuses of power by early officials (such as those that led to McGowan's War in 1858–59). Notable scandals in Social Credit years included the Robert Bonner Affair, the Fantasy Gardens scandal which forced Premier Bill Vander Zalm to resign and ended the Social Credit era, the Bingogate scandal which brought down NDP Premier Mike Harcourt, the alleged scandal named Casinogate which drove NDP Premier Glen Clark to resign. A variety of scandals have plagued the current Liberal government, including Campbell's arrest for drunk driving in Maui and the resignation of various cabinet ministers because of conflict-of-interest allegations. A Christmas Eve raid on the Parliament Buildings in Victoria, including the Premier's Office, has resulted in charges only for ministerial aides, although key cabinet members from the time have since resigned. The case, currently in preliminary hearings in the courts and relating to the sale of BC Rail to CN Rail, may not reach trial because of the mass of evidence and various procedural problems. Campbell eventually resigned in late 2010 due to opposition to his government's plan to introduce a Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) and was replaced by Christy Clark as Premier in a BC Liberal leadership election.

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