Politics of British Columbia

Politics of British Columbia

The Politics of British Columbia involves not only the governance of British Columbia, Canada, and the various political factions that have held or vied for legislative power, but also a number of experiments or attempts at political and electoral reform.

History of politics in British Columbia

Prior to 1903, there were no political parties in British Columbia, other than at the federal level.

Sir Richard McBride was the first Premier of British Columbia to declare a party affiliation (Conservative Party) and institute conventional party/caucus politics.

Since party politics were introduced to British Columbia, there have been a number of political parties which have controlled the government for more than ten years, including the Conservative government of the early 20th century, the interwar Liberal government, the post-war Social Credit ("Socred") government of W.A.C. Bennett and, following a further brief reign by the New Democratic Party (NDP), another Social Credit government under his son, Bill Bennett, and lastly the NDP government of the 1990s.

During the 1940s, the government was controlled by a coalition of the Liberals and Conservatives. Neither party had the electoral strength to form a majority, so a coalition was used as a means to prevent the B.C. Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) (the forerunner of the NDP) from taking power.

From 1972 to 1975, an NDP government led by Dave Barrett held power but was defeated after a showdown with organized labour. Social Credit was returned to power with a new leader, and the son of the former Premier, Bill Bennett, who had been recruited by the party's old guard but brought in a new style of politics. In 1986, the younger Bennett retired from politics and his successor was Bill Vander Zalm. Under his leadership, he and his party became increasingly unpopular. In the face of mounting unpopularity and numerous scandals, the party was defeated at the polls and collapsed in 1991.

Currently, the province is governed by the British Columbia Liberal Party under Gordon Campbell. In western Canada other than Alberta, typically politics have been defined as CCF/NDP on the one side and those opposed on the other. The present incarnation of the BC Liberal Party fulfills this role in BC. The party is neutral federally and derives its membership from the centre to the centre right, and since its takeover by supporters of current Premier Gordon Campbell following the ouster of Gordon Wilson, who led the party from effective oblivion to Official Opposition in the 1991 general election, many consider it to be effectively a rebirth of the defunct BC Social Credit Party.

Electoral reform

Recall and initiative

British Columbia is the only province in Canada with recall election and initiative legislation. Both were introduced following the 1991 referendum.cite web|month=March|year=2002|title=Electoral History of British Columbia Supplement, 1987-2001|url=http://www.elections.bc.ca/elections/electoral_history/electhistvol2.pdf|page=60|publisher=Elections BC|format=PDF|accessdate=2008-01-02]

Only one recall petition was ever deemed to have had any success, compelling MLA Paul Reitsma to resign his seat hours before he would have been removed from office.

Fixed election dates

British Columbia was the first province in Canada to institute fixed election dates. Previously, British Columbia elections were like most parliamentary jurisdictions, which only require an election within a specified period of time (being five years in all jurisdictions of Canada).

Alternative voting systems


By the 1950s, the Liberal-Conservative coalition had begun to fall apart. However, in order to prevent the CCF from taking power, one of the last acts of the coalition government was to introduce an alternative voting system, which was implemented for the 1952 general election.

Rather than voting for one candidate by marking an “x” on their ballots, electors would rank their choices for the candidates running in their constituency by placing numbers next to the names of the candidates on the ballot. If a candidate received an absolute simple majority of votes, that candidate would be elected. If not, the candidate with the least number of votes was dropped and the second choices were allocated among the remaining candidates. This procedure would be repeated until a candidate received a majority of votes.

The expectation of using this voting method was that a Liberal voter's second choice would be a Conservative, and vice versa. The unexpected result was the election of enough candidates of the new Social Credit party to form a Socred minority government, with the CCF forming the official opposition. The Liberals were reduced to four members in the Legislature. The Conservatives (who changed their name to “Progressive Conservative” in tandem with their federal counterparts) were reduced to three.

The Socred minority government lasted only nine months. The alternate voting system was again employed for the ensuing general election. The result was a Socred majority. During this term of office, the Socreds abolished the new voting system and returned the province to the traditional voting system.

First decade of 21st century

A Citizens' Assembly in 2004 recommended replacing the First Past the Post system with a Single Transferable Vote system to be implemented in 2009, and a referendum was held on May 17, 2005 to determine if this change should go ahead. The proposal received majority support (57% of the popular vote), but the government had required 60% to make the proposal binding on them. A second requirement was a simple majority in 60% of the current ridings and 77 of the 79 ridings achieved this, far more than the 48 minimum. The close result has provoked further interest in electoral reform. As a result of this, the Provincial Government promised a second referendum on the issue to be held in November 2008, but this decision has now been reversed due to a variety of logistical problems with such timing. The second referendum is now scheduled to be held in conjunction with the next Provincial election scheduled for May 2009.

ee also

*Legislative Assembly of British Columbia
*List of British Columbia political parties
*British Columbia
* List of British Columbia Premiers
* List of British Columbia general elections
* Politics of Canada
* Political culture of Canada
* Council of the Federation


External links

* [http://archives.cbc.ca/IDD-1-73-1637/politics_economy/british_columbia_elections/ CBC Digital Archives - How the West is Won: A Half-century of B.C. Elections]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.