British Columbia general election, 1878

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This was the third election held after British Columbia became a province of Canada on July 20, 1871.

Political context[edit]

Issues and debates[edit]

Non-party system[edit]

There were to be no political parties in the new province. The designations "Government" and "Opposition" and "Independent" (and variations on these) functioned in place of parties, but they were very loose and do not represent formal coalitions, more alignments of support during the campaign. "Government" meant in support of the current Premier; "Opposition" meant campaigning against him, and often enough the Opposition would win and immediately become the Government. The Elections British Columbia notes for this election describe the designations as "Government (GOV.) candidates supported the administration of G.A.B. Walkem. Those opposed ran as Reform (REF.), Opposition (OPP.), Independent Reform (IND.REF.), or Independent Opposition (IND.OPP.) candidates. Those who ran as straight Independents (IND.) were sometimes described as Government supporters (IND./GOV.).

The Walkem Government[edit]

See Notes on the previous election.

Byelections not shown[edit]

Any changes due to byelections are shown below the main table showing the theoretical composition of the House after the election. A final table showing the composition of the House at the dissolution of the Legislature at the end of this Parliament can be found below the byelections. The main table represents the immediate results of the election only, not changes in governing coalitions or eventual changes due to byelections.

List of ridings[edit]

The original ridings had remained twelve in number, electing 25 members of the first provincial legislature from 12 ridings (electoral districts), some with multiple members. There were no political parties were not acceptable in the House by convention, though some members were openly partisan at the federal level (usually Conservative, although both Liberal and Labour allegiance were on display by some candidates).

These ridings were:

Statistics[edit]

  • Votes 6,377
  • Candidates 46
  • Members 25

Vancouver Island 3,714 votes, twelve seats 309.5 votes/seat

  • Upper Island 695 votes, four seats (173.75 votes/seat)
    • Comox: 52 votes (52 votes/seat)
    • Cowichan: 292 votes (2 seats 196 votes/seat 83 voters/seat)
    • Nanaimo: 351 votes (351 votes/seat)
  • "Greater Victoria" 3,019 votes, eight seats (377.375 votes/seat):
    • Victoria: 309 votes (2 seats 154.5 votes/seat)
    • Victoria City: 2,523 (4 seats 603.75 votes/seat)
    • Esquimalt: 187 (2 seats 93.5 votes/seat)

Mainland 2,271 votes 11 seats (excluding Kootenay's) 206.45 votes/seat :

  • Interior 1,817 eight seats, 227.125 votes/seat (excepting Kootenay):
    • Cariboo: 788 votes (3 seats 264 votes/seat)
    • Kootenay: unknown (acclamation)
    • Lillooet: 241 votes (2 seats 51 votes/seat 120.5 votes/seat)
    • Yale: 788 votes (3 seats 57 votes/seat 262.67 votes/seat)
  • Lower Mainland 454 votes (3 seats 151.33 votes/seat:
    • New Westminster: 309 votes (2 seats 154.5 votes/seat)
    • New Westminster City: 145 votes (145 votes/seat)

Note that these figures refer to votes actually cast, not the population per se nor the total of the potential voters' list.

Polling conditions[edit]

Property requirements for voting instigated for the 1875 election were dropped. Natives (First Nations) and Chinese were disallowed from voting, although naturalized Kanakas (Hawaiian colonists) and American and West Indian blacks and certain others participated. The requirement that knowledge of English be spoken for balloting was discussed but not applied.

Results by riding[edit]

Results of British Columbia general election, 1878
Government Opposition
Member Riding
& party
Riding
& party
Member
     Edwin Pimbury Cowichan
Government
          Cariboo
Opposition
George Cowan     
     William Smithe           John Evans     
     Wellington John Harris New Westminster
Government
          George Anthony Boomer Walkem1     
     Donald McGillivray           Comox
Opposition
John Ash     
     Ebenezer Brown New Westminster City
Government
          Esquimalt
Opposition
Hans Lars Helgesen     
     Preston Bennett Yale
Government
          Frederick W. Williams     
     John Andrew Mara           Kootenay
Opposition
Robert Leslie Thomas Galbraith     
     Forbes George Vernon           Charles Gallagher     
     Lillooet
Opposition
William M. Brown     
     William Saul     
     Nanaimo
Opposition
James Atkinson Abrams     
     Victoria
Opposition
Thomas Basil Humphreys     
     James Thomas McIlmoyl     
     Victoria City
Independent
Opposition
Robert Beaven     
     James Smith Drummond     
     John William Williams     
     William Wilson     
1 Premier-Elect and Incumbent Premier
Source: Elections BC

Byelections[edit]

As customary, byelections were held to confirm the appointment of various members to the Executive Council (cabinet). In this Parliament, all three such byelections were won by acclamation:

Walkem's byelection acclamation confirmed him as Premier; Executive Council appointments were decided and made by the Lieutenant-Governor in this period, not by the Premier directly, but by the L-G in Consultation with the Premier (as still is the case, though only as a formal technicality, not in practice). The Premier's position itself was technically an appointment, as there were no political parties nor leaders, other than unofficial ones for each faction in the House to whom the Lieutenant-Governor would turn if their known caucus was sufficient to form a government.

Other byelections were held on the occasion of death, ill health, retirement and/or resignation for other reasons. These were won by:

Composition of House at dissolution[edit]

Note: Government/Opposition status applies to candidate at time of election in 1878, not at time of dissolution in 1882.

Composition of 3rd British Columbia Parliament at Dissolution, 1882
Government Opposition
Member Riding
& party
Riding
& party
Member
     Edwin Pimbury Cowichan
Government
          Cariboo
Opposition
George Cowan     
     William Smithe           George Ferguson     
     Wellington John Harris New Westminster
Government
          George Anthony Boomer Walkem     
     Donald McGillivray           Comox
Opposition
John Ash     
     William James Armstrong New Westminster City
Government
          Esquimalt
Opposition
Hans Lars Helgesen     
     Preston Bennett Yale
Government
          Frederick W. Williams     
     John Andrew Mara           Kootenay
Opposition
Robert Leslie Thomas Galbraith     
     Forbes George Vernon           Charles Gallagher     
     Lillooet
Opposition
William M. Brown     
     William Saul     
     Nanaimo
Opposition
James Atkinson Abrams     
     Victoria
Opposition
Thomas Basil Humphreys     
     James Thomas McIlmoyl     
     Victoria City
Independent
Opposition
Robert Beaven     
     James Smith Drummond     
     John William Williams     
     William Wilson     
Source: Elections BC

Further reading & references[edit]

  • In the Sea of Sterile Mountains: The Chinese in British Columbia, Joseph Morton, J.J. Douglas, Vancouver (1974). Despite its title, a fairly thorough account of the politicians and electoral politics in early BC.

See also[edit]