Government of British Columbia

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Government of British Columbia
Provincial government
Coat of Arms of British Columbia
Formation16 May 1871; 150 years ago (1871-05-16)
Founding documentConstitution Act, 1867
British Columbia Terms of Union
Province British Columbia
Country Canada
SovereignMonarch (Queen)
Vice-regal representativeLieutenant Governor
SeatGovernment House
LegislatureParliament of British Columbia
Meeting placeParliament Building
Head of governmentPremier
AppointerLieutenant Governor
Main organExecutive Council
CourtCourt of Appeal
SeatLaw Courts building

The Government of British Columbia (French: Gouvernement de la Colombie-Britannique) is the body responsible for the administration of the Canadian province of British Columbia. A constitutional monarchy, the Crown is the corporation sole, assuming distinct roles: the executive, as the Crown-in-Council; the legislature, as the Crown-in-Parliament; and the courts, as the Crown-on-the-Bench. Three institutions—the Executive Council (Cabinet); the Legislative Assembly; and the judiciary, respectively—exercise the powers of the Crown.

The term Government of British Columbia (French: Gouvernement de la Colombie-Britannique) can refer to either the collective set of all three institutions, or more specifically to the executive—ministers of the Crown (the Executive Council) of the day, and the non-political staff within each provincial department or agency, i.e. the civil services, whom the ministers direct—which corporately brands itself as the Government of British Columbia, or more formally, Her Majesty's Government (French: Gouvernement de Sa Majesté).[1][2]

In both senses, the current construct was established when the province joined Confederation in 1871. British Columbia is a secondary jurisdiction of Canada, a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy in the Westminster tradition; a Premier—presently John Horgan of the New Democratic Party—is the head of government and is invited by the Crown to form a government after securing the confidence of the Legislative Assembly, typically determined through the election of enough members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) of a single political party in a election to provide a majority of seats, forming a governing party or coalition.[3] The sovereign is Queen Elizabeth II, Canada's head of state, who is represented provincially in British Columbia by the lieutenant governor, presently Janet Austin.

The Crown[edit]

Elizabeth II is Queen of Canada, the head of state
Janet Austin is Lieutenant Governor, representing the monarch in BC

Queen Elizabeth II, as monarch of Canada is also the Queen of British Columbia. As a Commonwealth realm, the Canadian monarch is shared with 14 other independent countries within the Commonwealth of Nations.[9] Within Canada, the monarch exercises power individually on behalf of the federal government, and the 10 provinces.

Lieutenant Governor[edit]

While the powers of the Crown are vested in the monarch, they are exercised by the lieutenant governor, her personal representative, typically on the binding advice of the premier and Executive Council.

Powers and function[edit]

The lieutenant governor is appointed by the governor general, on the advice of the prime minister of Canada.[13] Thus, it is typically the lieutenant governor whom the premier and ministers advise, exercising much of the royal prerogative and granting royal assent.

While the advice of the premier and Executive Council is typically binding on the lieutenant governor, there are occasions when the lieutenant governor has refused advice. This usually occurs if the premier does not clearly command the confidence of the elected Legislative Assembly.

Federally, a notable instance occurred in 1926, known as the King-Byng Affair, when Governor General Lord Byng of Vimy refused Prime Minister Mackenzie King's request to dissolve the federal Parliament to call for a general election. More recently, on a provincial level in 2017 following the provincial election, Premier Christy Clark met with Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon and advised dissolution of the Legislature. Guichon declined Clark’s request. Clark then offered her resignation as Premier, and the leader of the Official Opposition, John Horgan, who was able to command the confidence of the elected Legislature, was invited to form the government.[14]

Executive power[edit]

The executive power is vested in the Crown and exercised "in-Council", meaning on the advice of the Executive Council; conventionally, this is the Cabinet, which is chaired by the premier and comprises ministers of the Crown. The term Government of British Columbia, or more formally, Her Majesty's Government refers to the activities of the Queen-in-Council. The day-to-day operation and activities of the Government of British Columbia are performed by the provincial departments and agencies, staffed by the non-partisan public service and directed by the elected government.


The premier of British Columbia is the primary minister of the Crown. The premier acts as the head of government for the province, chairs and selects the membership of the Cabinet, and advises the Crown on the exercise of executive power and much of the royal prerogative. As premiers hold office by virtue of their ability to command the confidence of the elected Legislative Assembly, they typically sit as a MLA and lead the largest party or a coalition in the Assembly. Once sworn in, the prime minister holds office until either they resign or removed by the lieutenant governor after either a motion of no confidence or defeat in a general election.[15]

John Horgan has served as Premier since July 18, 2017, where his New Democratic Party won a minority of seats and entered into a supply arrangement with the Green Party. An election was then held in 2020,[16] following which his New Democrats won a majority government.[17]

Legislative power[edit]

British Columbia Parliament Buildings, the seat of the Legislature.

The Parliament of British Columbia consists of the unicameral Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, and the Crown in Parliament. As government power is vested in the Crown, the role of the lieutenant governor is to grant royal assent on behalf of the monarch to legislation passed by the Legislature. The Crown does not participate in the legislative process save for signifying approval to a bill passed by the Assembly.


The Legislature plays a role in the election of governments, as the premier and Cabinet hold office by virtue of commanding the body's confidence. Per the tenants of responsible government, Cabinet ministers are almost always elected MLAs, and account to the Legislative Assembly.


The second-largest party of parliamentary caucus is known as the Official Opposition, who typically appoint MLAs as critics to shadow ministers, and scrutinize the work of the government.

The Official Opposition is formally termed Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, to signify that, though they may be opposed to the premier and Cabinet of the day's policies, they remain loyal to Canada, which is personified and represented by the Queen.[18]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ MacLeod, Kevin S. 2008. A Crown of Maples (1st ed.). Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada. p. 18, ISBN 978-0-662-46012-1. Retrieved 21 June 2009.
  2. ^ Government of Canada, Department of Justice (1999-11-03). "Department of Justice - Final Report of the French Constitutional Drafting Committee". Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  3. ^ "Westminster Tradition". Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  4. ^ Claude Bouchard (16 February 2016). "Jugement No. 200-17-018455-139" (PDF) (in French). Cour supérieure du Québec. p. 16. Retrieved 17 February 2016 – via Le Devoir.
  5. ^ Romaniuk, Scott Nicholas; Wasylciw, Joshua K. (February 2015). "Canada's Evolving Crown: From a British Crown to a "Crown of Maples"". American, British and Canadian Studies Journal. 23 (1): 108–125. doi:10.1515/abcsj-2014-0030.
  6. ^ Department of Canadian Heritage (2015). "Crown of Maples: Constitutional Monarchy in Canada" (PDF). Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 November 2012. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  7. ^ "Queen and Canada". The Royal Household. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  8. ^ "The Queen of Canada". Government of Canada. Archived from the original on 24 February 2016. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  9. ^ [4][5][6][7][8]
  10. ^ Hicks, Bruce (2012). "The Westminster Approach to Prorogation, Dissolution and Fixed Date Elections" (PDF). Canadian Parliamentary Review. 35 (2): 20.
  11. ^ McLeod 2008, p. 36
  12. ^ Government of Canada (4 December 2015). "Why does the Governor General give the Speech?". Queen's Printer for Canada. Archived from the original on 26 April 2018. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  13. ^ [10][11][12]
  14. ^ "Lieutenant Governor". Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  15. ^ Brooks 2007, p. 235
  16. ^ "British Columbians heading to the polls on October 24 in fall election". Global News. Retrieved September 21, 2020.
  17. ^ "B.C. NDP will form decisive majority government, CBC News projects | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  18. ^ Schmitz, Gerald (December 1988), The Opposition in a Parliamentary System, Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada, archived from the original on 25 April 2009, retrieved 21 May 2009

External links[edit]