In Canada, the constitution grants different areas
of responsibility to the Federal Parliament and provincial Legislatures - each
with its own law-making bodies, governing executive and judiciary.
At the federal level, the Canadian government has two law-making bodies: the 308-seat
House of Commons and the 105-seat Senate. B.C. residents are represented by 36
elected Members of Parliament (MPs) and six appointed senators.
The Prime Minister and appointed Ministers comprise the federal cabinet, or governing
executive. The federal judiciary includes the Supreme Court of Canada, the highest
court of appeal for all cases.
of the British Columbia Government is rooted in British parliamentary tradition
and precedent. Prior to 1866, B.C. was comprised of two British-controlled colonies,
one on Vancouver Island and a second on the mainland. In 1866, the two colonies
were officially united as the Crown Colony of British Columbia, with its capital
Columbia became a province of Canada when it entered Confederation on July 20,
1871. Upon Confederation, B.C. came under the British North America Act (BNA Act),
a British statute which defined the major national institutions and the division
of authority between the federal and provincial governments.
In 1982, the BNA Act was incorporated into the Constitution Act, which ended the
British parliament's legal right to legislate for Canada.
Legislative powers in B.C. are exercised by a single legislative chamber, which
is elected for a four-year term. The legislature consists of the Lieutenant Governor
and 85 elected members of the legislative assembly.
The provincial judicial system is composed of the Court of Appeal, the Supreme
Court of B.C. and the Provincial Court of B.C., which includes Small Claims Court
and Family Court.
The Lieutenant Governor is the representative
of Her Majesty The Queen of Canada in the Province of British Columbia and, as
such, takes precedence over everyone in the province except the Sovereign. The
Lieutenant Governor personifies the Crown, which is both the apex and the unifying
link in the constitutional and political structure of the province - executive,
legislative, and judicial. All legislation must receive Royal Assent before it
becomes law, and must be signed by the Lieutenant Governor. All Orders-In-Council
and official proclamations are also signed by the Lieutenant Governor in the name
of The Queen.
Lieutenant Governor is also responsible for ensuring there is a First Minister
in the province at all times. At any time, when the position of First Minister
is vacant because of death or resignation, after defeat in a provincial election
or the result of a non-confidence motion in the Legislature, the Lieutenant Governor
must either dissolve the House or call upon someone else to become First Minister
and try to form a viable government.
The Lieutenant Governor attends a variety of events across the province including
military and civilian ceremonies, award presentations, and cultural events. On
occasion, the Lieutenant Governor is invited to lend patronage to organizations,
particularly those of a charitable nature. Patronage is not granted as a matter
of the Lieutenant Governor is addressed as “Your Honour.” He or she has no official
status independent of the Lieutenant Governor, but is involved in some events
and is treated with the same courtesies, respect and consideration as the Lieutenant
Governor. The spouse may represent the Office of the Lieutenant Governor by acting
as Honorary Patron to community and charitable organizations.
The Legislative Assembly of British Columbia presently consists of 85 elected
Members. (This number can be varied by statutory amendment.) Following a provincial
general election, the Lieutenant Governor appoints the recognized leader of the
party with the majority of elected members Premier, and calls upon the Premier
to form a Government. Upon the advice of the Premier, the Lieutenant Governor
also appoints the Executive Council or Cabinet.
Premier and the Cabinet Ministers determine government policy. Each Cabinet Minister
is also given responsibility for the full administration of a department or ministry
within the limitations of the relevant statues. The Premier and all Cabinet Ministers
are Members of, and accountable to, the Legislative Assembly.
British Columbia is governed by the BC Liberal Party, elected on 16 May 2001.
B.C residents are represented by 85 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs).
Local and Regional Government
The provincial Legislature creates local governments in B.C, which consist of
incorporated municipalities, regional districts, school districts, regional hospital
districts, and special-purpose improvement districts. The provincial Legislature
also decides what local governments are responsible for.
Incorporated municipalities (cities, districts, towns and villages) provide facilities
such as roads, waterworks and sewers, as well as a wide range of social, recreational
and protection services. Regional districts provide common services on a shared
basis (such as police and ambulance services) over a large area. Revenue for municipal
and regional services is derived mainly from property taxation and grants from
the provincial government.