British Columbia Liberal Party

British Columbia Liberal Party

party_name = British Columbia Liberal Party
status = active
class = prov
party_wikicolourid = Liberal
leader = Gordon Campbell
president = Mickey Patryluk
foundation = 1903
dissolution =
ideology = Conservative liberalism, Neoliberalism
headquarters = Box 21014
Waterfront Centre
Vancouver, BC
V6C 3K3
int_alignment = None
colours = Red & Blue
seats_house = 46
website = []
The British Columbia Liberal Party (also referred to as the BC Liberals) is the governing political party in British Columbia, Canada. First elected as the government in 1916, the party went into decline after 1952, returning to power in 2001.

Previously affiliated with the Liberal Party of Canada, the British Columbia Liberal Party has been independent of its federal counterpart since the late 1980s.


Early years

From 1871 to 1903, British Columbia operated without a party system. Party politics were only introduced in 1903 election with the formation of the British Columbia Conservative Party. The popular premier Richard McBride kept the Liberals to one seat in 1909 and then managed to shut them out in the 1912 election. The government's popularity waned as an economic downturn hit the province along with the mounting railway debts. McBride resigned on December 15, 1915 to become the province's representative in London, where he died in 1917.

1916-1928 First government

The divided Conservatives faced the Liberals in the election of 1916 and lost badly. The Liberals formed a government under Harlan Carey Brewster. Brewster had become leader of the opposition, and was elected party leader in March 1912. He lost his seat a few weeks later in the 1912 election, which returned no Liberals at all. In 1916, he won election to the legislature again through a by-election, and led his party to victory in a general election later that year by campaigning on a reform platform. Brewster promised to end patronage in the civil service, end political machines, improve workmen's compensation and labour laws, bring in votes for women, and other progressive reforms.

The government brought in women's suffrage, instituted prohibition, and combated political corruption before his unexpected death in 1918. He is interred in the Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria, British Columbia.

John Oliver succeeded Brewster as Premier when Brewster died in 1918. Oliver's government developed the produce industry in the Okanagan Valley, and tried to persuade the federal government to lower the freight rate for rail transport. The party managed a bare majority win in the 1920 electionand only managed govern after the 1924 election with the support of 2 independent Liberals. Even though he lost his seat in the 1924 election, Oliver remained premier until his death in 1927.

John Duncan Maclean became premier when Oliver died in 1927 at a time when the Liberal government was in decline. He was unable to reverse his party's fortunes, and was defeated in the 1928 election by the rival Conservatives.

1928-1933 opposition and the Great Depression

The Liberals managed to increase their vote in the 1928 election but did not dodge the bullet losing close to half their seats. With the onset of the depression and the implosion of the government of Simon Fraser Tolmie, the Liberals easily swept back to power in the 1933 election.

1933-1941 Duff Pattullo

The 1933 election was a major watershed in BC history. It brought into power the first of many colourful of BC premiers - Duff Pattullo and the new Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), a socialist opposition party.

Pattullo wanted an activist government to try to deal with the depression through social programs and support of the unemployed. Canada has been recognized as the hardest hit by the depression and the west of Canada the hardest hit within Canada. Pattullo's many attempts was often at odds with the government in Ottawa.

Pattullo was also a great advocate for BC and suggested such things as the annexation of Yukon by BC, and the construction of the Alaska highway to reduce the power of eastern Canada over BC. In the 1937 general election, his government was re-elected running on the slogan of "socialized capitalism".Price, Christine, [ "A Very Conservative Radical": Reverend Robert Connell's encounter with Marxism in the BC CCF] , Simon Fraser University MA Thesis, 2006]

1941-1951 coalition

The old order of the alternating government with the Conservatives came to an end with the rise of the CCF who managed to be official opposition from 1933 to 1937 and were only one seat less than the Conservatives in the 1937 election. In the 1941 election the CCF came second. The election did not give the Liberals the majority they hoped for.

John Hart became the Premier and Liberal leader in 1941 when Patullo refused to go into coalition with the Conservatives. The Liberal members removed Patullo as leader and Hart formed the first Liberal-Conservative coalition government in BC history.

From 1941 to 1945, Hart governed at a time of wartime scarcity, when all major government projects were postponed. The coalition government was re-elected in the 1945 election by a decisive margin. In that contest, Liberals and Conservatives ran under the same banner.

After 1945, Hart undertook an ambitious program of rural electrification, hydroelectric and highway construction. Hart's most significant projects were the construction of Highway 97 to northern British Columbia (which is now named in his honour) and the Bridge River Power Project, which was the first major hydroelectric development in British Columbia. He established the BC Power Commission, a forerunner of BC Hydro, to provide power to smaller communities that were not serviced by private utilities. In December 1947, Hart retired as Premier. The Conservative Party agitated for its leader, Herbert Anscomb, to succeed Hart as Premier but the Liberals outnumbered the Tories in the coalition caucus and Hart was followed by another Liberal, Byron Ingemar Johnson with Anscomb as Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance.

Johnson's government introduced universal hospital insurance -- and to pay for it -- a 3% provincial sales tax. It expanded the highway system, extended the Pacific Great Eastern Railway, and negotiated the Alcan Agreement, which facilitated construction of the Kenny Dam. The government also coped with the devastating 1948 flooding of the Fraser River, declaring a state of emergency and beginning a program of diking the river's banks through the Fraser Valley. Johnson is also noted for appointing Nancy Hodges as the first female Speaker in the British Commonwealth.

The Liberal-Conservative coalition government won a landslide victory in the 1949 election -- at 61% the greatest percentage of the popular vote in BC history. Tensions had grown between the coalition partners and within both parties. The Liberal Party executive voted to terminate the coalition and Johnson dropped his Conservative ministers in October 1951 resulting in a short lived minority government which soon collapsed.

The 1952 election

In order to prevent the CCF from winning in a three party competition, the government introduced instant-runoff voting, with the expectation that Conservative voters would list the Liberals as their second choice and vice versa. Voters however, were looking for alternatives. More voters chose British Columbia Social Credit League ahead of any other party as their second choice. Social Credit went on to emerge as the largest party when the ballots were counted in the 1952 general election. Social Credit's "de facto" leader during the election, W.A.C. Bennett, formerly a Conservative, was formally named party leader after the election.

At the June 9 1953 general election, the Liberals were reduced to 4 seats, taking 23.36% of the vote. Arthur Laing defeated Tilly Rollston in Vancouver Point Grey. Even though Social Credit won a majority of seats in the legislature, their finance minister Einar Gunnarson was defeated in Oak Bay by Archie Gibbs of the Liberals. Gordon Gibson Sr, nicknamed the "Bull Moose of the Woods", was elected for Lillooet as a Liberal.

1953 - 1979 third party status

During the early period of this time, the Liberals' most prominent member was Gordon Gibson Sr. He was a cigar smoking gregarious logging contractor who could have been premier but for major political error. He was elected in 1953 for the Lillooet riding. In 1955, the Sommers scandal surfaced and he was the only leader in the legislature to make an issue of it. W.A.C. Bennett and his attorney general tried many dirty tricks to stop the information from coming out.

In frustration, Gordon Gibson Sr. resigned his seat and forced a by-election, hoping to make the Sommers scandal the issue. Unfortunately, the voting system had changed, and he came a close second after Social Credit.

In the 1956 election, with the Sommers scandal still not resolved, the Liberals fared worse than in 1953. Arthur Laing lost his seat, and the party was reduced to two MLAs and 20.9% of the vote.

In the 1960 election, the party won four seats with the same 20.9% of the popular vote as in 1956.

In the 1963 election, the party's caucus increased by one more MLA to five, but their share of the popular vote fell to 19.98%.

The 1966 election, the party won another seat, bringing its caucus to six, and had a modest increase in the vote to 20.24%.

In the 1969 vote, the party lost one seat, and its share of the vote fell to 19.03%.

In 1972, the party was led into the election by a new leader, David Anderson, who had been elected in the 1968 federal election as a Liberal MP. He and four others managed to be elected to the legislature, but with the lowest vote in party history at 16.4%.

After the New Democratic Party of British Columbia (NDP) won the 1972 election, many supporters of the Liberal and Conservative parties defected to the Social Credit League. This coalition was able to keep the New Democrats out of power from 1975 until the 1990s. MLAs Garde Gardom, Pat Mcgeer and Allan Williams left the Liberals for Social Credit along with Hugh Curtis of the suddenly rejuvenated Tories. All of them became members of Social Credit Cabinets after 1975.

In the 1975 election, the only Liberal to be elected was Gordon Gibson as the party scored a dismal 7.24%. David Anderson was badly defeated in his Victoria riding, placing behind the New Democrats and Social Credit.

1979 - 1991 in the wilderness

The 1979 election was the party's lowest point. For the first time in party history, it was shut out of the legislature. Only five candidates ran, none were elected, and the party got 0.5% of the vote.

The 1983 election saw a small recovery as the party came close to a full slate of candidates, but won a dismal 2.69% of the vote.

The 1986 vote was the third and last election in which the party was shut out. Its share of the popular vote improved to 6.74%.

In 1987, Gordon Wilson became the leader of the provincial Liberal Party when no one else was interested. Wilson severed formal links between the provincial party and its federal counterpart. Since the mid 1970s most federal Liberals in BC had chosen to support the British Columbia Social Credit Party at the provincial level. For the provincial party, the intent of this separation was to reduce the influence of Social Credit members of federal party. From the federal party's perspective, this move was equally beneficial to them, as the provincial party was heavily in debt.

Wilson set about to rebuild the provincial party as a credible third-party in BC politics. During the same period, the ruling Social Credit party was beset by controversy under the leadership of William Vander Zalm. As a result, multiple Social Credit scandals caused many voters to look for an alternative.

By the time of the 1991 election, Wilson lobbied to be included in the televised Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) debate between Vander Zalm's successor, Premier Rita Johnston and New Democrat Leader Michael Harcourt. The CBC agreed, and Wilson impressed many voters with his performance. The Liberal campaign gained tremendous momentum, and siphoned off much support from the Socred campaign. In the end, while the NDP won the election, the Liberals came in second with 17 seats. The Liberals were back, and Wilson became Leader of the Opposition.

Official Opposition under Wilson: 1991–1994

Wilson's policies did not coincide with many other Liberals both in the legislature and in the party who wanted to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of Social Credit. The Liberals also proved themselves to be inexperienced, both in the legislature and in building a broad-based political movement. They had a difficult time to build a disciplined organization that could mount an effective opposition against the New Democrat government.

In 1993, Wilson's leadership was further damaged by revelations of his affair with fellow Liberal MLA Judi Tyabji. By this time, most of the caucus was in open revolt against his leadership. Wilson agreed to call for a leadership convention, at which he would be a candidate. Delta South MLA Fred Gingell became the Leader of the Opposition while the Liberal leadership race took place.

Soon, former party leader Gordon Gibson and Vancouver Mayor Gordon Campbell entered the leadership race. Campbell won decisively on the first ballot, with former party leader Gordon Gibson placing second and Wilson a distant third. The leadership election was decided on a one member, one vote system through which Liberals voted for their choices by telephone.

Wilson and Tyabji then left the Liberals and formed their own party, the Progressive Democratic Alliance.

Official Opposition under Campbell: 1994–2001

Since Campbell became leader, the Liberals adopted the moniker "BC Liberals" for the first time, and soon introduced a new logo. The revised name and logo was an attempt to distinguish itself more clearly in the minds of voters from the federal party.

In early 1994, Campbell was elected to the legislature in a by-election. Under his leadership, some supporters of the federal Reform Party of Canada and former Social Credit members became attracted to the Liberal party, winning key by-elections against the remnants of the Social Credit in the Fraser Valley region, solidifying the BC Liberals' claim to be the clear alternative to the existing New Democrat government. The Liberal party also filled vacuum created in the political spectrum caused by Social Credit's collapse.

In the 1996 election, the BC Liberals won the popular vote but won fewer seats than the New Democrats. This was as a result of the Liberals losing numerous marginal contests, while piling up large victories in fewer seats. In rural British Columbia, the BC Liberals lost several marginal contests because of discomfort that the electorate had with some of Campbell's free-market policies, such as a promise to sell BC Rail.

After the election, the BC Liberals set about making sure that there would be no repeat of 1996. Campbell jettisoned some of the less popular planks in his 1996 platform, and aimed to make the party more welcoming of former Reform Party of British Columbia opponents such as MLA Richard Neufeld.

The Campbell government: 2001–present

After a scandal-filled second term for the New Democrat government, the BC Liberals won the 2001 election with the biggest landslide in BC history: 77 of 79 seats. Gordon Campbell became the seventh premier in ten years, and the first Liberal premier in almost 50 years.

In accomplishing his victory, Campbell made economic recovery from the BC's economic difficulties of the 1990s a top priority. Campbell followed through with his most significant commitment to lower taxes, introducing a 25% cut in all provincial income taxes on the first day he was installed to office. To improve BC's investment climate, the BC Liberals also reduced the corporate income tax and abolished the corporate capital tax for most businesses (a tax on investment and employment that had been introduced by the New Democrats).

Campbell's first term was also noted for fiscal austerity, including reductions in welfare rolls and some social services, deregulation, the sale of some government assets (in particular the ferries built by the previous government during the Fast Ferry Scandal), and the privatization of BC Rail. There were several significant labour disputes, some of which were settled through government legislation. Campbell also downsized the civil service, with staff cutbacks of more than fifty percent in some government departments.

During the period, business confidence improved as commodity markets recovered. Unemployment declined to levels not seen since the 1960s, and labour shortages developed in many sectors of the economy, particularly services and construction.

The Liberals were re-elected in 2005 with a reduced majority of 7 seats (46-33), making Gordon Campbell the first BC premier to win a second term in 22 years.

=Party leadersLegislative Library of British Columbia, " [ Party Leaders in British Columbia 1900-] ", 2000, updated 2005] =

*Joseph Martin February 1902 - June 1903
*James Alexander MacDonald October 1903 - October 1909
*John Oliver October 1909 - March 1912
*Harlan Carey Brewster March 1912 - March 1, 1918)
*John Oliver March 1, 1918 - August 17, 1927
*John Duncan MacLean August 17, 1927 - October 1928
*Thomas Dufferin Pattullo January 1929 - December 9, 1941
*John Hart December 9, 1941 - December 29, 1947
*Byron Ingemar Johnson December 29, 1947 - April 1953
*Arthur Laing April 1953 - April 1959
*Ray Perrault May 1959 - May 1968
*Patrick Lucey McGeer October 1968 - May 22, 1972
*David Anderson May 22, 1972 - September 28, 1975
*Gordon Gibson September 28, 1975 - February 19, 1979
*Jev Tothill February 19, 1979 - April 1981
*Shirley McLoughlin May 25, 1981 - August 1983
*Art Lee March 31, 1984 - February 1987
*Gordon Wilson October 30, 1987 - September 11, 1993
*Gordon Campbell September 11, 1993-

Election results


(1) The Liberal Party elected one candidate by acclamation.

(2) One candidate is counted twice: J. Oliver (Liberal) contested but was defeated in both Delta and Victoria City.

(3) One candidate, H.C. Brewster (Liberal) who contested and was elected in both Alberni and Victoria City, is counted twice.

(4) One member elected by acclamation. One candidate, J. Oliver, who contested and was elected in both Delta and Victoria City is counted twice.

(5) After the election, a Coalition government was formed by the Conservative and Liberal members. T.D. Patullo, Liberal leader, objected, stepped down, and sat as a Liberal, giving the Coalition 32 seats.

(6) In the 1945 and 1949 elections, the Liberal Party ran in coalition with the Conservative Party. Results compared to Liberal + Conservative total from previous election.

(7) The 1952 and 1953 elections used the alternative voting system. Rather than marking the ballot with an X, numbers were to be placed opposite the names in order of choice. If, after the first count, no candidate received an absolute simple majority, the candidate with the least number of votes was dropped, and the second choices distributed among the remaining candidates. This process continued until a candidate emerged with the requisite majority vote. Some voters only indicated a first choice (plumping), and others did not utilize the full range available. Consequently as the counts progressed, some ballots would be exhausted and total valid votes would decline, thereby reducing the absolute majority required to be elected. In multi-member ridings, there were as many ballots as members to be elected, distinguished by colour and letters.


ee also

* List of British Columbia political parties
* List of British Columbia premiers
* List of British Columbia general elections
* British Columbia Liberal Party leadership conventions

External links

* [ BC Liberal Party official site]

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