British Columbia Liberal Party

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox Canada Political Party The British Columbia Liberal Party (usually called the BC Liberal Party) is a right-of-centre provincial political party in British Columbia, Canada, differing from some other right-of-centre parties in being fiscally conservative and socially moderate (or neoliberal). The party has often remained separate from the federal Liberal Party of Canada, and is currently not formally linked to the federal party. Currently, the party is probably best described as a coalition of many ideological groups, united by an opposition to the New Democratic Party (NDP), and in favour of bringing more free market reforms to the province.


Early history

From 1871 to 1903, British Columbia operated with a non partisan government. Party politics were only introduced in 1903 election with the formation of the British Columbia Conservative Party. The Conservatives ruled the province until the Liberals were able to win the election of 1916 and form a government under Harlan Carey Brewster.

The best known of the BC Liberal premiers was Thomas Dufferin Pattullo, who was premier from 1933 to 1941. He advocated the annexation of Yukon by BC, and the construction of the Alaska highway.

This two-party system was challenged with the rise of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) in western Canada in the 1940s, and its successor, the New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP).

The CCF first took power in Saskatchewan under Premier Tommy Douglas, and made major inroads in British Columbia. In order to block the rise of the socialist CCF, the Liberals and Conservatives formed a coalition government in 1941 when neither party had enough seats to form a majority government on its own.

John Hart was the Liberal leader and premier from 1941 to 1947. He became leader after Patullo refused to go into coalition with the Conservatives.

Hart was followed by Byron Ingemar Johnson, normally know as Boss Johnson, who served as premier until tensions arose in the coalition due to the dominance of Liberals. The coalition collapsed in 1951 when the Conservatives withdrew from the coalition. The Liberals held onto a minority government until 1952.

The 1952 election

In order to prevent the British Columbia 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. What they had not counted on was what would happen with the CCF second preferences. Most CCF voters chose BC Social Credit League ahead of the Liberals and the Conservatives. Voters were tired of both the Liberals and the Tories and were looking for alternatives.

Social Credit was able to exploit this system, and emerged 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, was formally named party leader after the election.

The CCF tried to argue that with Tom Uphill, Labour Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) from the Kootenays, that they had as many seats as Social Credit but much more parliamentary experience than the Socreds and therefore should be allowed to govern. But Bennett had foreseen this and had managed to get Uphill's support for Social Credit.

With the CCF having only one seat less than Social Credit, and the Liberals with 6 seats and Tories with 4, it was Social Credit that emerged as the new party of choice for business and voters who wanted to keep the CCF out of power. Bennett became premier of BC.

The Social Credit government was defeated in the house on March 24, 1953. An election was not immediately called as Harold Winch insisted that the CCF would still be able to govern. But Liberal Leader E.T. Kenney said that his party would not support the CCF. Kenney resigned as leader, and federal Member of Parliament Arthur Laing took over for the election.

At the June 9 1953 general election, Bennett won a majority government. 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.

Bennett and the CCF both agreed that the experiment in increased vote choice should be shelved.

During 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 under the AV system. 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 because the left wing vote was split between the Liberals and the CCF.

In the wilderness

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 2 MLAs and 20.9% of the vote.

In the 1960 election, the party won 4 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 federal 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 NDP won the 1972 election, many supporters of the Liberal and Conservative parties united under the umbrella of Social Credit. This coalition was able to keep the NDP 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 rejuventated 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 NDP and Social Credit.

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%.

Recent rebirth

The Social Credit party began to collapse in the late 1980s under the leadership of William Vander Zalm, who took the party in a social conservative direction. Vander Zalm was forced to resign due to a conflict of interest scandal.

During the 1991 provincial election, the ruling Social Credit Party disintegrated under Vander Zalm's successor, Premier Rita Johnston. Multiple Socred scandals had left many BC conservatives looking for another option.

At this time, Gordon Wilson was the leader of the BC Liberal Party, and although his party had been practically non-existent in the polls, he insisted he be included in the televised debate between Premier Johnston and NDP Leader Michael Harcourt. The networks eventually agreed, and Wilson impressed many with his performance. The Liberal campaign suddenly gained tremendous momentum, and syphoned off a lot of support from the Socred campaign. In the end, the NDP won the election, but the Liberals came in second with 17 seats to the Socreds' 7. The Social Credit Party effectively died at that point. Gordon Wilson pushed to have the formal link between the federal and provincial party ended. The intent of this separation was to reduce the influence on the provincial Liberals by the many members of the Liberal party who provincially supported the Social Credit and often worked to ensure that the provincial Liberals were not successful. This separation probably facilitated a later shift to the right by the party.

Gordon Wilson was very successful in getting 17 Liberal MLAs elected. However, Gordon Wilson's left leaning policies did not coincide with many other Liberals both in the legislature and behind the scenes that wanted a more free-enterprise approach and wanted to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the Social Credit party. Gordon Wilson was damaged by his affair with fellow Liberal MLA Judi Tyabji, particularly within the party.

By 1993, the caucus was in open revolt against his leadership. To save the party, a leadership race was announced and Gordon Wilson ran against former BC Liberal Leader Gordon Gibson and Vancouver Mayor Gordon Campbell for the leadership. Gordon Campbell was successful in his bid for leadership of the Liberals. Wilson and Tyabji left the Liberals and formed their own party, the Progressive Democratic Alliance. That party fought one election (in which Wilson was the only successful candidate) before he accepted a cabinet position in the NDP government.

Under Campbell's leadership, and the influence of supporters of the federal Canadian Alliance and former members of the BC Social Credit Party, the BC Liberal Party moved to the right of centre. Liberal Party of Canada supporters remained in the party and are still a major component of the party.

The Liberals won the popular vote but won less seats in the 1996 election. This loss was generally seen to be as a result of the uncomfort that some of the electorate had with the more conservative policies that had been adopted by the party.

After a scandal filled second term for the NDP government, the Liberals won 77 of 79 seats in the 2001 election and Gordon Campbell became the seventh premier in ten years.

Political agenda

Campbell's government had an ambitious post-election agenda of tax cuts and privatizing government services. His administration also aimed to eliminate government waste and excess by restructuring the provincial civil service and laying off many civil service employees. Most controversially, the government also closed many hospitals and schools around the province. Campbell maintained such closures were necessary as such institutions were costly and ineffective, but the moves were widely criticized as insensitive. The Campbell government has paid little attention to social policy, other than supporting a hard line against illegal drug use.

The current Liberal party is attacked by the left for being too conservative and supporting big business and privatization. Some on the right believe the party is too socially progressive on a number of issues, including gay rights.

Party leaders

Election results

Election Party Leader # of candidates Seats Popular Vote
Elected % Change First count % Change Final count %
1903 (1) J. A. MacDonald 39 17 22,715 37.78%
1907 J.A. MacDonald 40 13 -23.5% 234,816 37.15% -0.63%
1909(2) J.A. MacDonald 36 2 -84.6% 33,675 33.21% -3.94%
1912 H.C. Brewster 19 0 -100% 21,443 25.37% -7.84%
1916 (3) H.C. Brewster 45 36 - 89,892 50.00% +24.63%
1920 (4) John Oliver 45 25 -30.6% 134,167 37.89% -12.11%
1924 John Oliver 46 23 -8.0% 108,323 31.34% -6.55%
1928 J.D. MacLean 45 12 -47.8% 144,872 40.04% +8.70%
1933 T.D. Pattullo 47 34 +183.3% 159,131 41.74% +1.70%
1937 T.D. Pattullo 48 31 -8.8% 156,074 37.34% -4.40%
1941 (5) T.D. Pattullo 48 21 -32.3% 149,525 32.94% -4.40%
1945 Coalition (6) John Hart 47 37 +12.1% 261,147 55.83 -8.02%
1949 Coalition (6) John Hart 48 39 +5.4% 428,773 61.35% +5.52%
1952 (7) B.I. Johnson 48 6 n.a. 180,289 23.46% n.a. 170,674 25.26%
1953 (7) Arthur Laing 48 4 -33.3% 171,671 23.59% +0.13% 154,090 23.36%
1956 Arthur Laing 52 2 -50.0% 177,922 21.77% -1.82%
1960 Ray Perrault 50 4 +100 208,249 20.90% -0.87%
1963 Ray Perrault 51 5 +25.0% 193,363 19.98% -0.92%
1966 Ray Perrault 53 6 +20.0% 152,155 20.24% +0.26%
1969 Pat McGeer 55 5 -16.7% 186,235 19.03% -1.21%
1972 Pat McGeer 53 5 - 185,640 16.40% -2.63%
1975 Gordon Gibson 49 1 -80.0% 93,379 7.24% -9.16%
1979 Jev Tothill 5 0 -100% 6,662 0.47% -6.77%
1983 Shirley McLoughlin 52 0 - 44,442 2.69% 2.22%
1986 Art Lee 55 0 - 130,505 6.74% +4.05%
1991 Gordon Wilson 71 17 486,208 33.25% +26.51%
1996 Gordon Campbell 75 33 +94.1% 661,929 41.82% +8.58%
2001 Gordon Campbell 79 77 +133.3% 916,888 57.62% +15.80%
2005 Gordon Campbell 79 46 -40.3% 772,945 46.08% -11.54%
Sources: Elections BC (


(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.

See also

External links



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