List of premiers of British Columbia

The Premier of British Columbia is the first minister for the Canadian province of British Columbia. The province was a British crown colony governed by the Governors of British Columbia[1] before joining Canadian Confederation in 1871.[2] Since then, it has had a unicameral Westminster-style parliamentary government, in which the premier is the leader of the party that controls the most seats in the legislative assembly. The premier is British Columbia's head of government, and the Queen of Canada is its head of state and is represented by the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. The premier picks a cabinet from the elected members to form the Executive Council of British Columbia and presides over that body.[3]

John Horgan is the current premier of British Columbia

Members are first elected to the legislature during general elections. General elections must be conducted every four years from the date of the last election. An election may also take place if the governing party loses the confidence of the legislature by the defeat of a supply bill or tabling of a no-confidence motion.[3]

Before 1903, British Columbia did not use a party system; instead, premiers of British Columbia had no official party affiliation and were chosen by elected members of the legislative assembly from among themselves. Candidates ran as "Government", "Opposition", "Independent", or in formulations such as "Opposition independent", indicating their respective positions to the incumbent regime.

British Columbia has had 35 individuals serve as premier since joining Confederation, of which 14 individuals had no party affiliation, three were Conservatives, eight were Liberals, four were Socreds, and six were New Democrats. The first premier was John Foster McCreight, who was inaugurated in 1871. Joseph Martin spent the shortest time in office, at 106 days. At over twenty years, W. A. C. Bennett spent the longest time in office, and is the only premier to serve in more than four parliaments. The incumbent premier is John Horgan, who was sworn in on July 18, 2017.

Premiers of British Columbia

  No party affiliation   British Columbia Conservative Party   British Columbia Liberal Party   British Columbia Social Credit Party   British Columbia New Democratic Party

No. Portrait Name
(Birth–Death)
District
Term of office Electoral mandates (Assembly) Political party
1
John Foster McCreight
(1827–1913)
MLA for Victoria City
November 14 1871

December 23 1872
  • Title created(caretaker government)
  • 1871 election(1st Parliament)
no party affiliation


2
Amor De Cosmos
(1825–1897)
MLA for Victoria
December 23 1872

February 11 1874
  • Appointment(1st Parliament)
no party affiliation


3
(1 of 2)
George Anthony Walkem
(1834–1908)
MLA for Cariboo
February 11 1874

February 1 1876
  • Appointment(1st Parliament)
  • 1875 election(2nd Parliament)
no party affiliation


4
Andrew Charles Elliott
(1829–1889)
MLA for Victoria City
February 1 1876

June 25 1878
  • Appointment(2nd Parliament)
no party affiliation


5
(2 of 2)
George Anthony Walkem
(1834–1908)
MLA for Cariboo
June 25 1878

June 13 1882
  • 1878 election(3rd Parliament)
no party affiliation


6
Robert Beaven
(1836–1920)
MLA for Victoria City
June 13 1882

January 29 1883
  • 1882 election(4th Parliament)
no party affiliation


7
William Smithe
(1842–1887)
MLA for Cowichan
January 29 1883

March 28 1887
  • Appointment(4th Parliament)
  • 1886 election(5th Parliament)
no party affiliation


Died in office
8
Alexander Edmund Batson Davie
(1847–1889)
MLA for Lillooet
April 1 1887

August 1 1889
  • Appointment(5th Parliament)
no party affiliation


Died in office
9
John Robson
(1824–1892)
MLA for New Westminster (until 1890)
MLA for Cariboo (from 1890)
August 2 1889

June 29 1892
  • Appointment(5th Parliament)
  • 1890 election(6th Parliament)
no party affiliation


In the 1890 election, he also won the seat in the riding of Westminster, but turned it down. Died in office.
10
Theodore Davie
(1852–1898)
MLA for Cowichan-Alberni
July 2 1892

March 4 1895
  • Appointment(6th Parliament)
  • 1894 election(7th Parliament)
no party affiliation


11
John Herbert Turner
(1834–1923)
MLA for Victoria City
March 4 1895

August 15 1898
  • Appointment(7th Parliament)
no party affiliation


12
Charles Augustus Semlin
(1836–1927)
MLA for Yale-West
August 15 1898

February 28 1900
  • 1898 election(8th Parliament)
no party affiliation


13
Joseph Martin
(1852–1923)
MLA for Vancouver City
February 28 1900

June 15 1900
  • Appointment(8th Parliament)
no party affiliation


Immediately lost a vote of non-confidence 28-1 upon being appointed, but formed a cabinet and governed for another three months anyway.
14
James Dunsmuir
(1851–1920)
MLA for South Nanaimo
June 15 1900

November 21 1902
  • 1900 election(9th Parliament)
no party affiliation


15
Edward Gawler Prior
(1853–1920)
MLA for Victoria City
November 21 1902

June 1 1903
  • Appointment(9th Parliament)
no party affiliation


Led final non-partisan administration. Dismissed by the lieutenant governor due to charges of conflict of interest that involved giving an important construction contract to his own hardware business. Appointed lieutenant governor in 1919.
16
Sir Richard McBride
(1870–1917)
MLA for Westminster-Dewdney (until 1903)
MLA for Dewdney (1903–1907)
MLA for Victoria City (from 1907)
June 1 1903

December 15 1915
  • Appointment(9th Parliament)
  • 1903 election(10th Parliament)
  • 1907 election(11th Parliament)
  • 1909 election(12th Parliament)
  • 1912 election(13th Parliament)
Conservative Party
Named leader in 1903


Led first partisan administration (and first Conservative). During First World War, the provincial government purchased and took possession of two submarines to defend the province from the threat of German attack; quickly transferred by order of the federal government to the Royal Canadian Navy in August 1914. Created the province's first university, the University of British Columbia. In the 1907 election he also won the seat in the riding of Dewdney, but turned it down. In the 1909 election he also won the seat in the riding of Yale, but turned it down.
17
William John Bowser
(1867–1933)
MLA for Vancouver City
December 15 1915

November 23 1916
  • Appointment(13th Parliament)
Conservative Party
Named leader in 1915


18
Harlan Carey Brewster
(1870–1918)
MLA for Victoria City
November 23 1916

March 1 1918
  • 1916 election(14th Parliament)
Liberal Party
Named leader in 1912


First Liberal premier. Brought in women's suffrage, instituted prohibition, and combatted political corruption. In the 1916 election he also won the seat in the riding of Alberni, but turned it down. Died in office
19
John Oliver
(1856–1927)
MLA for Dewdney (until 1920)
MLA for Victoria City (1920–1924)
MLA for Nelson (from 1924)
March 6 1918

August 17 1927
  • Appointment(14th Parliament)
  • 1920 election(15th Parliament)
  • 1924 election(16th Parliament)
Liberal Party
Named leader in 1918


Developed the produce industry in the Okanagan Valley, and tried to persuade the federal government to lower the freight rate for rail transport. In 1923, hosted the visit of Warren Harding to Vancouver, the first ever visit of a sitting United States President to Canada. In the 1920 election he also won the seat in the riding of Delta, but turned it down. Died in office
20
John Duncan MacLean
(1873–1948)
MLA for Yale
August 20 1927

August 21 1928
  • Appointment(16th Parliament)
Liberal Party
Named leader in 1927


21
Simon Fraser Tolmie
(1867–1937)
MLA for Saanich
August 21 1928

November 15 1933
  • 1928 election(17th Parliament)
Conservative Party
Named leader in 1926


Last Conservative premier. Attempted to apply "business principles to the business of government" during the Great Depression hit. Unemployment reached 28% – the highest in Canada. Set up relief camps. The Kidd Report recommended such sharp cuts to social services that the Conservative Party split and decided to run no candidates in the 1933 election. Local riding associations that supported Tolmie ran "Unionist" candidates while those supporting former premier Bowser stood "non-partisan" candidates and others ran as Independent Conservatives, resulting in electoral collapse and only 2 Conservative MLAs (one pro-Bowser, one pro-Tolmie) being returned and Tolmie losing his own seat.
22
Thomas Dufferin Pattullo
(1873–1956)
MLA for Prince Rupert
November 15 1933

December 9 1941
  • 1933 election(18th Parliament)
  • 1937 election(19th Parliament)
  • 1941 election(20th Parliament)
Liberal Party
Named leader in 1929


Attempted to extend government services and relief to the unemployed during the Great Depression. Re-elected in 1937 using the slogan "socialized capitalism". Failed to win a majority in 1941 and removed as leader by his party when he was unwilling to form a coalition government with the Conservative Party to keep the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation out of power.
23
John Hart
(1879–1957)
MLA for Victoria City
December 9 1941

December 29 1947
  • Appointment(20th Parliament)
  • 1945 election(21st Parliament)
Liberal Party (Coalition)
Named leader in 1941


Became Liberal leader and premier in order to form a coalition government with the Conservatives, which his predecessor had refused to do, in order to keep the socialist CCF out of power. Undertook an ambitious program of rural electrification, hydroelectric and highway construction. Built Highway 97 to northern British Columbia and relaunched the Bridge River Power Project, which was the province's first major hydroelectric development. Established the BC Power Commission to provide power to smaller communities that were not serviced by private utilities.
24
Boss Johnson
(1890–1964)
MLA for New Westminster
December 29 1947

August 1 1952
  • Appointment(21st Parliament)
  • 1949 election(22nd Parliament)
Liberal Party (Coalition)
Named leader in 1947


Introduced compulsory health insurance, and a 3% provincial sales tax to pay for it, expanded the highway system, extended the Pacific Great Eastern Railway, and negotiated the Alcan Agreement, which facilitated construction of the Kenney Dam. Coalition government collapsed when Conservatives left to form the Official Opposition in January 1952, leaving Johnson to lead a straight Liberal government until its defeat in that year's general election.
25
W. A. C. Bennett
(1900–1979)
MLA for South Okanagan
August 1 1952

September 15 1972
  • 1952 election(23rd Parliament)
  • 1953 election(24th Parliament)
  • 1956 election(25th Parliament)
  • 1960 election(26th Parliament)
  • 1963 election(27th Parliament)
  • 1966 election(28th Parliament)
  • 1969 election(29th Parliament)
Social Credit Party


Longest-serving premier. Oversaw rapid expansion of the province's highway system and BC Rail, creation of BC Ferries, BC Hydro, and the Bank of British Columbia, hydro-electric dam-building projects on the Columbia and Peace Rivers and the creation of the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University.
26
Dave Barrett
(1930–2018[4])
MLA for Coquitlam
September 15 1972

December 22 1975
  • 1972 election(30th Parliament)
New Democratic Party
Named leader in 1970


First NDP premier. Reformed the welfare system, established the province's Labour Relations Board, and expanded the public sector. Reformed Legislative Assembly by introducing question period and full Hansard transcripts of legislative proceedings. Brought in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) to protect the supply of farm land and Insurance Corporation of British Columbia to provide public car insurance.
27
Bill Bennett
(1932–2015)
MLA for South Okanagan (until 1979)
MLA for Okanagan South (from 1979)
December 22 1975

August 6 1986
  • 1975 election(31st Parliament)
  • 1979 election(32nd Parliament)
  • 1983 election(33rd Parliament)
Social Credit Party
Named leader in 1973


Implemented significant cuts to social services and education and repealed labour laws, resulting in a general strike. Spent hundreds of millions of dollars on Expo 86 and the construction of BC Place, Vancouver's SkyTrain rapid transit system, and the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre. Built the Coquihalla Highway.
28
Bill Vander Zalm
(b. 1934)
MLA for Richmond
August 6 1986

April 2 1991
  • Appointment(33rd Parliament)
  • 1986 election(34th Parliament)
Social Credit Party
Named leader in 1986


29
Rita Johnston
(b. 1935)
MLA for Surrey-Newton
April 2 1991

November 5 1991
  • Appointment(34th Parliament)
Social Credit Party
Named leader in 1991


First female premier and last Social Credit premier.
30
Mike Harcourt
(b. 1943)
MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant
November 5 1991

February 22 1996
  • 1991 election(35th Parliament)
New Democratic Party
Named leader in 1987


31
Glen Clark
(b. 1957)
MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway
February 22 1996

August 25 1999
  • Appointment(35th Parliament)
  • 1996 election(36th Parliament)
New Democratic Party
Named leader in 1996


32
Dan Miller
(b. 1944)
MLA for North Coast
August 25 1999

February 24 2000
  • Appointment(36th Parliament)
New Democratic Party
Named leader in 1999 (interim)


33
Ujjal Dosanjh
(b. 1947)
MLA for Vancouver-Kensington
February 24 2000

June 5 2001
  • Appointment(36th Parliament)
New Democratic Party
Named leader in 2000


34
Gordon Campbell
(b. 1948)
MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey
June 5 2001

March 14 2011
  • 2001 election(37th Parliament)
  • 2005 election(38th Parliament)
  • 2009 election(39th Parliament)
Liberal Party
Named leader in 1993


35
Christy Clark
(b. 1965)
MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey (until 2013)
MLA for Westside-Kelowna (2013–2017)
MLA for Kelowna West (2017)
March 14 2011

July 18 2017
  • Appointment(39th Parliament)
  • 2013 election(40th Parliament)
  • 2017 election(41st Parliament)
Liberal Party
Named leader in 2011


Government remained in office after 2017 election until defeated 44–42 on a confidence vote less than a week into the legislative session.
36
John Horgan
(b. 1959)
MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca
July 18 2017

Incumbent
  • Appointment(41st Parliament)
  • 2020 election(42nd Parliament)
New Democratic Party
Named leader in 2014


Asked to form a government by the lieutenant governor on the strength of a confidence and supply accord between the NDP and the Green Party, after the sitting Liberal government was defeated in the legislature on a confidence vote. Banned corporate and union political donations; initiated a referendum on electoral reform.
Min. Minority government
Co. Coalition government

Timeline of British Columbia premiers

Gordon CampbellUjjal DosanjhJohn Oliver

Premiers by region of the province

Location of riding Number of premiers Premiers
Interior 12
  • George Anthony Walkem
  • Alexander Edmund Batson Davie
  • John Robson (1890–1892)
  • Charles Augustus Semlin
  • Richard McBride (1903–1907)
  • John Oliver (1918–1920, 1924–1927)
  • John Duncan MacLean
  • Thomas Dufferin Pattullo
  • W.A.C. Bennett
  • Bill Bennett
  • Dan Miller
  • Christy Clark (2013–2017)
Lower Mainland 5
  • John Robson (1889–1890)
  • Boss Johnson
  • Dave Barrett
  • Bill Vander Zalm
  • Rita Johnston
Vancouver 7
Vancouver Island 15
  • John Foster McCreight
  • Amor De Cosmos
  • Andrew Charles Elliott
  • Robert Beaven
  • William Smithe
  • Theodore Davie
  • John Herbert Turner
  • James Dunsmuir
  • Edward Gawler Prior
  • Richard McBride (1907–1915)
  • Harlan Carey Brewster
  • John Oliver (1920–1924)
  • Simon Fraser Tolmie
  • John Hart
  • John Horgan

Living former premiers

As of February 2020, eight former premiers are alive, the oldest being Bill Vander Zalm (1986–1991, born 1934). The most recent former premier to die was Dave Barrett (1972–1975), on February 2, 2018.[4]

NameTermDate of birth
Bill Vander Zalm 1986–1991 (1934-05-29) May 29, 1934
Rita Johnston 1991 (1935-04-22) April 22, 1935
Mike Harcourt 1991–1996 (1943-01-06) January 6, 1943
Glen Clark 1996–1999 (1957-11-22) November 22, 1957
Dan Miller 1999–2000 (1944-12-24) December 24, 1944
Ujjal Dosanjh 2000–2001 (1947-09-09) September 9, 1947
Gordon Campbell 2001–2011 (1948-01-12) January 12, 1948
Christy Clark 2011–2017 (1965-10-29) October 29, 1965

See also

  • List of Leaders of the Opposition in British Columbia
  • List of British Columbia premiers by time in office

References

General

  • "Premiers of British Columbia, 1871–today". Province of British Columbia. Archived from the original on June 4, 2013. Retrieved April 26, 2011.
  • "British Columbia". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 8, 2019.

Specific

  1. "History and Heritage of British Columbia". BritishColumbia.com. Archived from the original on November 2, 2008. Retrieved November 5, 2008.
  2. "British Columbia – Canadian Confederation". Library and Archives Canada. August 9, 2006. Archived from the original on June 21, 2008. Retrieved November 5, 2008.
  3. "The Office of the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislature – Province of British Columbia". Province of British Columbia. Retrieved November 5, 2008.
  4. "Former B.C. Premier Dave Barrett dead at 87". CBC.ca. CBC. February 2, 2018. Retrieved February 2, 2018.

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