The capital of British Columbia is Victoria, the 15th largest metropolitan region in Canada. The largest city is Vancouver, Canada's third-largest metropolitan area and the second-largest in the Pacific Northwest.
British Columbia is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west, by the U.S. state of Alaska on the northwest, and to the north by the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, on the east by the province of Alberta, and on the south by the U.S. states of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. The current southern border of British Columbia was established by the 1846 Oregon Treaty, although its history is tied with lands as far south as the California border. British Columbia's land area is 944,735 square kilometres (364,764 square miles). British Columbia's rugged coastline stretches for more than , and includes deep, mountainous fjords and about 6,000 islands, most of which are uninhabited.
British Columbia's capital is Victoria, located at the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island. Its most populous city is Vancouver, located in southwest corner of the mainland called the Lower Mainland. Other major cities include Surrey, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Richmond, Delta, and New Westminster in the Lower Mainland; Abbotsford, Pitt Meadows and Langley in the Fraser Valley; Nanaimo on Vancouver Island; and Kelowna and Kamloops in the Interior. Prince George is the largest city in the northern part of the province, while a village northwest of it, Vanderhoof, is near the geographic centre of the province.
The Coast Mountains and the Inside Passage's many inlets provide some of British Columbia's renowned and spectacular scenery, which forms the backdrop and context for a growing outdoor adventure and ecotourism industry. Seventy-five percent of the province is mountainous (more than above sea level); 60% is forested; and only about 5% is arable. The Okanagan area is one of three wine-growing regions in Canada and also produces excellent ciders. The city of Penticton, and rural towns of Oliver, and Osoyoos have some of the warmest and longest summer climates in Canada, although their temperature ranges are exceeded by the warmer Fraser Canyon towns of Lillooet and Lytton, where shade temperatures on summer afternoons often surpass but with very low humidity.
Much of the western part of Vancouver Island and the rest of the coast is covered by temperate rain forest. This region, which includes parts of the west coast of the United States, is one of a mere handful of such temperate rain forest ecosystems in the world (notable others being in Turkey, Georgia, Chile, New Zealand, Tasmania, and the Russian Far East). The province's mainland away from the coastal regions is not as moderated by the Pacific Ocean and ranges from desert and semi-arid plateau to the range and canyon districts of the interior plateau. A few southern interior valleys have short cold winters with infrequent heavy snow, while those in the Cariboo, the northern part of the Central Interior, are colder because of their altitude and latitude, but without the intensity or duration experienced at similar latitudes elsewhere in Canada. The northern two-thirds of the province is largely unpopulated and undeveloped, and is mostly mountainous except east of the Rockies, where the Peace River District in the northeast of the province contains BC's portion of the Canadian Prairies.
There are 14 designations of parks and protected areas in the province that reflects the different administration and creation of these areas in a modern context. There are 141 ecological Reserves, 35 provincial marine parks, 7 Provincial Heritage Sites, 6 National Historic Sites, 4 National Parks and 3 National Park Reserves. 12.5% (114,000 km²) of British Columbia is currently considered protected under one of the 14 different designations that includes over 800 distinct areas.
British Columbia contains seven of Canada's national parks:
British Columbia also contains a large network of provincial parks, run by BC Parks of the Ministry of Environment. British Columbia's provincial parks system is the second largest parks system in Canada (the largest is Canada's National Parks system).
In addition to these areas, over 4.7 million hectares of arable land are protected by the Agricultural Land Reserve.
The explorations of James Cook in the 1770s and George Vancouver in 1792 established British jurisdiction over the coastal area north and west of the Columbia River. In 1793, Sir Alexander Mackenzie was the first European to journey across North America overland to the Pacific Ocean, inscribing a stone marking his accomplishment on the shoreline of Dean Channel near Bella Coola. His expedition theoretically established British sovereignty inland, and a succession of other fur company explorers charted the maze of rivers and mountain ranges between the Canadian Prairies and the Pacific. Mackenzie and these other explorers—notably John Finlay, Simon Fraser, Samuel Black, and David Thompson—were primarily concerned with extending the fur trade, rather than political considerations. In 1794, by the third of a series of agreements knowns as the Nootka Conventions, Spain conceded its claims of exclusivity in the Pacific. This opened the way for formal claims and colonization by other powers, including Britain, but because of the Napoleonic Wars there was little British action on its claims in the region until later.
Their establishment of trading posts under the auspices of the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), however, effectively established a permanent British presence in the region, which (south of 54°40′ north latitude, the southern limit of Russian America) was, as of the Anglo-American Convention of 1818, under the "joint occupancy and use" of citizens of the United States and subjects of Britain (which is to say, the fur companies). This co-occupancy was ended with the Oregon Treaty of 1846.
Some of these early posts grew into settlements, communities, and cities. Among the places in British Columbia that began as fur trading posts are Fort St John (established 1794); Hudson's Hope (1805); Fort Nelson (1805); Fort St. James (1806); Prince George (1807); Kamloops (1812); Fort Langley (1827); Victoria (1843); Yale (1848); and Nanaimo (1853). Fur company posts that became cities in what is now the United States include Vancouver, Washington (Fort Vancouver), formerly the "capital" of Hudson's Bay operations in the Columbia District, Colville, Washington and Walla Walla, Washington.
With the amalgamation of the two fur trading companies in 1821, the region now comprising British Columbia existed in three fur trading departments. The bulk of the central and northern interior was organized into the New Caledonia district, administered from Fort St. James. The interior south of the Thompson River watershed and north of the Columbia was organized into the Columbia District, administered from Fort Vancouver. The northeast corner of the province east of the Rockies, known as the Peace River Block, was attached to the much larger Athabasca District, headquartered in Fort Chipewyan, in present day Alberta.
Until 1849, these districts were a wholly unorganized area of British North America under the de facto jurisdiction of HBC administrators. Unlike Rupert's Land to the north and east, however, the territory was not a concession to the company. Rather, it was simply granted a monopoly to trade with the First Nations inhabitants. All that was changed with the westward extension of American exploration and the concomitant overlapping claims of territorial sovereignty, especially in the southern Columbia basin (within present day Washington state and Oregon). In 1846, the Oregon Treaty divided the territory along the 49th parallel to Georgia Strait, with the area south of this boundary, excluding Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands) transferred to sole American sovereignty. The Colony of Vancouver Island was created in 1849, with Victoria designated as the capital. New Caledonia, as the whole of the mainland rather than just its north-central Interior came to be called, continued to be an unorganized territory of British North America, "administered" by individual HBC trading post managers.
With the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush in 1858, an influx of Americans into New Caledonia prompted the colonial office to formally designate the mainland as the Colony of British Columbia, with New Westminster as its capital. A series of gold rushes in various parts of the province followed, the largest being the Cariboo Gold Rush in 1862, forcing the colonial administration into deeper debt as it struggled to meet the extensive infrastructure needs of far-flung boom communities like Barkerville and Lillooet, which sprang up overnight. The Vancouver Island colony was facing financial crises of its own, and pressure to merge the two eventually succeeded in 1866.
The Confederation League led by such figures as Amor De Cosmos, John Robson, and Robert Beaven had long led the chorus pressing for the colony to join Canada, which had been created out of three British North American colonies in 1867. Several factors motivated this agitation, including the fear of annexation to the United States, the overwhelming debt created by rapid population growth, the need for government-funded services to support this population, and the economic depression caused by the end of the gold rush. With the agreement by the Canadian government to extend the Canadian Pacific Railway to British Columbia and to assume the colony's debt, British Columbia became the sixth province to join Confederation on 20 July 1871. The borders of the province were not completely settled until 1903, however, when the province's territory shrank somewhat after the Alaska Boundary Dispute settled the vague boundary of the Alaska Panhandle.
Population in British Columbia continued to expand as the province's mining, forestry, agriculture, and fishing sectors were developed. Mining activity was particularly notable in the Boundary Country, in the Slocan, in the West Kootenay around Trail, the East Kootenay (the southeast corner of the province), the Fraser Canyon, the Cariboo and elsewhere. Agriculture attracted settlers to the fertile Fraser Valley, and cattle ranchers and later fruit growers came to the drier grasslands of the Thompson River area, the Cariboo, the Chilcotin, and the Okanagan. Forestry drew workers to the lush temperate rain forests of the coast, which was also the locus of a growing fishery.
The completion of the railway in 1885 was a huge boost to the province's economy, facilitating the transportation of the region's considerable resources to the east. The booming logging town of Granville, near the mouth of the Burrard Inlet was selected as the terminus of the railway, prompting the incorporation of the community as Vancouver in 1886. The completion of the Port of Vancouver spurred rapid growth, and in less than fifty years the city surpassed Winnipeg, Manitoba, as the largest in western Canada. The early decades of the province were ones in which issues of land use—specifically, its settlement and development—were paramount. This included expropriation from First Nations people of their land, control over its resources, as well as the ability to trade in some resources (such as the fishery). Establishing a labour force to develop the province was problematic from the start, and British Columbia was the locus of immigration from Europe, China, and Japan. The influx of a non-Caucasian population stimulated resentment from the dominant ethnic groups, resulting in agitation (much of it successful) to restrict the ability of Asian people to immigrate to British Columbia through the imposition of a head tax. This resentment culminated in mob attacks against Chinese and Japanese immigrants in Vancouver in 1887 and 1907. By 1923, almost all Chinese immigration had been blocked except for merchants and investors
Meanwhile, the province continued to grow. In 1914, the last spike of a second transcontinental rail line, the Grand Trunk Pacific, linking north-central British Columbia from the Yellowhead Pass through Prince George to Prince Rupert was driven at Fort Fraser. This opened up the north coast and the Bulkley Valley region to new economic opportunities. What had previously been an almost exclusively fur trade and subsistence economy soon became a locus for forestry, farming, and mining.
The advent of prohibition in the United States created new opportunities, and many found employment or at least profit in cross-border liquor smuggling. Much of Vancouver's prosperity and opulence in the 1920s results from this "pirate economy", although growth in forestry, fishing and mining continued. The end of U.S. prohibition, combined with the onset of the Great Depression, plunged the province into economic destitution. Compounding the already dire local economic situation, tens of thousands of men from colder parts of Canada swarmed into Vancouver, creating huge hobo jungles around False Creek and the Burrard Inlet rail yards, including the old Canadian Pacific Railway mainline right-of-way through the heart of the city's downtown (at Hastings and Carrall). Increasingly desperate times led to intense political organizing efforts, an occupation of the main Post Office at Granville & Hastings which was violently put down by the police and an effective imposition of martial law on the docks for almost three years. A Vancouver contingent for the On-to-Ottawa Trek was organized and seized a train, which was loaded with thousands of men bound for the capital but was met by a Gatling gun straddling the tracks at Mission; the men were arrested and sent to work camps for the duration of the Depression.
There were some signs of economic life beginning to return to normal towards the end of the 1930s, but it was the onset of World War II which transformed the national economy and ended the hard times of the Depression. Because of the war effort, women entered the workforce as never before.
British Columbia has long taken advantage of its location on the Pacific Ocean to have close relations with East Asia. However, this has often caused friction between cultures which have caused occasional displays of animosity toward Asian immigrants. This was most manifest during the Second World War when many people of Japanese descent were relocated or interned in the Interior of the province. Conversely, there have also been historically high rates of intermarriage and other examples of inter-racial harmony, cooperation and integration
In 1947 the reins of the Coalition were taken over by Byron Ingemar Johnson. The Conservatives had wanted their new leader Herbert Anscomb to be premier, but the Liberals in the Coalition refused. Johnson led the coalition to the highest percentage of the popular vote in British Columbia history (61%) in the 1949 election. This victory was attributable to the popularity of his government's spending programmes, despite rising criticism of corruption and abuse of power. During his tenure, major infrastructure continued to expand, and the agreement with Alcan to build the Kemano-Kitimat hydro and aluminum complex was put in place. Johnson achieved popularity for flood relief efforts during the 1948 flooding of the Fraser Valley, which was a major blow to that region and to the province's economy.
Increasing tension between the Liberal and Conservative coalition partners led the Liberal Party executive to vote to instruct Johnson to terminate the arrangement. Johnson ended the coalition and dropped his Conservative cabinet ministers, including Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Herbert Anscomb, precipitating the general election of 1952. A referendum on electoral reform prior to this election had instigated an elimination ballot (similar to a preferential ballot), where voters could select second and third choices. The intent of the ballot, as campaigned for by Liberals and Conservatives, was that their supporters would list the rival party in lieu of the CCF, but this plan backfired when a large group of voters from all major parties, including the CCF, voted for the fringe British Columbia Social Credit Party (Socreds), who wound up with the largest number of seats in the House (19), only one seat ahead of the CCF, despite the CCF having 34.3% of the vote to Social Credit's 30.18%. The Social Credit Party, led by rebel former Conservative MLA W.A.C. Bennett, formed a minority government backed by the Liberals and Conservatives (with 6 and 4 seats respectively). Bennett began a series of fiscal reforms, preaching a new variety of populism as well as waxing eloquent on progress and development, laying the ground for a second election in 1953 in which the new Bennett regime secured a majority of seats, with 38% of the vote.
With the election of the Social Credit Party, British Columbia embarked a phase of rapid economic development. Bennett and his party governed the province for the next twenty years, during which time the government initiated an ambitious programme of infrastructure development, fuelled by a sustained economic boom in the forestry, mining, and energy sectors.
During these two decades, the government nationalized British Columbia Electric and the British Columbia Power Company, as well as smaller electric companies, renaming the entity BC Hydro. By the end of the 1960s, several major dams had been begun or completed in — among others — the Peace, Columbia, and Nechako River watersheds. Major transmission deals were concluded, most notably the Columbia River Treaty between Canada and the United States. The province's economy was also boosted by unprecedented growth in the forest sector, as well as oil and gas development in the province's northeast.
The 1950s and 1960s were also marked by development in the province's transportation infrastructure. In 1960, the government established BC Ferries as a crown corporation, in order to provide a marine extension of the provincial highway system. That system was improved and expanded through the construction of new highways and bridges, and paving of existing highways and provincial roads.
Vancouver and Victoria become cultural centres as poets, authors, artists, musicians, as well as dancers, actors, and haute cuisine chefs flocked to the beautiful scenery and warmer temperatures. Similarly, these cities have either attracted or given rise to their own noteworthy academics, commentators, and creative thinkers. Tourism also began to play an important role in the economy. The rise of Japan and other Pacific economies was a great boost to British Columbia's economy.
Politically and socially, the 1960s brought a period of significant social ferment. The divide between the political left and right, which had prevailed in the province since the Depression and the rise of the labour movement, sharpened as so-called free enterprise parties coalesced into the defacto coalition represented by Social Credit — in opposition to the social democratic New Democratic Party, the successor to the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. As the province's economy blossomed, so did labour-management tensions. Tensions emerged, also, from the counterculture movement of the late 1960s, of which Vancouver and Nanaimo were centres. The conflict between hippies and Vancouver mayor Tom Campbell was particularly legendary, culminating in the so-called Gastown Riots of 1971. By the end of the decade, with social tensions and dissatisfaction with the status quo rising, the Bennett government's achievements could not stave off its growing unpopularity.
The Socreds were forced from power in the August 1972 election, paving the way for a provincial New Democratic Party (NDP) government under Dave Barrett. Under Barrett, the large provincial surplus soon became a deficit, although changes to the accounting system makes it likely that some of the deficit was carried over from the previous Social Credit regime. The brief three year ("Thousand Days") period of NDP governance brought several lasting changes to the province, most notably the creation of the Agricultural Land Reserve, intended to protect farmland from redevelopment, and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, a crown corporation charged with a monopoly on providing single-payer basic automobile insurance.
Perceptions that the government had instituted reforms either too swiftly or that were too far-reaching, coupled with growing labour disruptions led to the ouster of the NDP in the 1975 general election. Social Credit, under W.A.C. Bennett's son, Bill Bennett, was returned to office. Under the younger Bennett's government, the province completed several projects, most notably the Coquihalla Highway and Expo 86 in Vancouver. The Coquihalla Highway project became the subject of a scandal after revelations that the premier's brother bought large tracts of land needed for the project before it was announced to the public. Nonetheless, the Socreds were re-elected in 1979 under Bennett, who led the party until 1986.
As the province entered a sustained recession, the Socreds instituted a programme of fiscal restraint. This sparked a backlash, the so-called 1983 Solidarity Crisis, when a huge grassroots opposition movement mobilized, consisting of organized labour and community groups. Tens of thousands participated in protests and many felt that a general strike would be the inevitable result unless the government backed down from its policies of restraint. The movement collapsed after an apparent deal was struck by union leader and IWA president, Jack Munro and Premier Bennett.
Bill Vander Zalm became the new Socred leader and Premier in 1986 and led the party to victory in the election of that year. Vander Zalm was later involved in a conflict of interest scandal following the sale of Fantasy Gardens, a Christian and Dutch culture theme park built by the Premier, to Tan Yu, a Taiwanese gambling kingpin. There were also concerns over Yu's application to the government for a bank licence. These scandals forced Vander Zalm's resignation, and Rita Johnston became premier of the province.
In the 2001 general election Gordon Campbell's BC Liberals soundly defeated the NDP party, gaining 77 out of 79 seats. Campbell instituted various reforms including scrapping the "fast ferries" project, lowering income taxes and selling BC Rail to CN Rail (sparking yet another scandal). Campbell was also the subject of scandal after he was arrested for driving under the influence during a vacation in Hawaii. However, Campbell still managed to lead his party to victory in the 2005 general election against a substantially strengthened NDP opposition, making him the first elected premier in over a decade to finish a term as premier without resigning, and the first premier to win back to back elections since Bill Bennett. Campbell's government successfully led the coalition to bring the 2010 Winter Olympics to Vancouver. Under the Campbell regime the economy of British Columbia has revived substantially, aided significantly by improvements in global resource markets.
British Columbia has also been significantly affected by demographic changes within Canada and around the world. Vancouver (and to a lesser extent some other parts of British Columbia) was a major destination for many of the emigrants from Hong Kong who left the former UK colony (either temporarily or permanently) in the years immediately prior to its handover to the People's Republic of China. British Columbia has also been a significant destination for internal Canadian migrants. This has been the case throughout recent decades, because of its image of natural beauty, mild climate and relaxed lifestyle, but is particularly true during periods of economic growth. As a result, British Columbia has moved from approximately 10% of Canada's population in 1971 to approximately 13% in 2006. The final fundamental demographic shift is that away from rural British Columbia to urban centres, particularly the Lower Mainland. This trend has reversed itself to a limited degree in recent years with improved resource-economy prospects, but the Greater Vancouver metro area now includes 52% of the Province's population, followed in second place by Greater Victoria.
|Year||Population||Five Year |
|Ten Year |
|1991 BC %||2001 BC %||2001 Canada %||BC 2001 number|
|Catholic||18.3%||17.2%||44%||675,320||includes Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholic .|
|Christian n. i. e.||2.7%||5.2%||3%||200,345||Includes mostly answers of 'Christian', not otherwise stated|
|Eastern religions||0.3%||0.1%||9,970||includes Baha'i, Eckankar, Jains, Shinto, Taoist, Zoroastrian and Eastern religions, not identified elsewhere|
|Other religions||0.4%||0.2%||16,205||includes Aboriginal spirituality, Pagan, Wicca, Unity - New Thought - Pantheist, Scientology, Rastafarian, New Age, Gnostic, Satanist, etc.|
|No religious affiliation||30.0%||35.9%||17%||1,388,300||includes Agnostic, Atheist, Humanist, and No religion, and other responses, such as Darwinism, etc.|
The largest denominations by number of adherents according to the 2001 census were none (atheist, agnostic, etc) with 1,388,300 (35.9%); the Roman Catholic Church with 666,905 (17 %); the United Church of Canada with 361,840 (9 %); and the Anglican Church of Canada with 298,375 (8 %).
|Canadian / Canadien||939,460||24.3%|
|North American Indian||175,085||4.5%|
Also present in large numbers relative to other cities in Canada (except Toronto), and ever since the province was first settled (unlike Toronto), are many European ethnicities of the first and second generation, notably Germans, Scandinavians, Yugoslavs and Italians; third-generation Europeans are generally of mixed lineage, and traditionally intermarried with other ethnic groups more than in any other Canadian province. First-generation Britons remain a strong component of local society despite limitations on immigration from Britain since the ending of special status for British subjects in the 1960s. It is the only province where "English" ethnicity gets more response than "Canadian". American ancestry is under-reported; many Americans crossed into British Columbia during 19th century gold rushes and political turmoil like the Vietnam War.
The percentages add to more than 100% because of dual responses (e.g. "French-Canadian" generates an entry in both the category "French" and the category "Canadian".) Figures shown are the total number of responses and the percentage of the 3,868,875 responses to this question in the 2001 Census. Groups with more than 12,000 responses are included.
|Language||Number of |
|Percentage of |
|Language||Number of |
|Percentage of |
British Columbia has a resource dominated economy, centred on the forestry industry but also with increasing importance in mining. While employment in the resource sector has fallen steadily, unemployment is currently at a 30-year low of 4.5%. New jobs are mostly in the construction and retail/service sectors. Known as Hollywood North, the Vancouver region is the third-largest feature film production location in North America, after Los Angeles and New York City. Marijuana cultivation also plays an important role in British Columbia's economy, and according to some it plays a bigger role than forestry.
The economic history of British Columbia is replete with tales of dramatic upswings and downswings, and this boom and bust pattern has influenced the politics, culture and business climate of the province. Economic activity related to mining in particular has widely fluctuated with changes in commodity prices over time, with documented costs to community health.
Until the 1930s, rail was the only means of overland travel to and from the rest of Canada; travellers using motor vehicles needed to journey through the United States. With the construction of the Inter-Provincial Highway in 1932 (now known as the Crowsnest Pass Highway), and later the Trans-Canada Highway, road transportation evolved into the preferred mode of overland travel to and from the rest of the country.
Because of its size and rugged, varying topography, British Columbia requires thousands of kilometres of provincial highways to connect its communities. British Columbia's roads systems were notoriously poorly maintained and dangerous until a concentrated programme of improvement was initiated in the 1950s and 1960s. There are now freeways in the Lower Mainland and Central Interior of the province, and much of the rest of the province is accessible by well-maintained two lane arterial highways with additional passing lanes in mountainous areas. The building and maintenance of provincial highways is the responsibility of the provincial government.
There are four major routes through the Rocky Mountains to the rest of Canada. From south to north they are: The Crowsnest Pass Highway through Sparwood, the Trans-Canada Highway through Banff National Park, the Yellowhead Highway through Jasper National Park, and Highway 2 through Dawson Creek. There are also several highway crossings to the adjoining American states of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. The longest highway is Highway 97, running from the British Columbia-Washington border at Osoyoos north to Watson Lake, Yukon.
As of 2008, provincial labour standards require that fuel purchases must be prepaid. The regulation - nicknamed "Grant's Law" - was enacted following the death of gas station employee Grant DePatie, who attempted to stop a theft of gasoline in 2005. British Columbia is the first province in Canada to enact such a rule.
Public Transit in British Columbia consists mainly of diesel buses, although Vancouver is also serviced by a fleet of trolleybuses. TransLink operates SkyTrain, a light rapid transit system serving Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, and North Surrey. Presently, extensions of the line south to Richmond (the Canada Line) and east to Coquitlam and Port Moody (the Evergreen Line) are being developed.
Rail development expanded greatly in the decades after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885 and was the chief mode of long-distance surface transportation until the expansion and improvement of the provincial highways system began in the 1950s. Two major routes through the Yellowhead Pass competed with the Canadian Pacific Railway—the Grand Trunk Pacific, terminating at Prince Rupert, and the Canadian National Railway, terminating at Vancouver. The Pacific Great Eastern line supplemented this service, providing a north-south route between Interior resource communities and the coast. The Pacific Great Eastern(later known as British Columbia Railway and now owned by Canadian National Railway) connects Fort St James, Fort Nelson, and Tumbler Ridge with North Vancouver.
Commercial ocean transport is of vital importance. Major ports are located at Vancouver, Roberts Bank (near Tsawwassen), Prince Rupert, and Victoria. Of these, the Port of Vancouver is the most important, being the largest in Canada and the most diversified in North America. Vancouver, Victoria, and Prince Rupert are also major ports of call for cruise ships. In 2007, a large maritime container port will be opened in Prince Rupert with an inland sorting port located in Prince George.
The Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, Steven Point, is the Queen of Canada's representative in the Province of British Columbia. During the absence of the lieutenant-governor, the Governor General in Council may appoint an administrator to execute the duties of the office. In practice, this is usually the Chief Justice of British Columbia.
British Columbia has a 79-member elected Legislative Assembly, elected by the plurality voting system, though in recent years there has been significant debate about switching to a single transferable vote system.
Currently, the province is governed by the British Columbia Liberal Party under Premier Gordon Campbell. Campbell won the largest landslide election in British Columbia history in 2001 (77 of 79 seats), but the legislature is more evenly divided between Liberals and members of the social democratic New Democratic Party (NDP) following the 2005 provincial election. Recent years have seen the Green Party of British Columbia becoming a serious contender with double digit support, though they have not yet won a seat in the legislature.
The British Columbia Liberal Party is not related to the federal Liberal Party and does not share the same ideology. Instead, the BC Liberal party is a rather diverse coalition, made up of the remnants of the Social Credit Party, many federal Liberals, federal Conservatives, and those who would otherwise support right-of-centre or free enterprise parties. Historically, there have commonly been third parties present in the legislature (including the Liberals themselves from 1952 to 1975), but there are presently none.
Prior to the rise of the Liberal Party, British Columbia's main political party was the British Columbia Social Credit Party which ruled British Columbia for 20 continuous years. While sharing some ideology with the current Liberal government, they were more right-wing although undertook nationalization of various important monopolies, notably BC Hydro and BC Ferries. In an April poll by polling firm Ipsos-Reid, the BC Liberals were shown as having the support of 49% of voters, compared to 32% for the NDP. The next election is scheduled for May 2009.
British Columbia is known for having politically active labour unions who have traditionally supported the NDP or its predecessor, the CCF, although resource union members in many areas have in recent years shifted away from the NDP because of its environmental policies and the pro-industry ideology of the Liberals.
British Columbia's political history is typified by scandal and a cast of colourful characters, beginning with various colonial-era land scandals and abuses of power by early officials (such as those that led to McGowan's War in 1858-59). Notable scandals in Social Credit years included the Robert Bonner Affair, the Fantasy Gardens scandal which forced Premier Bill Vander Zalm to resign and ended the Social Credit era, the Bingogate scandal which brought down NDP Premier Mike Harcourt, the alleged scandal named Casinogate which drove NDP Premier Glen Clark to resign. A variety of scandals have plagued the current Liberal government, but with little apparent effect on the electorate, including the Premier's arrest for drunk driving in Maui and the resignation of various cabinet ministers because of conflict-of-interest allegations. A Christmas Eve raid on the Parliament Buildlings in Victoria, including the Premier's Office, has resulted in charges only for ministerial aides, although key cabinet members from the time have since resigned. The case, currently in preliminary hearings in the courts and relating to the sale of BC Rail to an American company, may not reach trial because of the mass of evidence and various procedural problems.
Half of all British Columbians live in the Greater Vancouver Regional District, which includes Vancouver, Surrey, New Westminster, West Vancouver, North Vancouver (city), North Vancouver (district municipality), Burnaby, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, Langley (city), Langley (district municipality), Delta, Pitt Meadows, White Rock, Richmond, Port Moody, Anmore, Belcarra, Lions Bay and Bowen Island, as well as 17 Native reserves and the unincorporated regional district electoral area known as Greater Vancouver Electoral Area A.
The second largest concentration of British Columbia population is located at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, which is made up of the 13 municipalities of Greater Victoria, (Victoria, Saanich, Esquimalt, Oak Bay, View Royal, Highlands, Colwood, Langford, Central Saanich/Saanichton, North Saanich, Sidney, Metchosin, Sooke and several Native reserves), or the Capital Regional District. Almost half of the Vancouver Island population is located in Victoria.
|Community (includes metro areas)||2006||1996|
|Surrey (Metro Vancouver)||394,976||304,477|
|Burnaby (Metro Vancouver)||202,799||179,209|
|Richmond (Metro Vancouver)||174,461||148,867|
|Coquitlam (Metro Vancouver)||114,565||101,820|
|Delta (Metro Vancouver)||96,723||95,411|
|Langley Township (Metro Vancouver)||93,726||80,179|
Healthy populations of many sorts of fish are found in the waters (including salmonids such as several species of salmon, trout, char, etc.). Besides salmon and trout, sport-fishers in B.C. also catch halibut, steelhead, bass, and sturgeon. On the coastlines, harbour seals and river otters are common. Cetacean species native to the coast include the Orca, Gray Whale, Harbour Porpoise, Dall's Porpoise, Pacific White-Sided Dolphin and Minke Whale.
British Columbian introduced species include: common dandelion, ring-necked pheasant, Pacific oyster, brown trout, black slug, European starling, cowbird, knapweed, bullfrog, purple loosestrife, Scotch broom, European earwig, tent caterpillar, sowbug, gray squirrel, Asian long-horn beetle, English ivy, fallow deer, thistle, gorse, Norway rat, crested mynah, and Asian or European gypsy moth.
|Type of organism||Red-listed species in BC||Total number of species in BC|
Water sports, both motorized and non-motorized, are enjoyed in many places. Sea kayaking opportunities abound on the British Columbia coast with its fjords. Whitewater rafting and kayaking are popular on many inland rivers. Sailing and sailboarding are widely enjoyed.
In winter, cross-country and telemark skiing are much enjoyed, and in recent decades high-quality downhill skiing has been developed in the Coast Mountain range and the Rockies, as well as in the southern areas of the Shuswap Highlands and the Columbia Mountains. Snowboarding has mushroomed in popularity since the early 1990s. The 2010 Winter Olympics downhill events will be held in Whistler-Blackcomb area of the province, while the indoor events will be in the Vancouver area.
In Vancouver and Victoria (as well as some other cities), opportunities for joggers and bicyclists have been developed. Cross-country bike touring has been popular since the ten-speed bike became available many years ago. Since the advent of more robust mountain bikes, trails in more rugged and wild places have been developed for them. Some of the province's retired rail beds have been converted and maintained for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Longboarding is also a popular activity because of the hilly geography of the region.
British Columbia also has strong participation levels in many other sports, including golf, tennis, soccer, hockey, Canadian football, rugby union, softball, basketball, curling and figure skating. British Columbia has produced many outstanding athletes, especially in aquatic and winter sports.
Consistent with both increased tourism and increased participation in diverse recreations by British Columbians has been the proliferation of lodges, chalets, bed and breakfasts, motels, hotels, fishing camps, and park-camping facilities in recent decades.
In certain areas, there are businesses, non-profit societies, or municipal governments dedicated to promoting ecotourism in their region. A number of British Columbia farmers offer visitors to combine tourism with farm work, e.g. through the WWOOF Canada program.