Democracy in BCWhat can primary sources from the BC Archives reveal about our democracy?


British Columbia is a parliamentary democracy, which means that British Columbians elect people to represent them at the provincial legislature. These elected representatives are called members of the legislative assembly (MLAs). Each MLA represents a different area, called an electoral district or a constituency. It is their job to pass legislation, approve finances and scrutinize the government.

British Columbia entered into Confederation and became a province on July 20, 1871. The lieutenant-governor appointed an interim cabinet, and election writs were issued to choose 25 members from 12 electoral districts for the first provincial legislature. Votes used to happen publicly: on nomination day, electors, candidates and their agents would vote by a show of hands. The person who received the most votes would be elected, unless someone demanded a poll on polling day.

Voting is a chance for all eligible people to play a part in choosing their government and influence the provincial policies that affect them on a daily basis. With only a simple mark on a ballot, voting lets British Columbians decide who will represent them and what their future will look like. The right to vote or participate as a candidate is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is one of Canada’s most cherished institutions.

There is much to learn about the history of voting in British Columbia through the resources at Elections BC and the BC Archives, which holds the documentary heritage of the government of British Columbia.

  • Voter registrations from early in BC’s history reveal not only who was eligible to vote, but who was not.
  • Photographs capture the excitement of voting day.

As you browse through this pathway, ask the question “What role does democracy play in my life?”


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Watch a video about BC's first provincial election.

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