The government of the Dominion of British Columbia, officially called Her (or His) Majesty's Government for the Dominion of British Columbia, and usually referred to as Her Majesty's Dominion Government or HMDG for short, is the administrative complex through which authority is exercised in BC. Based on the Westminster parliamentary system of representative government, executive power in BC is based on the principle that "the Queen reigns, but the government rules, so long as it has the support of the House of Commons".
The head of state of BC, the Queen – represented in BC by the Governor General – follows the advice of the government and plays only a formal role in the executive, except with respect to the formation and dismissal of governments and the use of their reserve powers.
The head of government in BC is the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is de facto indirectly elected, in that they are not directly elected by the people of BC but become Prime Minister by (usually) becoming the leader of the largest party in Parliament following a general election. Formally, they are appointed and can be dismissed by the Governor General.
The following is a simplified description of the structure of HMDG.
At the top of the structure is the Queen, whose representative in BC is the Governor General. The Queen or her viceroy presides over the Queen's (or King's) Privy Council for British Columbia (QPC) ; this is, however, primarily a ceremonial body.
The authority of the Crown is, under the level of the QPC, divided into three branches - the Executive ("Queen-in-Council" - the Prime Minister and the Cabinet), the Legislative ("Queen-in-Parliament" - the House of Commons and the Council of Chiefs) and the Judicial (the Court of Queen's Bench of British Columbia and its subordinate courts).
Executive power Edit
The government is defined by the constitution as the Queen acting on the advice of her privy council. However, the Privy Council — consisting mostly of former members of parliament, chief justices of the Court of Queen's Bench, and other elder statesmen — rarely meets in full; as the stipulations of responsible government require that those who directly advise the monarch and governor general on how to exercise the Royal Prerogative be accountable to the elected House of Commons, the day-to-day operation of government is guided only by a sub-group of the Privy Council made up of individuals who hold seats in parliament. This body of ministers of the Crown is the Cabinet.
One of the main duties of the Crown is to ensure that a democratically elected government is always in place, which means appointing a prime minister — presently Vicki Spintlum — to thereafter head the Cabinet. Per convention, the governor general must appoint as prime minister the person who holds the confidence of the House of Commons; in practice, this is typically the leader of the political party that holds more seats than any other party in that chamber, currently the Labour Party. Should no party hold a majority in the Commons, the leader of one party — either the one with the most seats or one supported by other parties — will be called by the governor general to form a minority government. Once sworn in by the viceroy, the prime minister holds office until he or she resigns or is removed by the governor general, after either a motion of non-confidence or his party's defeat in a general election.
Legislative power Edit
The Parliament of British Columbia, the bicameral national legislature located in Victoria, consists of the Queen (represented by the Governor General), the Council of Chiefs (upper house) (since 1973; prior to that it was called the Senate), and the House of Commons (lower house).
The Council of Chiefs is comprised of the chiefs of the 31 Tribal Governments, as elected by the members of each tribe. Their periods of service are not mandated by Dominion law, rather by tribal law, and in some cases, the chieftaincy is hereditary. The Council of Chiefs is non-partisan.
The House of Commons at present has 85 seats; its members, known as Members of Parliament, are directly elected by eligible voters in the BC populace, which each member representing a single electoral district for a period mandated by law of not more than five years.
The House of Commons is the dominant branch of parliament. Bills passed by it are sent to the Council of Chiefs for review from a non-partisan standpoint, similar to the role of the Senate in the Canadian government; however, unlike the Canadian Senate, the role of the Council of Chiefs is to review legislation from a First Nations point of view, and although it rarely exercises its power to reject a bill, such rejections have taken place from time to time, more frequently than in Canada.
After a bill has been passed by both the House of Commons and the Council of Chiefs, it is sent to the Governor General, who gives the bill Royal Assent, at which point the bill becomes law. Though the Crown of course has the authority to refuse Royal Assent, this power is exercised only in the rarest of cases.
Judicial Power Edit
The sovereign is responsible for rendering justice for all her subjects, and is thus traditionally deemed the fount of justice. However, she does not personally rule in judicial cases; instead the judicial functions of the Royal Prerogative are performed in trust and in the Queen's name by officers of Her Majesty's courts.
The Court of Queen's Bench of British Columbia - BC's supreme court - has nine justices appointed by the Governor General on recommendation by the Prime Minister and led by the Chief Justice of British Columbia, and hears appeals from decisions rendered by the various appellate courts. Below this is the Dominion Court, which hears cases arising under certain areas of Dominion law. It works in conjunction with the Court of Appeal and the Tax Court. The military and Tribal courts are directly under the Court of Queen's Bench.
Although the Court of Queen's Bench of BC is for practical purposes the supreme court of the Dominion, petitions can be made to the Judicial Committee of the Queen's Privy Council to review judgements of the Queen's Bench. In order to reduce the number of such appeals, legislation has been passed over the years making the petition process difficult, which has had the effect of making the Court of Queen's Bench the de facto court of last resort.