The office of lieutenant governor has been a constant in British Columbia from the province’s colonial beginnings to the modern era. Originally tasked with selecting the province’s premier, giving royal assent to provincial legislation, and invested with the power to dismiss governments, the role of the Crown’s representative has continually evolved to meet the needs of society. Today the office’s constitutional powers largely focus on community functions, but the role of lieutenant governor is more than ceremonial. This was demonstrated after the 2017 provincial election when then Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon accepted Premier Christy Clark’s resignation and asked NDP leader John Horgan to attempt to form government rather than call a new election.
BC’s early lieutenant governors were the force behind infrastructure initiatives such as building roads, railways and ships, and investing in electric utilities and the forest industry. Although most came from the ranks of the British elite and often espoused policies that denied First Nations land rights and opposed the immigration of Chinese and Japanese people, over time the office became more representative of the province’s diverse population. In recent years, lieutenant governors have played an increasingly activist role, celebrating cultural excellence and promoting literacy, creativity, environmental awareness: Chinese Canadian David Lam (1988–95) had a mandate of intercultural understanding; Iona Campagnolo (2001–7), the first woman to hold the position in BC, focused on empowering youth and women, and fostering a spirit of public inclusiveness at Government House; Steven Point (2007-12), BC’s first Indigenous lieutenant governor, worked to establish libraries in First Nations communities.
Chronologically arranged and rich with photographs, this work by historian Jenny Clayton paints a vivid picture of the lives of BC’s thirty lieutenant governors. Clayton’s biographical essays capture the distinct personalities and events that have characterized the office from 1871 to the present, offering a unique perspective on the evolution of the province.