WTF does the provincial government actually do?

May 1 2017, 5:59 pm

Ahead of the 2017 BC election, Daily Hive has produced a range of guides to the key issues affecting young voters. To find our full BC Election coverage, click here: Battleground BC.

With election ads seemingly everywhere, some British Columbians already heading to the polls for advanced voting, and lengthy opinionated posts clogging up Facebook feeds, it’s no secret the BC Election is almost here.

With the Canadian federal election still waving goodbye in the rearview mirror, some British Columbians may think their democratic rights have been exercised enough for the time being, and maybe they should let those rights take a quick breather, perhaps a nap.

Because really, what does the provincial government do, anyway?

Well, get out your smartpen and laptop, because we’re launching into some Political Science 101.

(For those of you who didn’t automatically exit the window after that last sentence, thank you.)

‘Provincial politics is hugely important’

The provincial government is actually in charge of a lot of things that affect the day-to-day life of the average Vancouverite (or Kamloopsian, Pentictonite, Surrey… Surreyite? Other British Columbians, you get it).

Some of those issues have been made glaringly clear in news headlines, or throughout your entire Easter dinner by that one uncle who vehemently hates politicians–but some are not quite as obvious.

According to Stephen Phillips, a political science professor at Langara College, the provincial government plays a very crucial role in our governmental system.

“Provincial politics is hugely important because of the range of responsibilities that they encompass,” he said.

“Most aspects of education, health care, and social services are provincial responsibilities; the federal government plays a very limited direct role in those areas.”

This, of course, is why the premier is always brought up in relation to issues like transportation, education, and, more recently, angry people in grocery stores.

Responsibility not always clear cut

However, there is a lot of overlap between the levels of government that can lead to conflict. Phillips said the distinction between where responsibilities lie is not always straightforward.

“Sometimes you’ll get the two [upper] levels of government passing the buck because they don’t actually want to deal with a phoney issue, they would rather leave it to the other level of government,” said Phillips.

“A lot of these boundaries, in terms of who’s responsible for what in the environmental field, are not always that clear cut.”

For example, though the federal government is responsible for putting out a national policy on the environment, it is up to the provincial government to decide how to follow those guidelines in their specific regions.

“The federal government’s role is largely confined to providing funding to the provinces to help them provide these vital public services,” Phillips said.

Most people subject to province’s rules

And while the federal government regulates employment standards, minimum wage, and labour laws for certain fields, said Phillips, most (roughly 90%) Canadian workers are actually subject to whatever their provincial governments decide in those areas.

“That’s why, for example, we have the seemingly odd situation of there being 10 separate provincial minimum wages,” Phillips said, “and why the rules for certifying and decertifying unions are varied from one province to another.”

The allocation of funding to public schools, infrastructure projects, social services, health care all sit in the hands of those provincially in power–but whose hands those are is currently being decided by BC’s voters.

So, if you feel like things need to change, or if you want things to stay exactly the same, take the time to vote on May 9. There’s more at stake here than you may have thought.

For help deciding, the best way to get a true depiction of where the provincial parties stand is to take a look at our guides to all the issues and parties:

We’ve also produced a range of quick guides to all the issues to get you up to speed fast.

See also

Daily Hive is your home for BC Election coverage throughout the campaign period. To access our full BC Election coverage click here: Battleground BC.