UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Federal-provincials relations within the Liberal Party of British Columbia Ward, Judith Barbara


This thesis explores the effects of the federal political system upon the organization of the Liberal Party of British Columbia by means of an examination of those manifestations of disunity and conflict which can be related to the changing balance of power between the federal and provincial segments of the party. Although both parts of a Canadian political party generally recognize the value of a unified and closely integrated organization, their separate interests and requirements frequently create internal conflicts. These sources of strain between the federal and provincial wings of Canadian political parties may well reveal those distinctive attributes of Canadian party organization which are derived from participation within a federal system. Within the Liberal Party of British Columbia the changing pattern of federal-provincial party relations have been closely associated with the relative electoral strength of the two wings of the party. Challenges to the leadership and control of the provincial Association have-generally occurred when, the balance of political power was not adequately represented in the leadership of the Association. Since a combination of administrative and policy differences between the two groups provided the main sources of friction, the changing electoral fortunes of the two wings also affected the emergence and intensity of federal-provincial strains. With the exception of a five year period between 1928 and 1933, the provincial wing of the party held power in Victoria from 1916 to 1952 and the provincial leader maintained effective control of the Liberal organization in British Columbia. Although the federal party also held power throughout most of this period, the federal wing never demanded control of the provincial organization. Confrontations between strong Liberal premiers and a Liberal Prime Minister were frequently responsible for internal party friction since the sectional policies pursued by Liberal premiers of British Columbia often involved challenges to federal government policy. Although the provincial coalition with the Progressive Conservatives, between 1941 and 1952, eventually initiated severe federal-provincial strains, the campaign by federal leaders to discredit the coalition Liberals was also directed at a specific provincial leader rather than at the principle of the provincial control of the organization. The electoral eclipse of the party's provincial wing after 1952 for the first time placed the federal wing in a dominant position within the provincial party. Although the federal leaders in the province sought no official change In the party's organization, they attempted to extend their Influence within the Association. The realignment of the federal and provincial wings of the party in turn affected the sources and expression of federal-provincial strains. Although effective control of the Association has shifted from the provincial to the federal leaderships over the past decade, the Liberals In British Columbia have maintained a unified provincial organization. But while the party has always recognized the advantages of a unified organization which serves the needs of both wings of the party, the federal political system has, nevertheless, profoundly influenced the organization and fortunes of the party. The conflicting Interests created by the federal division of power not only affect the formal organization of the political party but also determine the pattern of intra-party relations.

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