Who runs the province while politicians are on the campaign trail? | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Who runs the province while politicians are on the campaign trail?

Finance Minister Carole James is the head of B.C.'s caretaker government during the election campaign.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Province of B.C.
October 05, 2020 - 1:00 PM

When Premier John Horgan called an election on Sept. 21 he threw a lot of politicians out of work — but not all.

He and his cabinet ministers continue on as an “executive government” in a caretaker or interregnum role. Carole James is overseeing the caretaker government. She is the Finance Minister and is not running for re-election.

“The rationale for this convention is that, following dissolution of the government, there is no elected chamber to which government can be held accountable and the government cannot assume that it will command the confidence in the next Legislature,” states a 2017 Elections Guidance for Public Servants document on the government website.

It says that “public servants continue to carry out their responsibilities in a non-partisan manner."

Among other things, that means access to some information about government work is largely unavailable during this period.

”Unfortunately, during the interregnum period of the election, all B.C. government information is limited to immediate public health and safety issues or statutory requirements,” senior public affairs officer of government communications and public engagement, Joanne McGachie, said in an email to iNFOnews.ca. “We are only able to direct you to information that is already publicly available.”

That was in response to a request for information on how many people camped in B.C. Parks this year.

Only routine or urgent government business should be carried out, the election guidelines state.

“Constitutional conventions require government to avoid implementing major initiatives that would bind an incoming government,” the guidelines state. “Cabinet members are legally able to make ministerial decisions, in practice major actions and decisions are deferred.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix has been the most visible cabinet minister this year because of his, at times daily, COVID-19 updates with Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

He, as have other cabinet ministers, stopped making such appearances once the election was called.

The bulk of the civil service continues doing its job as close to normal as possible during the election campaign.

Even though the communications staff do get a break from responding to media requests, they do perform “behind the scenes” duties, McGachie said.

“Cleaning out emails and sorting things out on websites, I would say most ministry communications folks are still at their desks and working,” McGachie said. “Everything is put on hold until after the election. It’s a strange time for everybody.”

– With files from Steve Arstad.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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