Learn more about politics in wartime Victoria in the digital archiveBetween 1898 and 1903, B.C. had six premiers and three elections; the province did not yet have political parties, and so governments only lasted so long as one politician could persuade the majority of the legislature to support his views. In 1903, Richard McBride formed B.C.’s first partisan government as a conservative. McBride’s political success, serving as premier until 1915, was not entirely due to party ideology; the B.C. Liberals shared many of his ideas. In part, McBride stayed in power by using the Conservative Party as a tool to distribute rewards to his supporters, such as government jobs and contracts. McBride’s dream of connecting the capital and hinterlands of the province via railway and road construction appealed to most British Columbians, however, who voted him a majority government in 1909. 
McBride encouraged prolific railway construction by persuading the legislature to guarantee the bonds of railway companies, essentially promising to pay investors their principal and interest should the companies go bankrupt. McBride secretly let the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway select 10 000 acres for its site on Kaien Island (now Prince Rupert). In 1909, he agreed to guarantee 4% interest on the bonds of the Canadian Northern Railway Company up to $35 000 per mile to build from Yellowhead Pass to Kamloops to New Westminster to Vancouver Island. Three years later, he guaranteed the principal and interest to the total of $35 000 per mile for the Pacific Grand Eastern Railway to build from Vancouver to Prince George. McBride was not worried about paying for these commitments; the provincial economy boomed, and he hoped to secure more money from Ottawa by arguing that B.C.’s unique geography entitled it to “Better Terms” of Confederation.
McBride’s social policies were also widely approved by the majority of citizens identifying as “British,” a popular label even among those born in the province. He refused to let the McKenna-McBride Commission, which was investigating Indian reserve sizes, decide whether or not there was Indian title in B.C., and would not permit the matter to go to court.  Many British Columbians approved of his tough stance towards the Doukhobors, pacifists who communally farmed in the Kootenays and refused to accept the authority of the secular state, even though he was unsuccessful in removing them from the province. His annual legislation to exclude Asians also earned him widespread approbation, despite being declared beyond provincial powers by the federal government.
In 1912, despite earning another majority government, McBride fell afoul of social reformers, particularly labour organizers. Labour unrest in B.C. was increasingly taking on class dimensions, a product of the province’s high rate of British immigration. Lower-class British workers had brought a tradition of union organization and radical socialist ideologies, while upper class Britons still expected deferential behaviour from the labouring orders. McBride’s loyalties were largely with the latter group. When striking miners walked out in Cumberland, Ladysmith, Extension, and Nanaimo over unionization and safety, McBride refused to let their claims be examined by the ongoing Royal Commission on Labour. McBride eventually mediated between owners and miners, but the strike really ended because the American union supporting the miners, the United Mine Workers` of America, was running out of strike pay. Although McBride was the Minister of Mines as well as Premier, Vancouver Island mines were among the most dangerous in the world.  McBride’s animosity towards female suffrage and prohibition eventually hastened the demise of the Conservative party in British Columbia.
McBride’s forestry policies also came under attack. Independent small loggers complained that the generous leases his government gave to American logging companies, often thousands of acres, pushed them out of the industry. Although McBride declared that B.C.’s timber was “illimitable,” the 1912 Royal Commission on Forestry found that the government had no idea how much timber land was in the province. The resulting Forest Act made all leases perpetual and established a Forest Branch to fight forest fires, but it did not regulate logging methods and counted on natural growth to regenerate the forests.The greatest detriment to McBride’s career was the beginning of a global recession in 1912. British investment, crucial to earlier stages of economic growth, was no longer forthcoming, and commodity prices fell, causing mass unemployment.  McBride’s government was immersed in scandal, including allegations that McBride had paid the commission on a purchase of two submarines to the Conservative Party, and the revelation that Attorney General William Bowser’s private law firm had represented the Pacific Grand Eastern Railway when it received a $6.5 million loan from the province. Finally, McBride’s ambitious railway deals crumbled, as the Pacific Grand Eastern and the Canadian Northern Railway ran out of money, and the provincial government was on the hook. McBride resigned to become Agent-General in London and Bowser became premier.
By Hannah Anderson
 Patricia E. Roy, Boundless Optimism: Richard McBride’s British Columbia (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012), 37.
 Edith Dobie, “Party History in British Columbia, 1903-1933,” in Historical Essays on British Columbia ed. J. Friesen and H.K. Ralston (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1976), 71, 73; Robert A.J. McDonald, “Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper and the Political Culture of British Columbia, 1903-1924,“ BC Studies 149 (Spring 2006): 72-73; Roy, Boundless Optimism, 7.
 Several railways were already building in the province without government aid, namely, the Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway.
 Smaller lines in the interior, the Kettle Valley Railway, the Kaslo and Slocan Railway, and subsidiaries of the CNR and CPR, were also promised help. Ibid., 160, 198-201.
 Ibid., 249-251.
 Ibid., 243-245; Hamar Foster, “Letting Go of the Bone: The Idea of Indian Title in British Columbia, 1849-1913,” in Essays in the History of Canadian Law: British Columbia and the Yukon Volume 6, ed. David H. Flaherty, John McLaren (Osgoode Legal Society: 1995), 51-52.
 However, one condition for provincial guarantee of railroad company bonds was often that Asian labour would not be used. Roy, Boundless Optimism, 241-243.
 Jean Barman, The West Beyond the West: A History of British Columbia (Revised Edition) (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996), 206-207.
 Roy, Boundless Optimism, 225-229, 96-97.
 Ibid., 104-105, 173.
 Stephen Gray, “The Government’s Timber Business: Forest Policy and Administration in British Columbia, 1912-1928,” BC Studies 81 (Spring 1989): 26- 30, 38-40.
 Douglas L. Hamilton, Sobering Dilemma: A History of Prohibition in British Columbia (Vancouver, B.C.: Ronsdale Press, 2004), 80; Roy, Boundless Optimism, 275-276.
 Roy, Boundless Optimism, 263-264, 291-292; McDonald, “Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper,” 68-69.
Barman, Jean. The West Beyond the West: A History of British Columbia (Revised Edition). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996.
Dobie, Edith. “Party History in British Columbia, 1903-1933.” In Historical Essays on British Columbia, edited by J. Friesen and H.K. Ralston, 70-81. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1976.
Foster, Hamar. “Letting Go of the Bone: The Idea of Indian Title in British Columbia, 1849-1913.” In Essays in the History of Canadian Law: British Columbia and the Yukon Volume 6, edited by David H. Flaherty, John McLaren, 28-86. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995.
Gray, Stephen. “The Government’s Timber Business: Forest Policy and Administration in British Columbia, 1912-1928.” BC Studies 81 (Spring 1989): 24-49.
McDonald, Robert A.J. “Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper and the Political Culture of British Columbia, 1903-1924.“ BC Studies 149 (Spring 2006): 63-86.
Roy, Patricia E. Boundless Optimism: Richard McBride’s British Columbia. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012.
Hak, Gordon. Turning Trees into Dollars: The British Columbia Coastal Lumber Industry, 1858-1913. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000.
Martin, Robin. The Rush for Spoils: The Company Province, 1871-1933. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Ltd., 1972.
McLaren, John. “Creating ‘Slaves of Satan’ or ‘New Canadians’? The Law, Education, and the Socialization of Doukhobor Children, 1911-1935.” In Essays in the History of Canadian Law: British Columbia and the Yukon v. 6, edited by David H. Flaherty, John McLaren, Hamar Foster, 352-385. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995.
Ormsby, Margaret A. British Columbia, A History. Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1971.
Rajala, Richard. “Clearcutting the British Columbia Coast: Work, Environment and the State.” In Making Western Canada: Essays on European Colonization and Settlement, edited by Catherine Cavanaugh and Jeremy Mouat, 104-132. Toronto: Garamond Press, 1996.
Rajala, Richard. “”Streams Being Ruined From a Salmon Producing Standpoint”: Clearcutting, Fish Habitat, and Forest Regulation in British Columbia, 1900-1945.” BC Studies 176 (Winter 2012/2013): 93-119, 121-132, 200.
Roach, Thomas R. “Stewards of the People’s Wealth: The Founding of British Columbia’s Forest Branch.” Journal of Forest History 28 (1984): 22-33.
Roy, Patricia E. “McBride of McKenna-McBride: Premier Richard McBride and the Indian Question in British Columbia.” BC Studies 172 (Winter 2011/2012): 35-47, 49-76, 157.