It has been nearly a year since Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon had to make the decision that would define her time in office.
On June 29, she called John Horgan to Government House and asked him to serve as premier after the governing B.C. Liberals had been defeated in a confidence vote.
Speaking for the first time publicly about the crucial decision, Guichon explained why she decided to hand over power to the NDP with the support of the Greens.
“Just trying to think what will be best for the province,” said Guichon. “It takes some time to think these things through.
“It is the role that has been there all along and yes it was exercised this past year. I believe if we look at what is going on right now, the house is surviving, we are going on, we have no interruption and the legislators are doing what they are suppose to do, governing.”
The lieutenant-governor is often a ceremonial role, but also has the official capacity to ensure that the legislature is working. In a situation, like the one that unfolded in 2017, the LG is asked to make a decision on who should govern.
Guichon had two options after Christy Clark’s B.C. Liberals had lost a confidence vote in legislature, with the 41 NDP MLAs voting with the three Green MLAs to defeat the government.
The first option was to send British Columbians back to the polls for another election less than two months after they had just voted on May 9. The other option was to invite Horgan to govern, the option she ended up choosing.
Guichon would not get into details about who she consulted for advice but did describe the pressure of making a decision to turn down the advice of Christy Clark, who had resigned and asked the Lt.-Gov. to call an election.
“It definitely wasn’t easy, but we had lots of good advice both sought and freely given,” said Guichon. “I learned a lot, I was given history to read, previous examples, but there is never an exact one.”
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Guichon’s last day on the job is next Monday, after serving her five year term, plus about six extra months after the decision to name a replacement went longer than anticipated. Janet Austin has been named as the new lieutenant-governor and begins her term next week.
As she reflected on her time in office, Guichon said one of the things she enjoyed the most was meeting with school children from across British Columbia. She would often be asked what her job entails and she would use an analogy that became especially pertinent following the confidence vote.
“When I went to schools I would tell the children, ‘The role of the lieutenant-governors, the commissioners and the governor general across Canada is kind of like,’ and I would point at the red fire extinguisher on the wall,” said Guichon.
“You know what it is for, but you hope you never have to take it off the wall and call it into service. This year I had to take it off the wall and put it into service.”
And even though she had to ‘take it off the wall,’ Guichon still downplayed the significance of her historic decision.
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“There were 1,983 other days in my years of service and they were all as equally stimulating,” said Guichon. “When people ask me what stands out, I can tell you that is not what comes to mind. ”
What did come to mind, Guichon said, were stories like that of Gary Brooks. Brooks, the founder of the African Community Project and a Vancouver Island resident, went to Zambia teach women how to be foresters, planting millions of trees and building dams, schools and residences.
“I have met incredible people and they are not all politicians,” said Guichon. “There are so many incredible people that make up this province.”
As for what is next, Guichon says it is time to retire now on her ranch with a “rocking chair and a big pile of books.”