Who is Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon? Liberal donor, rancher, environmentalist
Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon, who is about to make a momentous decision in B.C. politics, comes from a ranching background, “leans right,” and has twice donated to the B.C. Liberal Party, according to friends and records.
But ranchers who worked with her say she broke the mould of a typical rancher with her environmentalism, and has a character “too deep” to make a decision on who will form government that isn’t in the best interests of the province.
“She leaned right, right wing. Most in our industry do,” said Ed Salle, a former president of the B.C. Cattleman’s Association, which Guichon presided over for two years.
“She supports fiscal responsibility, and economic diversification,” he said, adding he believes that won’t touch her decision. “Her character is too deep. She wouldn’t let that influence her.”
The lieutenant-governor is the Queen’s representative in B.C. and so is a mostly ceremonial position. It involves swearing in cabinet ministers, reading a throne speech prepared for her by the elected government, and – in her case – a goal of visiting 150 schools.
But with the legislature divided as power in B.C. hangs in the balance, Guichon’s position has become crucial, with constitutional protocols giving her the role of deciding what to do after the Liberals lose a confidence vote in the legislature.
She can either decide to hand power to John Horgan and the Green-NDP alliance, which has a combined 44 seats in the legislature and an agreement to govern, compared to the Liberals’ 43 seats.
Or she can decide to call another election, less than two months after the last one.
Typically, that decision is made on the advice of the premier, said UBC political scientist Max Cameron. The premier has been “coy” about her advice, and is acting as if she wants an election but saying that she will not ask Guichon to call one.
“The comments that Christy Clark have made say her advice is going to be ambiguous. To leave it to the discretion of the lieutenant-governor. That’s concerning, because quite frankly we want to minimize the role of unelected officials,” he said.
To undermine the will of the majority of the elected MLAs in the legislature – the 44 Green and NDP members – would be very “significant,” Cameron said.
“That would be worrisome in terms of the importance of that and its implications,” he said. “The lieutenant-governor should err on the side of letting the legislature work it out.”
Guichon was born in Montreal, and raised on a farm in Ontario before moving to British Columbia. She married her late husband, commercial pilot Lawrence Guichon, and joined him on his family’s ranch.
The pair worked to discover ways of ranching that were easier on the land, such as letting cattle graze for longer and using less feed, according to friends.
The Gerard Guichon ranch was company through which Judith Guichon donated $1,350 in two donations in 2005 and 2009 to the Gordon Campbell era B.C. Liberals, records show.
The office of the Lieutenant-Governor declined to comment to CTV News on those donations.
She was quoted in a CTV News story in 2006 about her efforts to donate land to save the burrowing owl. And in 2009, she spoke up against the B.C. Liberal government because of a decision to deny ranchers use of water.
“It’s been a hell of a year for us in every way,” she said at the time.
Guichon was appointed to the position by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2012.
Guichon’s spokesperson told CTV News that she will issue a “clear statement” about her decision today. The spokesperson would not say whether or not there would be a rationale for the decision given, and didn’t commit to having Guichon give an interview to explain.
The spokesperson said she had been consulting widely about the rules and procedures that govern this decision.
Max Cameron said historical precedents in Canada have created the tradition that lieutenant-governors shy away from politics, and asking Guichon to make a decision like this could politicize her.
“If the LG were to decide to dissolve the house, Mr. Horgan and Mr. Weaver would make a big deal about that, saying we were not given the chance to govern,” he said.