If you happen to be in downtown Victoria on February 11, don’t sweat it if you hear – or feel – a  blast or two. Or maybe 15.

Seriously. It’s all part of democracy in action.

February 11 is Throne Speech day in BC and pyrotechnics are part of the festivities. The blasts are delivered by big green guns wheeled in by the Canadian Forces for the occasion.

2013 Throne Speech
Lieutenant Governor Steven Point arrives to deliver the throne speech
Those who make their way to the Legislature on the afternoon of a Throne Speech – usually once a year – also see marching soldiers and scarlet-clad RCMP officers, a military band, a motorcade and plenty of ceremony. Inside, the Members of our Legislature and an assortment of others invited by the government gather to witness the speech.

The Throne Speech might seem like an obscure old British custom. But it’s actually a central part of our democracy and of our history. The speech marks the beginning of a new session of the Legislature and in it, Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon (that’s lef-tenant, not loo-tenant) will share info on what the BC Government has planned for what is known as the spring sitting.

Sometimes the Throne Speech sticks to generalities and sometimes it goes into more detail, but every time out, it gives us a good idea of what to expect from our provincial government over coming months. Hot issues, top priorities, big plans – that sort of thing. So you can see why it’s important.
2013 Throne Speech
B.C. Throne Speech, 40th Parliament
In Britain, where our form of government originated, it’s called the Queen’s Speech (or the King’s, if they happen to have a male monarch at the time). Back before the United Kingdom became a constitutional monarchy, the speech really did outline the monarch’s plans. Today, both in Britain and BC, it’s the elected government that sets priorities, so that’s also who decides what will be in the Throne Speech.

In BC, the Office of the Premier writes the speech because they have oversight of and manage the government’s overall strategic plans. And after the speech is over, someone on the government side will move a motion to accept the speech and the Legislature will be off and running with another session of debate and decision-making by MLAs.

So if you’re around our capital city on Throne Speech day, bring your earplugs for the guns and your full attention for the speech. ‘Cause it’s all about our democracy.

Learn more:

Watch democracy in action. The Speech from the Throne will be broadcasted live on February 11 at and the ceremonies will begin at approximately 1:15pm while the speech itself should begin at approximately 2:15pm.

And stay tuned for an upcoming post, after the speech, our photographer will be sharing his take on the day in living colour.