MLAs as Private Members
A Private Member is any MLA not officially appointed to a formal role in either the Legislative Assembly or
Cabinet. Private Members represent the people of their constituencies by asking questions and raising issues that concern or interest them. They may propose
Private Members' Bills and they may also sit on parliamentary committees. Their activities complement their party's policies and political strategy. They also take part in "in-camera" (which means closed) meetings with their party
caucus, where they can express their views and take part in discussions.
Today, the term "Private Member" is commonly used in British Columbia. However, government MLAs who are not in Cabinet, together with opposition MLAs who are neither critics nor party leaders, are sometimes referred to as "backbenchers" (even though they actually sit in chairs at
desks). The term backbenchers goes back to when our parliamentary system was
first established in Great Britain nearly 800 years ago. British Members of Parliament sat on rows of benches, but usually only the leading Members of each party got to sit in the front rows, while most others sat on benches in the back. Keeping with tradition, the British Parliament continues to sit on such benches in this manner, and the word "backbencher" remains a common term throughout the Commonwealth.