Former B.C. premier Dave Barrett, who led the province’s first New Democratic Party government, died Friday at the age of 87 in Victoria, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.
His short-lived government from September 1972 to December 1975 carried out reforms at a blistering pace including the creation of the Agricultural Land Reserve, the public auto insurance corporation ICBC, a provincial ambulance system and Pharmacare. It also brought in full Hansard transcripts of proceedings in the legislature.
After just three years in government, Barrett called a snap election and the Social Credit party swept back into power.
Government in a hurry
In their recent book, The Art of the Impossible: Dave Barrett and the NDP in Power 1972-1975, authors Rod Mickleburgh and Geoff Meggs, recounted the story of how Barrett asked his ministers at their first cabinet meeting: “Are you here for a good time or a long time?”
“They were hoping to get a second term of course,” Mickleburgh said in an interview. “But they said that is not our goal. Our goal is to change British Columbia and do what has to be done.
“The result was the most incredible government in the history of Canada based on how short a time they were in office and what they accomplished,” he said.
Lots of gaffes
MIckleburgh said the 97 accomplishments listed in his book included the strongest labour code, consumer protections and human rights legislation in North America. Barrett’s government also started the Seabus program, though it was his Social Credit successor Bill Bennett who completed it.
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