BC Premier #25 – Dave Barrett

Look at me, actually posting about a BC premier on a Sunday.  Someone better check the temperature in Hades!

Name David Barrett
Born: October 2, 19301 in Vancouver, BC
Died: he hasn’t
Party: New Democratic Party (NDP)
Held Office: September 15, 1972  to December 22, 1975
  • Firsts:
    • first NDP premier of BC
    • first and only Jewish premier in BC history
    • Oct 6, 1983: Barrett holds the distinction of causing the “first incident in the legislature history where security staff had to intervene and remove a member from chamber” when he was “forcibly removed from Chamber by Legislature Serjeant-at-Arms for failing to abide by the Speaker’s ruling” (Wikipedia).
  • educated in philosophy at Seattle University and social work at St Louis University, then returned to Canada in 1957
  • Barrett was a social worker who worked in federal prison, but was fired for “launching a union drive and complaining publicly about prison conditions” (CBC Archives)
  • 1960: first elected to BC legislation (MLA for Dewdney) as a member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF; predecessor to the NDP). At the time, civil servants were banned from running for the legislature and so he had to fight to be allowed to run, since he was a civil servant
  • re-elected in 1963, 1966 and 1969
  • he became the leader of the NDP in 1969, after first losing the leadership race to Tom Berger, who went on to lose an election that the NDP were expected to win, so he (Berger) resigned,  and Barret was quickly recruited as the new leader
  • 1972: won the first NDP government – a majority, no less – replacing the long-governing SoCreds.  And here’s a clip from the CBC archives on this historic election win.  And here’s a clip of the public’s reaction to that election (also from the CBC Archives)
  • Barrett’s NDP government starting using modern accounting practices and uncovered huge liabilities that Wacky Bennett’s government had kept off the books with the accounting practices it was using; Barrett’s government was criticized for taking the the government from a surplus to a deficit (which, of course, Barrett’s government argued was at least in part because Bennett’s government wasn’t revealing all its liabilities)
  • major changes introduced by Barrett’s government:
    • establishment of the Labour Relations Board
    • expansion of the public sector
    • introduction of a mineral royalties tax
    • introduction of question period and availability of transcripts of what happened in the legislature (hooray for transparency!)
    • creation of the Agricultural Land Reserve (to protect BC farm land; still in effect today)
    • formation of the Insurance Corporation of BC (the car insurance we still use in BC to this day)
    • banned spanking in schools
  • “The NDP passed a new law on average every three days while in power.” (Wikipedia). This scared the righties, so a bunch of right-leaning Liberals and Conservatives joined the SoCreds
  • 1975: Barrett loses a snap election to the SoCreds, who are now lead by Wacky’s son Bill, who campaigned by saying the NDP mishandled finances. Barrett lost his own seat (Coquitlam) in this election, but returned to the legislature in a by-election for a different seat (Vancouver East) the next year.  He continued to lead the NDP.
  • 1983: resigned from provincial politics in May
  • 1984: became a radio talk show host in Vancouver
  • 1988: elected to the federal government as the Member of Parliament in the riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca
  • 1989: narrowly missed his bid for leader of the federal NDP, with Audrey McLaughlin winning the race on the fourth ballot. He had focused his campaign on the issue of western alienation, which didn’t sit well with Quebec.
  • “Barret opposed the 1987 Meech Lake Accord, but reluctantly endorsed the 1992 Charlottetown Accord to comply with party policy” (Wikipedia).
  • 1993: lost his federal seat to Reform Party candidate, Keith Martin
  • he founded the Tommy Douglas Research Institute in response to the growing number of right wing think tanks
  • 2005: made an Officer of the Order of Canada
  • though he is retired from politics, he lectures on current affairs and pops up in the news once in awhile (e.g., opposing the BC government’s restructuring of BC Hydro in 2003, opposing the new harmonized sales tax (HST) in 2010)

In summary, Premier Barrett was the first NDP premier of BC and he did a lot of stuff during his time in office.  Also, he was the meat sandwiched between the Bennett father-son duo of premiers.  And the names Barrett and Bennett are way to similar for my liking.

Image credits: Accessed from Wikipedia. In the public domain. w00t!



  1. same birthday as my resident historian! w00t! []

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