BC Premier #27: The Zalm

Name Wilhelmus Nicholaas Theodore Marie “Bill” Vander Zalm
Born: May 29, 1934 in Noordwijkerhout, Netherlands
Died: hasn’t
Party: Social Credit
Held Office: August 6, 1986 – April 2, 1991
  • born in the Netherlands, immigrated to Canada after WWII
  • dropped out of high school and sold tulip bulbs (what else is a guy from the Netherlands going to do, really?)
  • started a garden business, invested in real estate
  • 1965: elected alderman in Surrey
  • 1968: lost a bid for a seat as a federal MP, in which he ran as a Liberal
  • 1969-1975: mayor of Surrey. Claim to fame: cracking down on “welfare deadbeats” (apparently welfare was handled municipally at the time – who knew?)
  • 1972: lost a leadership bid for provincial Liberal Party
  • 1974: joined the SoCreds
  • 1975: elected as a provincial MLA
  • 1975-1978: served as the Minister of Human Resources under Bill Bennett, “continued his crusade against welfare fraud” – became famous for his comment: “If people are truly in need, they can expect and will be treated fairly and compassionately. If people are elderly we will treat them with respect and when in need reward them for their lifelong contributions. If people are handicapped they will be treated generously, hopefully even more so than in the past. But if someone is able to work and refuses to do so, they had best pick up a shovel or I’ll give them a shovel.” [emphasis mine]
  • sued the Victoria Daily Times for libel after they published a political cartoon of him as a “grinning sadist deliberately snapping the wings off five helpless flies;” he initially won, but that decision was overturned by the BC Court of Appeal
  • 1978-1981: Minister of Municipal Affairs
  • 1981-1983: Minister of Education
  • 1984: bought Fantasy Garden World (a theme park)FANTASY GARDEN WORLD
  • 1984: lost his bid to be the mayor of Vancouver, in which he ran as a Non-Partisan Association1 candidate
  • 1986: after Bennett announced his retirement, Vander Zalm won his bid for the leadership of the SoCreds, beating out 11 other candidates; was sworn in as premier and then handily won a majority in the election the next month
  • Vander Zalm made his cabinet up of people who “languished” as back benchers in the government under Bennett. Under Bennett, the “urban fiscal conservatives” had held the reins of the party, but Vander Zalm was from the other half of the party – the social conservatives (see: obsession with welfare “fraud” above).  Case in point – Vander Zalm tried to pull provincial funding for abortions that were “not medically necessary,” but he was forced to retract this due to public uproar.
  • he was involved in his fair share of scandals, including:
    • the appointment of his buddy David Poole as his “Principal Secretary,” which pissed people off as Poole became “allegedly become the second most powerful person in the province despite never having been elected”
    • possible” influence peddling” in the sale of the Expo 86 site
    • the sale of Fantasy Garden World – Vander Zalm bought FGW for $1.7 million in 1984 and sold it for $16 million in 1991. The buyer was given the VIP treatment by the Lieutenant-Governor before the sale and the woman who brokered the deal, Faye Leung, “thought that Vander Zalm was a “bad man” since the day she first met him and secretly recorded conversations she had with him, and was happily willing to speak to the media and provide copies of her audio tapes.” He was found to have been in conflict of interest for mixing personal business with his public office in this sale (though the BC Supreme Court found him not guilty of criminal breach of trust), and he resigned in 1991.
  • 1999 – lost his bid in a by-election for the South Delta seat, in which he ran as a member of the Reform Party of BC2
  • 2009 – after a 10 year hiatus from the limelight, Vander Zalm burst back on the scene in opposition to the BC So-Called Liberals introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax (H.S.T.), which, I might add, they had explicitly said they *wouldn’t* do during the election3. Vander Zalm ultimately led a campaign for a referendum on the HST and on June 10, 2010 delivered a petition to the government in the form of “85 boxes containing containing 705,643 signatures from voters in every riding across the province.”  I believe that the government is now in the process of verifying those signatures.

In summary, Fantasy Garden World. The End.

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  1. for the record, I would like to point out that having a party called the “Non-Partisan Association” makes absolutely no sense. Partisan means “an adherent or supporter of a person, group, party, or cause, esp. a person who shows a biased, emotional allegiance” (dictionary.com), so NPA means the party in which no one supports the party. Wha?? []
  2. I didn’t even *know* there was a Reform Party of BC! []
  3. I know, the BC So-Called Liberals breaking an election promise is *so* shocking. []

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