Monday, October 28, 2013

Another Bennett

Construction of the Statue of Liberty in 1884.
A photo of Roy O and Walt Disney on the day Disney Studios opened.

Samurai taken between 1860 and 1880.
Albert Einstein's 1896 report card.

Continuing my look at B.C. premiers, today I am telling you about Bill Bennett, the 27th premier.

William Richards Bennett was born on April 14, 1932. He is the son of W.A.C. Bennett and reportedly the third cousin, twice removed, of former Prime Minister of Canada, R.B. Bennett. Is it any wonder that the man went into politics?

Bill Bennett - or Mini-Wac as some called him - was elected as leader of the Socred party in November of 1973. He isn't his father though. Bill set about establishing a political organization that was closely modelled on Bill Davis's Ontario "Big Blue Machine". In fact, Bennett's political group was referred to as the "Baby Blue Machine". Instead of appealing to the populist base as his father had done, Bill embraced a coalition of Liberals, social conservatives and the corporate sector.
In the 1975 election, Bennett and his Socreds defeated the NDP and Premier Dave Barrett.  And although Bennett's contained an array of politicians new to the provincial scene, some of these people went on to become B.C.'s most prominent political players. People like Grace McCarthy, Bill Vander Zalm, Garde Gardom and Rafe Mair.

Bennett's government passed a series of laws in 1983, which slashed social services and gutted labour laws. This "Restraint" program provoked a general strike that further crippled the province's economy. Bennett blamed many of the province's problems squarely on the shoulders of public school teachers and that split the electorate. In television interviews, Mini-Wac labelled those who disagreed with his policies, "Bad British Columbians".

However, his apparently anti-socialist government spent hundreds of millions of dollars to bring the 1986 World Exposition to Vancouver, distributed free shares to British Columbians for the British Columbia Resource Investment Corporation and spent hundreds of millions of dollars constructing the Coquihalla Highway, using the controversial non-union Kerkhoff Construction Company as the main contractor.
Bill Bennett's government spent over $1 billion on the Northeast Coal Project in an attempt to create jobs. Critics stated that in order to create 1,000 jobs, it cost the taxpayers of the province $1 million each. Yet, when the project was reviewed in 2000 by the press, it was found to be a very successful venture. Northeast Coal returned twice the revenues that were expanded in its lifetime.

Bennett served as premier until August 6, 1986 when he was replaced by William N. Vander Zalm.

Bennett remains respected among conservatives of B.C. who view his tenure as a "golden era" before the disaster of years ahead. In 2007, Bill was appointed to the Order of British Columbia, B.C.'s highest award for achievement. And the new replacement bridge across the Okanagan Lake is named after him.

I consulted Wikipedia for the information on this former premier so thank you. And, again, thanks to my mother and her friend Wes for the old photos.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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