Vancouver Zeitgeist
Reflections on Vancouver, British Columbia and other topics, related or not


The revolution didn’t need him

He’s a hero to the “left” but dead Dave Barrett’s
real claim to fame was three years of shitty government

Greg Klein | March 4, 2018

Dave Barrett first BC NDP premier

Barrett’s new approach presaged “virtue signalling,” although
some of his gestures were already clichés in Bennett’s time.


For all the damage he did, it was probably the ICBC that brought down Dave Barrett and his three-year socialist experiment. British Columbians would take a lot from their politicians but one of Canada’s most car-dependent cultures wasn’t going to tolerate higher vehicle insurance rates.

Barrett’s 357 bills, lauded as an accomplishment by conventional observers, demonstrated an obviously interventionist, big government agenda. Some of it showed remnants of traditional left wing income redistribution, such as the minimum wage increase. But, by inflicting a “human rights” commission on us for example, B.C.’s first NDP government also showed strong indications of the left’s transformation into a wide-ranging, weird and venal campaign of social engineering.

To many people, Barrett and his crew seemed like a breath of fresh air after a near-lifetime of WAC Bennett, his frozen smile, old-fashioned suits, old-fashioned rhetoric and old-fashioned cabinet colleagues. Barrett’s exuberance, though, masked a shallow character who revelled in the attention he got for bringing the legislature into the sixties. (It was 1972.)

But after 1975 B.C.’s NDP took 16 years to live down its first episode of bad government, eventually managing to impose more bad government only because of divided opposition. Barrett went on to insignificance in federal politics but never lost his obvious delight at being photographed.

Would another NDP leader have taken better advantage of Bennett’s diminishing shelf life? It’s forgotten now that Barrett was considered a lightweight by many in his own party, where the loud east ender with a degree in that newfangled social work stuff lost the 1969 leadership contest to west sider Thomas Berger, who held a more traditional degree in law and tempered his flakery with a modicum of gravitas. But that year Berger couldn’t even get re-elected in Kitsilano, then still harbouring some conservative tendencies. He did, however, go on to a career in legal activism and became one of Canada’s earliest and most prominent anti-pipeline warriors, serving his cause far better than Barrett could.

So Barrett had the chance to replace Bennett’s tiresomeness with a new style of pomposity and to replace Bennett’s approach to economic development with the social revolution already underway elsewhere. Barrett botched it up and pissed away an NDP opportunity. But the revolution continues.

Just a minor aspect of that is the fact that 357 bills in three years can be portrayed as something positive.

How’s my blogging?