Former BC Premier Dave Barrett died Friday after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Dave Barrett’s political career began when as a government worker he was fired in 1959 for speaking out against the policies of then premier W.A.C. Bennett. A year later he was elected to the legislature beginning a storied career in BC politics. Colin Gabelmann was with the Young New Democrats in the early 1960’s at UBC, and invited Barrett to speak there. “Interesting guy who had a real passion for the underdog, a real passion for dealing with injustice and was determined to put an end to W.A.C. Bennett’s regime, however he could bring that about.” said Gabelmann. He took over leadership of the BC NDP in 1970 and was then elected as BC’s first NDP premier in 1972. That ended the party’s 50 years in opposition. One of the MLA’s elected with him, was Colin Gabelmann representing, at the time, North Vancouver-Seymour. “It was a very active time,” said Gabelmann. “Dave was a formidable leader.” He says it was a busy and exciting time as the new government brought in a legislative “program massive in scope.” Things like the Agricultural Land Commission, public auto insurance, and even Question Period in the Legislature. “We brought in seniors basic income, ambulance service, we didn’t have provincial ambulance service in those days.” added Gabelmann. Barrett led the NDP for two more terms in opposition before stepping down. He would then serve as an MP in Ottawa representing Esquimalt Juan Defuca from 1988 to 1993. Meanwhile, Colin Gabelmann became a long time MLA for North Vancouver Island serving from 1979 to 1996. He says he and Barrett kept in touch but hadn’t spoken to each other in the last 5 or so years as Barrett battled Alzheimers Disease. Dave Barrett was 87 years old