B.C.’s Bill Bennett still alive and kickin’

Bill Bennett was Part 2 of the Bennett Social Credit dynasty that governed British Columbia for a total of 30 years.

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series on ex-B.C. premiers: Where are they now?

Bill Bennett was Part 2 of the Bennett Social Credit dynasty that governed British Columbia for a total of 30 years.

His father, W.A.C. Bennett, became premier in 1952 and won seven elections, holding power until 1972. He ditched the monetary reform ideas of the Alberta party of the same name and turned B.C. Social Credit into a political vehicle guided by conservatism and populism. He became known by both friend and foe as “Wacky” Bennett. Keeping the CCF/NDP out of power was an overriding goal.

The first Bennett’s ambitious programs of infrastructure projects and road-building laid the groundwork for the modern province of B.C. For Bennett, province-building trumped ideology. For example, the ferries in B.C. were owned and operated by a private American company when he took power. He bought the boats and established B.C. Ferries.

W.A.C. was finally defeated by the NDP in 1972 and his son Bill soon became Social Credit leader, winning power in 1975. Bennett wasn’t a man of the people like his father had been, but he quickly developed a reputation for right-wing politics and competent government.

Some think of his rule as a golden era of solid government, especially given some of the scandal-plagued administrations that have ruled B.C. since. His achievements included bringing Expo 86 to Vancouver, developing Whistler and building the Coquihalla Hwy.

But his legacy, too, is marked by B.C.’s political polarization.

His restraint program slashed social services and toughened labour laws, pitting Bennett against the teachers and much of the public sector. He stepped down in 1986 and was replaced by Bill Vander Zalm.

Bennett is now 76 and lives in Kelowna, where he keeps a low profile and clearly doesn’t miss the cut and thrust of political life. Two years ago, he was awarded the Order of B.C. He told a Kelowna reporter before travelling to the provincial capital to receive the honour that he hadn’t been back to Victoria since he left office more than 20 years ago.

Last year, a new bridge across Okanagan Lake was christened the William R. Bennett Bridge.

At the opening ceremonies, Bennett and current Premier Gordon Campbell snipped the ribbon using the same pair of scissors that W.A.C. had used in 1958 to open the first bridge.

And he hasn’t completely turned his back on politics — rumour has it he’s advising the current premier, who with his May 12 election win has duplicated the three straight election victories won by Bill Bennett.

Bennett also landed in the public eye in 1996, when he was convicted of insider trading and handed a 10-year stock trading ban.

Friend Herb Doman, a lumber baron, alerted Bennett and his brother Russell that a takeover of his company had fallen through and the Bennetts unloaded all their shares, worth $5.9 million.

Minutes later, trading halted. When it resumed, the share price plunged.

James Kwantes is a former Advocate editor. He can be reached at gone-coastal@hotmail.com

Just Posted

Record-breaking year in Red Deer for smoke

Expect more smoke in Red Deer Wednesday

Mustard Seed prepares people for workforce

Employment Readiness Fair to be held August 28

Update: Bomb squad investigating suspicious package in Red Deer

North police station closed as they investigate

Whispering Pines raises $40,000 for STARS

The golf and country resort held its fifth annual STARS Charity Golf Tournament this past weekend

Man dies in vehicle rollover west of Red Deer

Rocky Mountain House RCMP investigate

Updated Red Deer smoke free bylaw to ban smoking cannabis in public

Smoke Free Bylaw returns to Red Deer city council Sept. 4

Liberals unveil poverty plan with lofty goals, but no new spending programs

OTTAWA — The minister in charge of Canada’s latest national plan to… Continue reading

Case of truck driver charged in Humboldt Broncos crash adjourned until October

MELFORT, Sask. — The case of a Calgary truck driver charged in… Continue reading

Animal crackers break out of their cages

After more than a century behind bars, the beasts on boxes of… Continue reading

Alligator kills woman trying to protect her dog at resort

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — A woman who often walked her dog… Continue reading

Patients redirected as water leak shuts down Edmonton hospital’s emergency room

EDMONTON — Ambulances are being redirected to other hospitals after a water… Continue reading

Parks Canada moves second bison bull that wandered out of Banff National Park

BANFF — Parks Canada says a second bison bull that wandered out… Continue reading

Lottery for parent sponsorship to be replaced, more applications to be accepted

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government is scrapping an unpopular lottery system for… Continue reading

Air Canada-led consortium signs deal to buy Aeroplan program from Aimia

TORONTO — A consortium led by Air Canada has reached a deal… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month