Book provides Langford resident with B.C. history lesson

Premiers lend to this province's colourful history, reader writes

I recently enjoyed reading a book about some of British Columbia’s past premiers; from our first premier in 1871 up till Ujjal Dosanjh.

Of course the longest-serving premier, and so part of the only father and son to hold the job, was W.A.C Bennett, who held the office for 20 years. There were also two brothers who were elected premier: the Davie brothers in the 1880s and 1890s. So far, five premiers have died while in office and three have been fired from the job by the lieutenant-governor of the day, the last of whom was a man named Edward G. Prior, over what today we would call conflict of interest.

Theodore Davie decided to build the current legislative buildings in 1892. It had a major cost overrun, totalling $981,359 for a palace that was supposed to cost $500,000 plus or minus 10 per cent.

It was not the government of B.C.’s first cost overrun and as we all know, it would not be the last. Though Davie would live to see his marble palace (really made of granite) open in February 1898, he was no longer premier by that time.

The youngest premier to take office so far is Richard McBride, who assumed the job in 1900 after the second firing. McBride, the first premier born in B.C. while it was still a Crown colony, was appointed to the office at age 32 and called it quits on his 45th birthday. The last B.C. premier to die in office was John Oliver, shortly after his 71st birthday back in 1927. Before his passing, his government passed an old age pension act. Perhaps the first public pension in Canada, it paid $20 a month to those 70 years or older, although recipients were subject to  a means test.

The longest-serving premier in the 1800s was four years. With no party system prior to the early 1900s, the premier’s office was like a revolving door.

Andre Mollon


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