Dave Barrett: Now he was a BC Premier like no other!

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Dave Barrett: Now he was a BC Premier like no other!

The Day BC Got Its Very First NDP Premier

A look back at the surprise, somewhat surreal, rather joyous 1972 election of Dave Barrett.


Ken Burch

I'd consider rewriting the headline-Dave hasn't been premier in decades, but he's not dead.


Don't you have anything better to do? Everybody knows Dave's situation. No wonder the left are born losers with comments like yours.

Mr. Magoo




The new premier was sworn in before a few officials and associates, family and the media. As he signed the book, a photographer asked him to “look up, Mr. Premier.” Sun columnist Allan Fotheringham reported that Barrett displayed a look of surprised delight at hearing himself addressed as “premier” for the first time. Afterwards, he lifted a glass of champagne and proclaimed: “This breaks a 20-year fast.” Outside, queried how he felt, the province’s 26th premier replied: “I feel a little more honourable.”

An hour later at the legislature, the province’s first socialist cabinet was sworn in. Fotheringham watched Barrett, closely. He wrote: “[He] wore a continuing grin of simple pleasure. It was not a smug, greedy look. Just a boyish failure to subdue his true feelings.” It was if he knew already his government would fundamentally change the province. There would be no hesitation, no turning back.

Four and a half decades later, it was the turn of another NDP leader to take the oath of office. This was a far more public, more high-spirited swearing-in than the low-key ceremony that ushered Dave Barrett into office. The ornate room at Government House was packed, befitting a date for the transition set well in advance, rather than by the back-of-the-envelope whim of Wacky Bennett. TV networks carried the ceremony live. First Nations dancers were front and centre. All 40 NDP MLAs were there, brought to the august residence in a rented bus. “That’s the way I roll,” said Horgan.

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NDP Premier John Horgan at his jubilant July 18 swearing-in. Photo: Christopher Cheung.