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|William Richards Bennett|
|Hon. Bill Bennett|
|27th Premier of British Columbia|
December 22, 1975 – August 6, 1986
|Preceded by||Dave Barrett|
|Succeeded by||Bill Vander Zalm|
August 18, 1932 |
Kelowna, British Columbia
|Political party||Social Credit Party|
William Richards Bennett, PC, OBC (born August 18, 1932), commonly known as Bill Bennett, was the 27th Premier of the Canadian province of British Columbia 1975–1986. He is a son of the former Premier, W. A. C. Bennett. He was a 3rd cousin, twice removed, of R.B. Bennett, eleventh Prime Minister of Canada.
To distinguish him from his famous father, also named William - though usually called "W.A.C." in the media or "Ceece" by his friends,. he was usually called simply Bill Bennett. One media term coined to describe the younger Bennett was "Mini-Wac," derived from another of his father's nicknames, one created by his enemies but ultimately embraced by some supporters - "Wacky".
Leader of Social Credit Party
He was elected the leader of the Socred Party in November 1973, at a convention in Whistler, British Columbia. This same convention also altered the name of the party to the British Columbia Social Credit Party. Bennett set about establishing a political organization modeled closely on, and using staff loaned by, Bill Davis's Ontario "Big Blue Machine." Bennett's organization was called the "Baby Blue Machine." He embraced a new coalition of Liberals, social conservatives, and the corporate sector, rather that appealing to the populist base as his father had done.
Premier of British Columbia
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He became premier of the province in the 1975 election when his party defeated the New Democratic Party of Premier David Barrett. In the election of December 11, 1979, the Social Credit Party was re-elected with a reduced majority, followed by another one in the 1983 election. He served until August 6, 1986.
His cabinet included a vast array of politicians new to the provincial scene who would soon become some of BC's most prominent political players. These included Grace McCarthy, Bill Vander Zalm, Garde Gardom and Rafe Mair.
Inspired by conservative economist Milton Friedman, his government passed a series of laws, known as the "Restraint" program, which slashed social services and gutted labour laws in response to economic woes in 1983, provoking a general strike which further crippled the economy. To justify massive education cuts, Bennett blamed many of the province's difficulties squarely on the shoulders of public school teachers, an argument that deeply split the electorate. In several television interviews, he labeled those who disagreed with his policies as "Bad British Columbians."
On the other hand, his ostensibly anti-socialist government ironically spent hundreds of millions of dollars to bring the 1986 World Exposition to Vancouver, distributed free shares to British Columbians for the British Columbia Resources Investment Corporation or BCRIC, and spent hundreds of millions of dollars constructing the Coquihalla Highway with the controversial, non-union Kerkhoff Construction Company as the main contractor. His government also spent over $1 billion on the Northeast coal project to create jobs. Critics noted that by creating only 1,000 jobs, each job cost taxpayers $1 million. The coal project was a very successful venture after it was reviewed in 2000 by the press: Northeast Coal returned twice the revenues than were expended over its lifetime.
Though still reviled by the left, Bennett remains generally highly respected among conservatives in BC, who view his rule as a "golden era" before the corruption of the Vander Zalm government and the NDP that succeeded him. In recent years Bennett has advised past BC Premier Gordon Campbell, who has openly stated his desires to emulate the policies associated with Bennett's government.
In 1996, Bill Bennett was convicted under B.C. securities laws of insider trading involving the sale of shares in a Duncan, B.C., company two years after he stepped down as premier. This was known as the Doman Scandal.[dead link] A British Columbia Securities Commission panel imposed trading sanctions against Russell James Bennett and Harbanse Singh Doman and ordered them along with former B.C. premier William Richards Bennett to pay the commission $1 million to cover the costs of an insider trading case that spanned 11 years.
British Columbia Resources Investment Corporation (BCRIC or "Brick") (Social Credit Party), a holding company formed under the government of William R. Bennett, was a public boondoggle involving publicly distributed and soon-worthless shares of a former Crown Corporation. Shares briefly rallied, originally evaluated at then dropped and settled at less than one dollar.