|Member of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly|
for Cariboo South
September 20, 1989 – May 16, 2001
|Preceded by||Alex Fraser|
|Succeeded by||Walt Cobb|
|Born||1947 (age 70–71)|
Williams Lake, British Columbia
|Political party||New Democrat|
|Residence||Williams Lake, British Columbia|
David Zirnhelt (born 1947) is a Canadian politician. He was born in Williams Lake, British Columbia, located in the Cariboo region of the province's central interior. He obtained an undergraduate and graduate degree from the University of British Columbia in political science and public administration, returning to the Williams Lake area, where he became a cattle rancher and a practitioner of horse logging. He was also active as a consultant in various federal, provincial, and First Nations projects related to public policy and economic development.
Zirnhelt began his political career when he served as a director of the Cariboo Regional District from 1974 to 1977. In 1987, he was elected as a trustee of the Cariboo-Chilcotin School District. Zirnhelt made the leap to provincial politics in 1989, winning the seat of Cariboo in a by-election for the social democratic British Columbia New Democratic Party. The riding had, until then, been a stronghold of the conservative British Columbia Social Credit Party for almost forty years. Zirnhelt would go on to be re-elected in 1991 and 1996 in the riding of Cariboo South (the old Cariboo riding was abolished with the 1991 election).
With the election of a New Democratic government in 1991, Premier Mike Harcourt appointed Zirnhelt Minister of Economic Development, Small Business and Trade. He later served as Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food. Following Harcourt's resignation, Premier Glen Clark appointed Zirnhelt Minister of Forests — a powerful portfolio in a province where forestry is a major economic sector. In that position, Zirnhelt initiated an intensive review of the province's forest practices, as concerns mounted over the logging of old growth forests and the insufficient restocking of logged areas by timber companies.
Zirnhelt failed in his attempt at re-election in 2001.