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Highway expansions, transit are Expo 86's biggest legacies: former premier Bill Vander Zalm

(John Streit, NEWS 1130 Photo)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – This week marks the 30-year anniversary of the opening of Expo 86.

Former premier Bill Vander Zalm succeeded Bill Bennett as premier in August, 1986.

“I started to seek the leadership sometime during June of 1986… I kept in contact, because I was responsible for the transit, which was part of municipal affairs at the time,” he tells us.

“It was a busy time for me, but I did get to the fair a few times and certainly, after I was chosen leader and became the premier, I was a fairly regular visitor. Although, while there, I did more meeting and greeting people, and signing programs than I could really spend seeing the fair.”

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LISTEN: Former premier Bill Vander Zalm speaks live on NEWS 1130


Vander Zalm is known for his part in the sale of the Expo land.

“There was a committee set up to consider proposals for the development of the land — they were getting a lot of proposals from conglomorate groups, local groups, local people… and the committee was also looking for offshore opportunities.

“So, they came back with Li Ka-shing and had a proposal from him. Cabinet, for a time — including myself — was quite keen on having it done locally by local people to create local growth and opportunity. On the other hand, Li Ka-shing did a fairly good job in making a pretty detailed presentation. In the end, that was accepted. No regrets.”

“[They] did a very good job at a nice uniform development of the land that, I think, complements the city very much.”

On the current state of real estate in Metro Vancouver, Vander Zalm says, ‘young people — people born here and lived here all their lives — can’t afford to live in Vancouver anymore. It’s only the foreign investor that can pay the ridiculous prices that are being paid for properties.”

Vander Zalm thinks Expo’s biggest legacy is transportation infrastructure.

“Vancouver’s highway expansion, the Coquihalla Highway, the Coquihalla Connector — and best of all, we got the SkyTrain. The transit system has been a tremendous help for Vancouver and the region. I think that’s probably the biggest benefit.

“A lot of people came to Vancouver and saw the city and fell in love with it, no doubt. Many of them may have moved here… and invested here,” he adds.