VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – The flag is flying at half-mast today at the Legislature in Victoria as the province remembers a former BC premier.
— BC Legislature (@BCLegislature) March 3, 2018
A state memorial service was held this morning in the capital for Dave Barrett, who died last month following a long battle with Alzheimer’s.
Barrett’s daughter Jane spoke at today’s event and remembered him simply as Dad. “I often told people when they asked, ‘What does your father do for a living?’ That he was a plumber.'”
Jane added he made her proud regardless of his job and admits it was only as she got older that she understood the lessons he taught her like the importance of participating in making the world a better place.
Struggling to speak through tears, she says Barrett gave everything for his beliefs, but again, he was just Dad to her and her siblings. “Just a Dad who loved all of us and each one of us equally.”
Barrett’s son Joe remembered him for living his life fully and says he was strong even during his battle with Alzheimer’s.
“Even though Dad wasn’t able to respond in words, we knew he was there in gestures and smiles and the way he looked at us.”
Joe believes his father’s last few years mirrored his entire lifetime. “He accepted the illness. He was peaceful. He was courageous and he stoically faced this last challenge.”
Politicians pay tribute
Finance Minister Carole James was the master of ceremonies for the state memorial.
Current Premier John Horgan was among several politicians who took to the stage at the service, which was held at the University of Victoria.
Horgan called Barrett’s accomplishments extraordinary and remembers Barrett bringing his “BC swagger” to Ottawa when he was elected to the federal NDP in the late 1980s.
He also credits Barrett for him joining the New Democrats. “Pat McGuire… she was sitting behind a desk [and] I sat down and said, ‘I just saw this guy at the Legislature, what can I do to help?’ And she said, ‘Well, why don’t you join the NDP?’ And I reached into my pocket and said, ‘All I’ve got is…’ and before I could say $10, it was out of my hand and I joined the NDP and I’ve never looked back.”
LISTEN: BC Premier John Horgan remembers Barrett
Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon also paid tribute to the former leader. “He displayed one of the true attributes of a leader: he made hard decisions,” said Guichon. “He has surely earned his rest.”
Today, BC has lost a giant, former Premier Dave Barrett. He was an inspiration to me and many other British Columbians, and I am grateful for his friendship and guidance over the years. Ellie and I extend our sincere condolences to the entire Barrett family.
— John Horgan (@jjhorgan) February 3, 2018
Barrett’s political history
The NDP swept to power in the province for the first time in 1972 under Barrett’s leadership and passed a record 357 bills that led to enduring reforms including ICBC and the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Welfare reforms, a province-wide ambulance service and affordable prescription drugs through the Pharmacare program are also legacies of Barrett’s political accomplishments during his time in office, which lasted for three years.
Barrett’s New Democrats made history by defeating the five-term Social Credit government of W.A.C. Bennett, marking the end of that party’s dominance in BC politics.
Horgan, along with former New Democrat premiers Glen Clark and Dan Miller, and another 500 NDP members, will gather at the Croatian Cultural Centre on Commercial Drive in Vancouver on Sunday to celebrate Barrett’s life. The event is said to be open to the public and is being held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
An online book of condolences has also been set up.
Barrett died in February at the age of 87.