There are a lot of truly wonderful things about British Columbia.
So many, in fact, that we could fill a blog with all the ones that start with just the letter ‘a’.
But did you know that some of the most British Columbian things we all love only happened because of BC NDP governments? It’s true! Here are seven of our favourites.
Your favourite local pub
Despite having ‘British’ in its colonial name, our province used to lack one of their most well-loved institutions: the neighbourhood pub.
Before the BC NDP changed liquor license laws to allow neighbourhood pubs, people who wanted a drink had to choose between going to a restaurant or an ale house. Our new laws meant that these two great BC pastimes need never be separate again.
Protecting grizzly bears
Grizzly bears are one of the most recognisable symbols of British Columbia. But, for a long time, there wasn’t any special protection for them or the spaces they call home. That changed in 1994 when our BC NDP government created the Khutzeymateen grizzly bear preserve - a 44,000 hectare park on BC’s northwest coast.
The park is home to the highest concentrations of grizzly bears in Canada, and is known internationally as Canada’s first grizzly bear sanctuary.
To further protect grizzly bears, John Horgan’s BC NDP government banned the trophy hunt for grizzly bears province-wide in 2017. Yay, bears!
Free public washrooms
Imagine you’re a mom on a tight budget shopping at the department store with your two young kids when one of them announces they need to use the washroom. Nowadays, you’d just take them. But if this was BC in the early 1970s, that washroom trip came with a price tag — and one that not everyone could afford to pay.
Under the social credit government of the time, it was legal for department stores to charge a fee for people to use the washroom, usually 10 cents. If you didn’t have 10 cents and tried to sneak into the washroom or crawl under the door, you could be charged with a crime.
When Dave Barrett’s NDP government was elected in 1972 one of the very first laws passed was banning pay toilets.
To be clear, no BC government created Cypress mountain - that’s wholly the effort of billions of years of geology and plate tectonics - but a BC NDP government was responsible for protecting Cypress bowl from development in the 1970s.
Drive up to the lookout sometime and you’ll see a historical place marker for ‘Barrett’s Peak’ - showing former Premier Barrett’s favourite view, overlooking Burrard Inlet and downtown Vancouver. It’s especially stunning on a winter evening when there’s fresh snow about.
No corporal punishment in schools
Corporal punishment, or ‘the strap’, was a common (but deeply problematic and controversial) way for teachers to discipline students in the 18th and early 19th century.
By any standards, the strap was extremely painful, humiliating and wrong. And shockingly, until 1973, it was still legal for BC teachers to do.
When BC’s first NDP government was elected, we passed provincial legislation to ban the strap. Eileen Daily, the Minister of Education who announced the policy, described her rationale in the legislature:
“Surely, Mr. Speaker, if we want to reduce acts of violence in our community and in the world, we must eliminate acts of violence in our schools. If we want to develop future generations into more humane people, we must practice more humanity ourselves.”
As history has shown, she was right.
Whistler, the municipality
Long before the 2010 Olympics, there were people dreaming of bringing the Olympics to BC — and to Whistler. The only problem? Whistler didn’t exist yet.
In September 1975, the BC NDP government worked with municipal leaders and local residents living around Whistler creek to create the resort municipality of Whistler. Five years later, Whistler Mountain opened for business. 28 years after its founding, Whistler was selected as the first-ever Host Mountain Resort to co-host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
Premiers showing Pride
Go to the Vancouver or Victoria Pride Parade now and you’ll see dozens of politicians and political parties marching in solidarity. You’d expect that there’d be plenty of Premiers over the years who’d want to join more than 500,000 other attendees at BC’s largest-ever parade. But that hasn’t always been the case.
In fact, only two BC Premiers have ever marched the full route of Vancouver Pride. They were both NDP leaders, and they did so 17 years apart.
In 2000, Ujjal Dosahnj joined marchers in the Vancouver Pride Parade – becoming the first-ever Premier to do so. Then in 2017, Premier John Horgan laced up his custom pride kicks and marched in the Vancouver and Victoria Pride parades.
Love is love, and we're proud to support it. When Pride parades return post-pandemic, we’ll be ready, flags waving.
These are just a few of the things we love about BC that came to be because of the BC NDP.
Did we miss any of your favourites? Let us know.
This blog is part of a series on the BC NDP’s 60th anniversary. Read the full series here.