BC NDP

Sixty years
of fighting for you.

BC’s New Democratic Party was born from the audacious idea that the people of this province deserved a government who made their lives better.

Over the last six decades, BC NDP elected officials, volunteers and supporters have fought tirelessly to make a difference on the issues you care about — and delivered bold, world-leading change here in British Columbia.

Before the BC NDP, there was the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation.

Formed in 1932, the CCF united workers and farmers with a vision of a future where the needs of people came first. In 1961, former Saskatchewan Premier and eventual BC MP Tommy Douglas became leader of the renamed ‘New Democratic Party’ of Canada. His vision of a country with freely accessible public health care transformed our nation and, in turn, our province.

1933 - 1971

A new vision for Canada, and for British Columbia

After the 1963 federal election left the Liberals in a minority, Tommy Douglas’s NDP made the implementation of public healthcare and a Canada Pension Plan a requirement for his party’s support.

They’d spent decades fighting for it, but Canadians finally had the national medicare and national pension plan they deserved. Up next: helping people here at home in BC.

In 1969 the BC New Democratic Party elected a bold and visionary leader to take them into the next decade and the next provincial election in 1972.

That person was East Vancouver’s Dave Barrett.

For too long this province has been racked with division... Unashamedly, I call for love." - Dave Barrett

Dave Barrett swept into power on August 29, 1972 as BC’s first-ever NDP Premier.

His team was diverse and accomplished, including Rosemary Brown, the first black woman elected to a BC legislature, and Emery Barnes, who later became the first black speaker of the House in any Canadian Legislature.

1972 - 1975

Dave Barrett’s game changing government delivers for people.

Barrett and his team immediately got to work for people.

First on the agenda: banning pay toilets in public buildings. It’s unfathomable today, but department stores at the time would charge people 10 cents to use a bathroom. That ended, province-wide, on Dave’s first day in office.

Fighting income inequality was high on Barrett’s priority list.

Dave's government brought in Mincome, guaranteeing a minimum $200 per month for seniors, and raised the minimum wage in BC to $2.50/hr — at the time, the highest in Canada. Over the next several decades, BC NDP Premiers would regularly raise the minimum wage, most recently to $15.21 hr - the 2nd highest in Canada, behind only Nunavut.

Under the previous government, BC drivers faced skyrocketing insurance premiums for minimal coverage.

Our government ended that, creating the Insurance Corporation of BC, or ICBC, a public automobile insurance company to provide affordable universal coverage on a non-profit basis. Despite decades of effort from successive right-wing governments to dismantle, privatize or bankrupt ICBC, it remains today, and recently offered drivers a 20% rate cut, pandemic rebates of up to $600, and dramatically improved coverage.

To permanently preserve some of the nation’s most fertile soil from development, our government created the Agricultural Land Reserve protecting 47,000 square kilometres of farmland.

At the time, it was considered the most progressive piece of legislation of its kind in North America.

In the space of 3 years, 8 months and 8 days, Dave Barrett's NDP passed 367 pieces of legislation.

This included the the creation of the BC Ambulance Service and Air Ambulance service, the BC Cancer Agency, the BC Human Rights Code, along with consumer protection laws, labour law reform, bargaining rights for government workers, launching the Seabus, creating the resort municipality of Whistler, banning the strap and introducing French Immersion in schools.

The things you do, they need to be important things. The Barrett government did important things." - Adrian Dix, former BC NDP leader and current Minister of Health

Being in opposition isn’t always the most rewarding time for a political party, but our party has made the most of it — standing up for people against injustice and unfairness.

This included fighting for issues with national implications, like justice, equity and abortion rights.

1976 - 1990

Fighting for you as the official opposition.

In 1983, the BC NDP joined tens of thousands of people across the province for ‘Operation Solidarity’.

During these protests — the largest in BC history — government workers, teachers and support workers fought to maintain the right to a union contract against staunch opposition from the Socred government. In the end, they won their fight — and full bargaining rights.

Seeing Dave Barrett speak at Operation Solidarity in Victoria was my introduction to the NDP. I walked from the Legislature lawn to the NDP office and gave them my last $10 and became a member, right there, that day." - John Horgan

Together with our colleagues in the federal NDP, we helped Ed Broadbent’s team elect its largest-ever slate of New Democrat members of parliament in 1988.

This included a record 19 MPs in British Columbia.

1991 - 2001

Government that’s on your side.

After years of disappointment, cuts and reduced services, the people of BC put their trust in former Vancouver Mayor Mike Harcourt as their second-ever NDP Premier.

Over the next decade, three additional BC NDP leaders would become Premier: Glen Clark, Dan Miller and Ujjal Dosanjh - the first person of colour to serve as Premier of BC.

In the 1970s, Barrett’s government expanded BC parks by 2 million acres and banned logging and mining within their borders.

In the 1990s our governments doubled them again - protecting a full 12% of the province and creating beloved protected areas like the Kitlope, Tatshenshini-Alsek and the Khutzeymateen.

Harcourt’s government ended massive clearcuts, reformed forest practices, stepped up forest renewal and replanting, and brought communities, First Nations, workers, environmentalists and companies together to develop innovative local land-use plans.

These and other actions delivered significant changes to forest practices and helped end the War in the Woods, while putting BC’s crucial forestry sector on the path to long-term sustainability.

Women make up 52% of the population in British Columbia, but until 1991, they’d never had a Ministry dedicated to advancing their rights.

That changed with the appointment of Penny Priddy as BC’s first-ever Minister of Women’s Equality. Through the work of her ministry - and across government - BC would update its Human Rights Act to include protection based on age, family status and sexual orientation, and pass the province’s first Multicultural Act. As importantly, for the first time ever, gender-equity analysis became a requirement of all new government policies.

With filmmakers and TV producers desperate for new places to film, BC introduced its film tax credit program, designed to entice creators to our beautiful province.

It was a roaring success, earning BC the nickname ‘Hollywood North’ and bringing in billions in revenue and jobs to the province every year.

Helping get commuters and families get where they need to be, when they want, is always a priority for BC NDP governments.

In 1996, Premier Glen Clark's government opened the WestCoast Express, and the new Island Highway. His government also made big improvements to post-secondary education, giving more students than ever access to the future they want.

In 1998, Premier Glen Clark signed BC’s first ever modern Indigenous treaty with the Nisga’a First Nation.

This groundbreaking agreement gave the Nisga’a control over their land, including the forestry and fishing resources contained in it.

This is opportunity to make good an injustice of yesterday, to reconcile with the Aboriginal peoples of today's British Columbia, and to make a better tomorrow for all of us.” - Glen Clark

In 2001, Joy MacPhail and Jenny Kwan were given the job of standing up for people against some of the deepest service cuts and most vicious attacks on union contracts ever in BC history.

They did us proud.

2001 - 2016

Fighting back and renewing hope in difficult times.

Starting with her election as party leader in 2003 and as an MLA in 2005, Carole James made the implementation of a provincial childcare plan her priority.

Later as Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, Carole James oversaw the largest-ever investment in childcare in BC history, putting British Columbia on the path to safe, affordable, accessible universal childcare. Since 2017, BC has funded more than 26,000 childcare spaces, with another 30,000 on the way.

During 16 years of furious opposition, BC NDP leaders fought hard on issues British Columbians cared about, including banning big money from politics, increasing protections for renters and ensuring basic human rights.

By 2017, the people of British Columbia were ready for something — and someone — new.

The people at the top have had their Premier. It's time you had one working for you!” - John Horgan

In the 2017 provincial election, more than 70% of British Columbians voted for change.

The NDP, working together with the BC Green Party, developed a ‘Confidence and Supply’ Agreement, making Langford-Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan BC’s 36th Premier.

2017 - 2021

Building a better BC.

After 16 years, there was a lot to be done for people.

First up: banning the unfair practice of charging tolls for drivers on metro Vancouver bridges, and eliminating costly Medical Service Plan premiums — saving families thousands of dollars a year.

With packed hospitals and people suffering on long waitlists, fixing health care was a top priority.

John Horgan's BC NDP team made huge investments in health care, including funding new hospitals or improvements in Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby, Richmond, Terrace, Langley, Nanaimo, Cowichan, Kamloops and more.

Under the BC Liberals our province earned a reputation as the ‘wild west’ of political donations — and as a haven for money laundering.

John Horgan's government banned big money from BC politics, implemented a speculation tax on housing, and launched a public inquiry into how money laundering impacts everything from housing to the overdose crisis.

As world leaders prepared to sign a global climate deal, the BC NDP government led the way, introducing CleanBC - the most ambitious climate plan in North America.

It increased the carbon tax on big polluters, invests millions to make BC buildings more energy-efficient and bans the sale of new gas-powered vehicles province-wide by 2040.

After years of overstuffed classrooms, Horgan's government hired 4,000 new teachers, 1,000 new learning assistants and funded new or improved schools in every corner of the province.

For older students and adult learners, it brought back free adult basic education and English-language learning courses, eliminated interest on BC student loans and introduced new grants to help 40,000 more BC students access the post-secondary education and training they want.

Ever since Dave Barrett's government created the Human Rights Commission, right-wing BC governments have tried to reduce or eliminate its power to fight for people.

After 15 years of being the only province in Canada without one, John Horgan's government brought back the BC Human Rights Commission, along with new services and protections for LGBTQ2SI folks. Up next: Hate-crime legislation.

Only two BC Premiers have ever marched the full route of the Vancouver Pride Parade: The BC NDP's Ujjal Dosanjh and John Horgan.

In 2019, BC became the first province to enshrine the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in law.

This groundbreaking legislation was drafted in partnership with Indigenous leadership from the BC Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. It is only the first step in a long walk together, but it is a remarkable one.

As the world reeled from the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, John Horgan's BC NDP government stepped up for people.

The BC NDP government invested billions to fill in gaps in federal supports, offered a $1,000 emergency benefit to BC workers and temporary rent relief to tens of thousands of vulnerable people, and then gave 80% of British Columbian families up to $1,000 in a recovery benefit. BC businesses, particularly hard-hit tourism businesses, were supported, too.

In times like these, we look out for each other, our families, our neighbours and our elders. Because we only get through this if we do it together." - John Horgan

In fall 2020, BC voters made John Horgan the first BC NDP Premier to be elected for a second term — and elected its most diverse government to date.

After decades and decades of waiting, the people of BC finally have a government that looks more like them than ever before.

For the past sixty years, through good times and bad, the BC NDP, our elected officials, team members, donors, volunteers and supporters have always focused on making life better for people.

As we look ahead to the future, let's keep building a future worth fighting for.

More stories from the last sixty years

It's simply not possible to include all of the important moments and stories from our six decades of activism, solidarity and progress into one timeline. Read on for more from some of our current and former BC NDP team members as they take a deeper look at our shared history.