‘Warrior’ for B.C. Bill Bennett won’t run again

Colourful energy and mines minister opts for family time, recalls his 'extreme' stand against Gordon Campbell

Bill Bennett in 2010

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett has ended a colourful and blunt-talking career in B.C. politics, saying he will not run again in the 2017 provincial election.

The 66-year-old BC Liberal MLA for Kootenay East made the announcement at a cabinet retreat Tuesday in Cranbrook, saying it’s time to focus on his family after four terms in government since first being elected in 2001.

Bennett’s legacy includes pushing ahead with the contentious $8.3-billion Site C hydroelectric project on the Peace River despite intense opposition, as well as restructuring BC Hydro rates.

Read more from Bill Bennett’s outgoing interview

He also led a contentious core review in 2013 that resulted in a division of the Agricultural Land Reserve into two zones with different rules.

And he survived intense criticism as mines minister in the aftermath of the Mount Polley mine tailings disaster.

Bennett quickly developed a reputation for saying what he thinks – no matter the consequences – and his mouth sometimes got him in trouble.

In 2007, he resigned his first post as Minister of State for Mining after he sent an expletive-laced email to a constituent.

He returned to cabinet as minister of tourism, and later community and rural development, before taking on the energy and mines portfolio.

The most spectacular moment came in a scrum in November of 2010, when Bennett – pushing for a faster replacement of resigning premier Gordon Campbell – ripped into his leader for his handling of the harmonized sales tax and denounced him as “bullying” and abusive.

“I have a pretty good gut for politics, my instincts are not usually very far off and I really believed if we went into the 2013 election with Mr. Campbell as the premier, that we wouldn’t win,” Bennett told Black Press Tuesday night.

“I’d tried more conventional methods of persuading him and persuading others that we needed to make a change and I was unsuccessful so I resorted to pretty extreme action to try to have him quit and he did that.”

Campbell fired Bennett from cabinet, but he was later reinstated when Christy Clark became premier, even though he supported rival George Abbott for the BC Liberal leadership.

While in cabinet, Bennett fought to build new mines and increase jobs in resource-dependent communities.

Clark paid tribute to Bennett as a “warrior” for B.C. and his riding, and a man of “tremendous” character.

“Bill always brings back honest clarity to the discussion,” Clark said. “And even if you don’t agree with Bill, always know he’s telling you what he thinks. And I believe that people don’t just vote on what politicians say, they vote on whether or not they think politicians have character.”

– with files from Barry Coulter and Trevor Crawley

Just Posted

Drug use a problem at Trail hockey games, warn RCMP

Police recommend changes to Trail Memorial Centre washrooms

Montrose moves to ban pot retail

Retail, production and distribution of non-medical cannabis sales prohibited under Montrose bylaw

Castlegar, Grand Forks areas to see cleaner winter roads under new contract

YRB set to take over 10-year maintenance contract on Monday

Setting sail to fight kidney disease

Trail’s annual Kidney Walk included an opportunity to raft down the Columbia River

MP Cannings spared brunt of Ottawa tornadoes

MP Richard Cannings was spared the impact of the tornadoes that hit the Ottawa region

VIDEO: Rare close encounter with whale pod spotted off B.C. waters

Pod of southern resident orca whales breach within arms length of whale watchers

Rattie scores 3 as Oilers blank Canucks 6-0

Vancouver slips to 1-5 in exhibition play

Veterans Affairs ordered to take second look before supporting vets’ relatives

Liberal government ordered officials to adopt a more critical eye

Dead B.C. motorcyclist was member of group that raced down mountain road

Some group members record their rides on Strathcona Parkway and post times to page

Indigenous athletes in spotlight at BC Sports Hall of Fame

New gallery to feature Carey Price, Kaila Mussel and Richard Peter

B.C. couple who went missing on flight from Edmonton named by family

Family released a statement Wednesday saying they’re still intent on finding the two-seater plane

VIDEO: A close look at what you were breathing during the B.C. wildfire season

Electron microscope images show soot and tar particles generated by worst B.C. fire season

B.C. woman donates $250,000 to ovarian cancer research for friends

Two of Patty Pitts’s friends passed away from the disease within a year

B.C. could provide clues as to how New Brunswick electoral results shake out

Premier Christy Clark faced a strikingly similar scenario following the province’s 2017 election

Most Read