‘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

BC senior championship: Tie breakers to decide men’s, Richter goes undefeated in women’s

Marilou’s Richter’s Penticton/Kamloops team cruises to final with perfect record.

Maglio Building Centre sold to RONA

The stores in Nelson and Trail will remain open

Firefighters extinguish early-morning blaze in Rossland

Neighbour alerted family of four, no injuries reported

Nominations open for Trail-Warfield Citizen of the Year

Award presented annually for a person or group with an outstanding record of community service

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Sledder dies near Fernie

Fernie Search and Rescue was tasked by the RCMP to respond to a sledder in medical distress

Girl heard saying ‘Help my Dad’ in suspicious radio message on Vancouver Island

Police asking for help following mysterious signals from somewhere between Comox and Sayward

Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

No treatment for highly infectious measles, says doctor

10 cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver as of Friday

Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

It brings the number of total cases within the city connected to the outbreak to ten

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

Most Read