‘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

PHOTOS: Floodwaters rise and fall in Grand Forks

The flood-ravaged Kootenay-Boundary region begins to heal

VIDEO: Grand Forks shores up defences as floodwaters rise to peak levels

Canadian Forces, volunteers working to protect low-lying areas

UPDATED: Majority of flood evacuees in Kootenay-Boundary allowed to return home

Officials hope to have all 3,000 people back in their homes by Monday night

VIDEO: As floodwaters recede, crews assess the damage to Grand Forks’ downtown

More than four dozen firefighters and building inspectors came out to help

VIDEO: Canadian Forces members begin helping out flooded B.C. communities

Three-hundred personnel in B.C. in some off hardest hit cities

VIDEO: After the floods, comes the cleanup in Grand Forks

Business owners in downtown wonder how long it will take for things to go back to normal

UPDATE: Woman dies in ocean accident near Tofino hours before daughter’s wedding

“We are so thankful to everyone who helped our mom.”

Olympian sues USA Swimming, saying it failed to protect her

Ariana Kukors Smith alleges her former coach Sean Hutchison began grooming her for sexual abuse at the age of 13

Defence minister thanks troops for B.C. flood relief work

Harjit Sajjan says not only was military response quick, support from locals has been ‘tremendous’

Couple survives being buried in mudslide on B.C. highway

The couple, from Saskatchewan, were en route to Nelson when a tree fell in their path

‘So grateful:’ Injured Bronco hockey player glad he’s alive, works on recovery

Ryan Straschnitzki was badly hurt in the accident: a spinal injury, broken ribs, a broken collar bone, and punctured lung

Martin Mars waterbombers’ firefighting days are done

Wayne Coulson said his company still hopes to find a new home for the vintage aircraft

NHL playoffs weekly roundup

Vegas Golden Knights have done the impossible and have a chance at hoisting the Stanley Cup

Changes needed for ‘Alert Ready’ mass emergency system

‘You need to strike this careful balance between alerting people to lots of problems — and doing it too often’

Most Read