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Legendary BC Politician And Premier Dave Barrett Remembered By His Protege Former Premier Glen Clark

SUN1124N-PREMIERS 02 Burnaby, B.C. — NOV. 24, 2003 — Former B.C. premiers Dave Barrett, Glen Clark and Bill Vander Zalm got together Monday afternoon to receive their cheques for their acting efforts in the recent BCAA commercials. The premiers forwarded their $10,000 fees to the charities of their choice. The television ads used the premiers to show the advantages of the auto club’s new Premier card, a higher level of service. Handout photo Vancouver Sun. [PNG Merlin Archive]

Dave Barrett left an impressionable mark with the young Glen Clark, who would enter the political arena himself a decade later to represent the same riding as the legendary BC politician and the two would remain close friends for decades. Clark recalled when he stepped down as Premier in the late 1990s it was Barrett who came out to lend a helping hand, including phoning BC billionaire Jimmy Pattison, who gave Clark a job at his business empire, where Clark currently serves as the President of The Jim Pattison Group. Barrett also played a significant role in Clark’s friend and former political colleague Moe Sihota’s decision to join politics.

By Ken Herar

“He was a sensational guy, larger than life personality “, said BC’s 31st Premier Glen Clark(from 1996 to 1999), who I spoke over the phone with on the passing of legendary BC politician and former BC Premier Dave Barrett, who died from Alzheimer’s disease.

Clark first met Barrett when he was nineteen helping with his campaign on Vancouver East in 1976. Barrett left an impressionable mark with the young Glen Clark, who would enter the political arena himself a decade later to represent the same riding as the legendary BC politician and the two would remain close friends for decades.

Clark recalled when he stepped down as Premier in the late 1990s it was Barrett who came out to lend a helping hand, including phoning BC billionaire Jimmy Pattison, who gave Clark a job at his business empire, where Clark currently serves as the President of The Jim Pattison Group.

Barrett also played a significant role in Clark’s friend and former political colleague Moe Sihota’s decision to join politics.

Former Abbotsford MLA Dennis Streifel  and Barrett were also good friends and had good working relationships.

The three years, Barrett served as premier from 1972-75 his government passed 367 Bills, which is basically unheard of today, according to Clark. He explains, to get things passed in the Legislature it sometime takes years and it can be a slow process with studies involved. Clark, appointed Barrett in the late nineties to chair the Leaky Condo Crisis, when he was premier.

Barrett, was first elected in 1960 in the Dewdney riding and became the youngest member of the BC Legislature at the age of twenty-nine. He defeated Labor Minister Lyle Wicks, which was considered to be a major upset. One of the first priorities, Barrett set out as our local MLA was for Mission residents to get a new bridge crossing. He said in 1960, “I was keenly aware of the fact that Dewdney was not receiving its fair share in terms of public services, maintenance and construction of roads, bridges and other public works. “  He also spoke about expanding the Lougheed Hwy to four lanes to Mission, which many former MLA’s have promised and never delivered.

It would be 1973, when the newly elected Premier Barrett would open the Mission Bridge and keep his promise to the residents of Mission, some thirteen years before. He said at the opening, “This bridge is for people, not for automobiles. “ He went on to say it was, “to serve and to strengthen communities on both sides of the river.” He added that he hoped that citizens would get together and use the bridge with a sense of purpose.

I spoke with Barrett in 2003, about Naranjan Grewall, who was the first South Asian elected to public office in Canada in 1950.

When Grewall was nominated as a candidate for the CCF party in the Dewdney riding in 1956, this drew excitement. But, according to Barrett, Grewall faced open discrimination on the campaign trail.

Barrett said during the interview: “He was an icon, I didn’t think I had a chance of getting elected in his riding. He lost the election, but won the hearts of many.”

When Barrett became premier in 1972, he was invited to the Sikh Temple in Vancouver and was presented with a ceremonial sword.

As he received the sword, he told the audience: “This isn’t for me, this is for Naranjan Grewall. He is our true hero.”

“The former Mission mayor knew the risk he was taking and many people were surprised he took this risk to enter the race,” said Barrett.

Barrett said Grewall overcame many racial insults along the way.

“Every kid in the North Fraser, who thinks he or she is being discriminated against, should read the Grewall story and the challenges he faced.”

Grewall was later found dead in a Seattle motel room with a gunshot wound to the head in July of 1957. He was 47 years of age.

Ken “Kulwinder” Herar is a Mission-based writer and a winner of the champions of diversity award for his columns in the LINK newspaper and other Fraser Valley publications. Herar can be reached at kenherar@gmail.com or view his blog at http://www.kenherar.blogspot.com

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