Skip to content

B.C.’s last minority had high drama too

What the heck happened Tuesday?

Last week I was joking that the election could end up with a 42-42-3 split. I didn’t, in a million years, think it would actually happen. Yet, here we are with a 43-41-3 split amongst the Liberals, NDP, and Greens. Not quite a dead heat, but almost. Closest I ever came to predicting an election and I thought I was joking.

Once again, though, I do have to poke fun at the media who are gleefully exclaiming that, while we’ve had a minority government before, never has it been like this.

For the record, the minority government in 1952 was actually closer than this one and W.A.C. Bennett, who the Liberals love to admire and try to emulate, saw it coming and planned for it. That’s how he gained power.

When the dust settled on the 1952 election, the British Columbia Social Credit League, headed by Bennett, had secured 19 seats. The CCF, headed by Harold Winch, had 18 seats, and assumed Federated Labour Party MLA Thomas Uphill, from Fernie, would support them. With Uphill’s support, the CCF and the Social Credit would be in a dead heat. The CCF argued that because they had more legislative experience than the upstart Social Credit, they should form government.

However, in politics then, as now, memories are long. Even though Uphill was a labour candidate, the CCF had run candidates against him in the 1949 and the 1952 elections.

Even before social media algorithms and polling until the cows come home, Bennett read where the voters were going.

He reached out to Uphill and convinced him, should there be a hung parliament, to support the Social Credit.

He did, much to the chagrin of the CCF to which he was more closely aligned ideologically (sound familiar?) but who also ran candidates against him.

The alliance, however, was short-lived as a year later Uphill had had enough working with Bennett and the Social Credit government was toppled in a non-confidence vote. Winch and the CCF, now with Uphill’s support, couldn’t convince Lieutenant-Governor Clarence Wallace to let them form government and an election was ordered.

Bennett secured a majority government in 1953 and the rest, as they say, is history.

I do have a Six Degrees of Separation connection to all this. Thomas Uphill’s son, Vernon, married my father’s cousin so I’m kind of related to Thomas Uphill. I don’t think I ever met him, but his son was always Uncle Vern to me and my siblings.

• • •

When Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond completes her fifth term in office in 2021, she will have served as an MLA for 20 years. Even then she will have a way to go to match Uphill who served as MLA for 40 years.

• • •

More political connections: When Uphill decided not to run again in 1960, my father threw his hat in the ring and ran for the CCF in the Fernie riding. He lost to Harry McKay, who was a Liberal (back when Liberals were Liberals not Conservatives in liberal clothing). You’re probably more familiar with McKay as a British Columbia Supreme Court Justice. His highest profile case was Clifford Olson.

And people wonder why I follow politics so much. I come by it honestly.

What do you think about this story?