The NDP won the election on 15 September 1972. They subsequently initiated many reforms, notably a freeze on the conversion of agricultural land, a mineral-royalties tax, the establishment of a powerful labour-relations board and an expanded public sector. Opposition to the government's zealous approach and declining revenues enabled the Social Credit Party to defeat the Barrett administration in 1975. Barrett returned to the Assembly in a 1976 by-election and remained leader of the Opposition. He announced his resignation as leader of the provincial NDP after another general-election defeat in May 1983 and in 1984 became host of a radio talk show in Vancouver. In late 1986 he announced that he would seek a seat in the House of Commons in the next federal election. As the newly elected MP for the riding of Esquimault-Juan de Fuca, Barrett ran for the leadership of the federal NDP at the 1989 leadership convention but was defeated by Audrey MCLAUGHLIN. It was likely his support for an almost entirely pro-western mandate that led to his downfall: during the campaign, Barrett maintained that the party should focus on western alienation rather than Québec's concerns, which angered Québec NDP MP Phil Edmonston, who threatened to resign if Barrett became leader.
Barrett won his seat in the 1988 general election and contested the party leadership following the resignation of Ed BROADBENT. He finished a close second to winner Audrey McLaughlin. Barrett lost his seat to REFORM PARTY candidate Keith Martin in 1993. An emotional and entertaining speaker, his informal style makes him a popular figure with the BC public. Though retired from political life, Barrett continues to lecture on current affairs. He was made an Officer of the ORDER OF CANADA in 2005.
Author J. T. MORLEY