During 2 decades of prosperity, Bennett's administration took credit for the construction and improvement of highways, the northern extensions of the Pacific Great Eastern Ry and major hydroelectric projects on the Peace and Columbia rivers. Although Bennett espoused free enterprise, he expropriated the province's largest privately owned hydroelectric firm in 1961; took over the Black Ball ferry line and created the BC Ferry Corp in 1958; and attempted to establish the BANK OF BRITISH COLUMBIA with 25% provincial ownership.
From 1953 on, Bennett acted as his own finance minister. Following a "pay as you go" policy that closely watched spending and transferred debts or "contingent liabilities" to agencies such as the Toll Highway and Bridge Authority, Bennett claimed in 1959 that the province was debt free. His administration curbed the power of labour unions, limited social-welfare spending, kept the civil service trim but expanded post-secondary educational facilities. Bennett proclaimed himself a Canadian but had prolonged disputes with the federal government over the COLUMBIA RIVER TREATY, tax sharing and constitutional reform.
In Aug 1972, BC elected an NDP government under David BARRETT. Subsequently, Bennett resigned as MLA and leader of the Social Credit Party and was succeeded by his son, William Richards BENNETT. He was made an Officer of the ORDER OF CANADA in 1976, and in 1998 a Canada Post postage stamp was created in his honour.
Author PATRICIA E. ROY
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