Friday, 17 March 2017

My contribution to trivia - a possibly fun fact about BC's premiers

In the interests of populating this neglected blog with something, anything, really anything, I decided to undertake a small piece of historical research.  One of those little lines of inquiry where the answer is an either open field for thought, or just another piece of useless trivia.  But mine is not to reason why, mine is just to tell you what I found.

It goes like this:

The modern history of BC politics usually begins with the ascent to power of WAC Bennett.  He first took office as premier in the summer of 1952, nearly 65 years ago.

Counting Bennett, BC has elected 8 premiers up to and including Christy Clark.  The others are Dave Barrett, Bill Bennett, Bill Vander Zalm, Mike Harcourt, Glen Clark, and Gordon Campbell.  Three others (Rita Johnston, Dan Miller and Ujjal Dosanjh)  served as premier without being elected, each taking office after a mid-term resignation by their predecessor.  Fine people though they are, they don't count for the purpose of today's exercise.

Now most people would say that this long era has been characterized by a swing between, on the one hand, a coalition party of the centre-right (first Social Credit, then BC Liberals) and on the other hand a coalition party of the left or centre-left (the NDP).  The centre-right has won every election since 1952 but three: 1972 (Barrett), 1991 (Harcourt) and 1996 (Glen Clark).  Five elected premiers of the centre-right; three of the centre-left.  The centre-right has been in power for (roughly) 52 of the last 65 years.  That's quite a run.

Here's my fun fact.  Of the five elected Social Credit and BC Liberal premiers, only one, Gordon Campbell, had a university degree. Christy Clark attended university but did not graduate.  So far as I know, the other three (WAC Bennett, Bill Bennett and Bill Vander Zalm.) never attended university.

All three elected NDP premiers had university degrees.  In fact, they each appear to have had at least two degrees. (Barrett and Clark had masters' degrees and Harcourt a law degree).

Since you are wondering, the current NDP leader John Horgan also has two degrees.

Now as I say, I'm not sure if this means anything.  As a statistical survey, it's got an awfully small sample size.  Of course one question you could ask is whether in seeking high public office in this province it helps or hurts to have a university education. Some might say it's never electorally groovy to appear to be well-educated, especially in the era of you-know-who-down-South. But I'm more interested in how to advance the cause of post-secondary education as a key policy priority for government.  I've sometimes found it's harder to do that when you're speaking to someone who's enjoyed success in life without much formal education, as opposed to someone like me - who wouldn't have achieved anything in life without a post-secondary education.  Great things have been done for post-secondary education in BC under premiers of all stripes: for example, SFU was established during the long mandate of WAC Bennett, that Kelowna hardware store owner high school dropout.  But looking ahead, BC has no serious hope of social and economic prosperity in turbulent times without recognizing that education, education at the highest levels, is not just a wanna-have, but a must-have.  Yes for now we need welders.  But what we are really going to need are the people who can figure out what we're all going to do when all the welding is done by robots, a day that is coming much faster than most realize. And there's no place quite like a post-secondary education institution to help young minds develop those kinds of thinking skills. 

1 comment:

  1. It so happens that I've also recently put my mind to the issue you raise.

    I never attended university but I appreciate the value of "post-secondary" education. One major problem though is that much of what passes for advanced education doesn't result in a truly educated person, or at least not one able to deal with the real challenges we are facing.

    This applies to many domains but one I've had an opportunity to closely examine is the domain of law and legal education.

    Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate in a forum focusing on the issue of access to justice. It was held at one of our university facilities. I was one of approximately ten individuals experienced as "SRLs" who joined what I estimated to be roughly three to four dozen members of the legal establishment (including one former SCC justice).

    Time will tell if that engagement was productive. Certainly there seemed to be some sincere dialogue.

    So as not to discourage that dialogue I avoided (for the most part) expounding on the harsh conclusions I had long ago reached about what formal legal education has produced.

    Someone sitting beside me at this forum commented that what I had done evidently was educate myself about the law. I had done that because there was no other recourse except to abandon my pursuit of what I perceived to be serious legal issues.

    I suspect that when members of the legal establishment encounter people like me they are reminded of the old saying that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing". It is counterproductive, they reasonably believe, to allow amateurs to directly engage a system designed by and for professionals.

    But nothing has succeeded so far in discouraging such engagement. Why has the expensive and elaborate advanced education system to date offered no apparent answers to such problems?