Life

The Liberal Who Failed to Self-Edit

'KootenayBill' Bennett shot from both hips. Our latest 'Honourable Member'.

By Tom Hawthorn 3 May 2013 | TheTyee.ca

Tom Hawthorn is writing about B.C. political history for The Tyee. Find his previous stories here.

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Illustration by Jessie Donaldson.

[Editor's note: This is the fourteenth in our "Some Honourable Members" series, depicting the more dubious moments in B.C.'s political history, brought to you by veteran muckrakers Tom Barrett and Tom Hawthorn, one a day until election day.]

British Columbia has been blessed with two politicians named Bill Bennett.

The first was the scion of a political dynasty, a Social Credit premier from Kelowna who liked to be known as a tough guy, which became the title of a critical biography by the political writer Allen Garr. After leaving office, he got in trouble for insider trading and, although found not guilty of criminal behaviour, he lost his trading rights for a decade.

The other Bill Bennett is a BC Liberal who goes by the Twitter tag @KootenayBill. He is a rootin'-tootin', shootin'-off-at-the-mouth (or keyboard) kind of guy.

His background was in the sport fishing business before he became a lawyer at age 42.

Even after being named mining minister, Kootenay Bill behaved as though he was the love child of Don Rickles and Andrew Dice Clay -- only without the charm.

When a Fernie gun-club president wrote him a pointed letter of complaint, Bennett responded like Yosemite Sam at the keyboard. He called his correspondent "dumb," "an American spy," and a "self-inflated, pompous, American know-it-all." Bennett added: "Let me very direct with you, as you were with me. It is my understanding you are an American, so I don't give a shit what your opinion is of Canada."

Kootenay Bill forgot to use his indoor voice.

The gun-club president complained and Bennett was turfed from cabinet.

He was back soon enough and was serving as tourism minister when he called the owner of a different Kootenay business "narrow minded and bigoted."

He kept his cabinet post that time, but lost it again after calling on Premier Gordon Campbell to quit. Afterwards, he delivered an unprecedented half-hour critique of the premier and his behaviour. "You have almost a battered-wife syndrome inside our cabinet," he said.

He returned to cabinet, yet again, after Campbell's departure.

He has mostly been on good behaviour since.

"I've always been a little edgy, I guess, in the way I communicate," he told Ian Bailey of the Globe and Mail in March.

He was responding after writing a tweet about spending an evening with the BC Liberal caucus: "Strange everyone seems to be getting along. Ok. Come on ndp turds. Bring it."

He later said he was joking, while admitting that "turds" was not a word he would use aloud while in the legislature.

He's mellowing.  [Tyee]

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