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1983: NDP leader booted from B.C. legislature

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It's a dubious first, but it's Dave Barrett's to claim. In 112 years at the British Columbia legislature, he's the first member to be forcibly removed from the chamber. Barrett, a former premier and leader of the provincial New Democratic Party, is physically dragged out by three officers of the sergeant-at-arms after refusing to withdraw his challenge to a ruling by the Speaker. In this clip from CBC News, Barrett says he has no regrets even though his career may be over.
• In May 1983, B.C.'s Social Credit government under Bill Bennett was re-elected on a promise of economic restraint. Soon after, the government introduced a package of 26 bills that, among other measures, would cut the civil service by 25 per cent and eliminate both the human rights commission and the rent control board. At the time, B.C. was deep in a recession and was reporting an unemployment rate of 14 per cent.

• Dave Barrett and the NDP took exception to 12 bills in particular, which they nicknamed "the dirty dozen." They attempted to delay the bills' passage by every procedural means possible.

• On Sept. 19, 1983, the government - which had 35 seats to the NDP's 22 - moved to "legislation by exhaustion" to push through its agenda. It began holding all-night sessions in the legislature.

• Members on both sides prepared for the all-night sessions by bringing in sleeping bags, blankets, and air mattresses. One NDP MLA camped in her van, and poker games broke out in nearby caucus rooms.

• Two days before Barrett's ejection, the government invoked closure a record four times to end debate on two bills.

• On the night he was ejected for good, Barrett had challenged a ruling by the acting Speaker, John Parks. Such challenges were standard NDP delay tactics, and could often lead to the ringing of bells in the legislature that would awaken sleeping members.

• When Parks asked him to leave, Barrett said: "I have a right to challenge rules and I'm not leaving. If I give up that right I give up everything that this place stands for."

• As (not) seen in this clip, Barrett's ejection was not caught on camera even though cameramen and reporters were present at the time.

• According to the Globe and Mail, the reporters were in fear of Speaker Walter Davidson. Several weeks earlier he had barred them from taking pictures in the hallway outside the chamber and even ordered them how to dress.

• This was not the first time Barrett was ejected from the legislature. He had been ordered out by Speaker Walter Davidson on Sept. 20, but the ejection lasted only for the day because Barrett left willingly.

• Barrett's second ejection extended to the legislature's press gallery and, technically, his own office. He also faced a pay deduction of $250 per day for each day he was absent from the chamber after day 10.

• The Social Credit party said Barrett would be allowed back in if he apologized, but he refused. Nevertheless, public pressure grew to re-admit Barrett as editorialists deemed the debacle "British Columbia's shame."

• Barrett was barred until a new session began on Feb. 13, 1984. The legislature sat for about two weeks after his ejection, adjourned for 101 days, then sat for another two weeks. During that time the government managed to push through most of its new laws.

• Barrett was elected premier of British Columbia in 1972, ousting longtime premier W.A.C. Bennett. But he and his party were turfed just three years later, losing to a Social Credit party now led by Bill Bennett, son of W.A.C.

• In the spring of 1984, Barret stepped down as leader of the B.C. NDP. He was replaced by Bob Skelly.

• Barrett remained an MLA until 1986. In 1988 he took a run at federal politics and was elected an MP, but he lost the seat in 1993.

• In 1989 Barrett ran as a candidate to replace federal NDP leader Ed Broadbent, but lost to Audrey McLaughlin.
Medium: Television
Program: Newscentre
Broadcast Date: Oct. 6, 1983
Guest(s): Dave Barrett, Bill Bennett, John Parks
Reporter: John Stanton
Duration: 4:32

Last updated: September 26, 2014

Page consulted on September 26, 2014

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