British Columbia

'I know that voice': B.C. broadcasting giant Rafe Mair dead at 85

Family say he passed away Monday morning.

A former lawyer and cabinet minister, Mair was best known for his outspoken style as a radio host

Long time B.C. broadcaster Rafe Mair has passed away. (UBC)

Longtime B.C. broadcaster and former Social Credit cabinet minister Rafe Mair has passed away at age 85.

His family told CBC he died on Monday morning.

A former political panelist on CBC's The Early Edition and CKNW radio host, Mair was best known for his provocative style. He was most passionate when talking and writing about the environment, politics and constitutional issues.

Generations of British Columbians knew his distinctive voice and it drew attention everywhere he went, Mair's widow Wendy Conway Mair told CBC News.

"It didn't seem to matter. Anywhere in the world where we would be, whether it be New Zealand or London in our hotel or downtown having dinner, somebody would say, 'I know that voice,' and then they would come over to our table," she said.

Rafe Mair retires from radio

Rafe Mair retires

5 years ago
Duration 4:16
One of the B.C.'s most familiar voices, Rafe Mair signed off his last radio program Radio 600 AM in 2005.

A trained lawyer, Mair entered politics in 1975 when he was elected MLA for Kamloops as a member of the B.C. Social Credit Party.

He served under Premier Bill Bennett in various cabinet posts until 1983, and was the British Columbian minister responsible for constitutional affairs during the lead up the the patriation of the Canadian Constitution.

Former premier Bill Vander Zalm remembered Mair as a determined crusader during his time in the legislature.

"Rafe had a way of setting an objective, setting a goal and going there. Nothing stopped him. That probably presented a problem for him from time to time in politics — you can't always operate that way," Vander Zalm said.

British Columbia's then-minister of consumer and corporate affairs Rafe Mair (right) and deputy minister for constitutional affairs Melvin Smith prepare to testify before a senate committee in Ottawa in 1978. Mair died Monday at the age of 85. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Mitchell)

Mair left politics and moved into broadcasting in the early '80s.

"He cared about this province so much," said Shiral Tobin, who produced the Rafe Mair show on CKNW and AM 600. "He never shied away from complex issues. He knew his audience was smart and could handle it."

At home, he was a loving husband with a passion for fly-fishing, chocolate labs, and travel, according to Conway Mair.

"He is just a big teddy bear. Very emotional, very loving. All the things you didn't always hear on air," she said.

Mair was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' Hall of Fame in 2005. He received numerous awards, including the 1995 Michener Award for courageous journalism and the 2003 Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award.

He was also an advocate for mental health issues. After going public with his struggle with depression and anxiety, he founded the Canadian Mental Health Association's annual Bottom Line Conference on mental health in the workplace. 

Mair is survived by his wife, five children and stepchildren, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He wrote one final book on politics before his death; it is expected to go on sale next month.

With files from Belle Puri and Bethany Lindsay