Independents in the Legislature

Posted by Daniel on May 27, 2009

Today the best known Independent member of the provincial legislature is the giant killer, Vicki Huntington. Pending a judicial recount, Ms. Huntington, affiliated with no political party, appears to have knocked off former Liberal attorney-general Wally Oppal in the riding of Delta South in the May 12 provincial election.

But the most famous Independent in BC political history remains -- who else? -- Wacky Bennett. That's right, our longest-serving premier was, for a brief nine-month period in 1951, the independent MLA from Kelowna. Between parties, so to speak.

In the provincial election of 1949, Bennett had won election as a Conservative and a supporter of the Liberal-Conservative coalition that had governed since the war. The following year he challenged the incumbent, Herbert Anscomb, for leadership of the Conservatives at a turbulent party convention. Bennett was considered to be the leader of the younger, more progressive Conservatives and when he lost his bid he quit the party, crossing the floor of the legislature on March 15, 1951 to sit as an Independent.

Ambitious and canny, Bennett was less an independent than a leader in search of a party, so it was natural that he hook up with a party in search of a leader, the new Social Credit League. On December 6, 1951 he announced that he had joined the Socreds and in the election of June 1952 he ran under their banner. When the Socreds surprised everyone, including themselves, by winning the election, they chose Bennett to be their leader and of course he went on to serve as premier for the next twenty years.

I'm not predicting anything similar for Ms. Huntington, just pointing out that sometimes an Independent can play a key role in provincial politics.