Honourable William Richards Bennett, P.C. November 1st, 1988
W.R. Bennett, son of W.A.C. Bennett, served as Premier of B.C. from 1975 to 1986.
Born in Kelowna in 1932, he contributed to the city in business and commerce, politics and community service.
Bill was first elected as a South Okanagan MLA (Social Credit) in September 1973. He went on to win the 1975 election, becoming Premier in December. Shortly after his re-election in May, 1979, B.C. was sucked into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Bennett, with schemes reminiscent of his father’s great projects, pulled the province out of the recession with a series of massive public works projects that included highways and dams.
The Coquihalla Highway is his legacy to people of the Okanagan. While the Connector wasn’t completed until five years after he left office in 1986, it changed the face of transportation in the valley and is arguably one of the biggest economic boosts the region has seen since the Hope-Princeton highway opened.
Bennett’s crowning glory was Expo 86, the Vancouver World’s Fair. The phenomenally successful world’s fair launched the province onto the world stage. During the six months of Expo, B.C. evolved from a wilderness backwater to one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. But shortly after the fair opened and its success was assured, Bennett shocked his supporters by announcing he was leaving public life. He now lives privately in Kelowna.