Wilhelmus Nicholaas Theodore Marie Vander Zalm

Wilhelmus Nicholaas Theodore Marie Vander Zalm, "Bill," premier of BC, horticulturalist, businessman (b at Noordwykerhout, Holland 29 May 1934). In 1947 he moved to the Fraser Valley with his family. After completing high school, he sold bulbs, and in 1956 bought a nursery business. He invested in real estate and developed Fantasy Garden World, a theme park in Richmond, BC, before entering municipal politics.

While serving as an alderman (1965-68) and as mayor (1969-75) in Surrey, Vander Zalm unsuccessfully sought provincial and federal office as a Liberal. In 1974 he joined the Social Credit Party, and in 1975 he was elected an MLA for Surrey. While serving successively as minister of human resources (1975-78), municipal affairs (1978-82) and education (1982-83), he was noted for his outspokenness; he attacked able-bodied welfare recipients who refused "to pick up a shovel," described Cabinet colleagues as "gutless" for rejecting proposed land use legislation and complained about bilingual cereal boxes.

After a temporary withdrawal from politics, Vander Zalm won the Social Credit leadership in July 1986 and succeeded William R. BENNETT on 6 August 1986, becoming the province's 28th premier. Although the Opposition accused him of having no policies, the charismatic Vander Zalm led the Social Credit Party to an overwhelming victory in the election of 22 Oct 1986. He was a strong supporter of the federal FREE TRADE initiative and in 1988 vigorously opposed access to abortion in BC. Scandal plagued his administration and his personal popularity suffered. Personal scandal involving investments in his Fantasy Garden World finally led to his resignation as premier in 1991.

In 1998, he briefly returned to political life when he was president of the BC Reform Party, a right-wing provincial party not related to the federal Reform Party. The BC Reform Party, however, soon faded from the political horizon and Vander Zalm gradually faded from the political arena. He re-emerged again in 2009 as an outspoken critic of the proposed provincial Harmonized Sales Tax, an initiative that was passed later that year in July.