Four years ago, I wrote about Dave Hardon, a former friend and business partner who was an important pioneer in British Columbia’s film and video industry. The article finished with:
I used to joke about life’s stages. First, your friends start to get married. Next, your friends begin to have children. A few years after, they’re getting divorced and remarried. Later, their children are having children. Then, the friends begin to depart.
It’s inevitable, but sad. Even more sad when we fail to keep connections to those individuals who really mattered.
People, reach out and touch the ones who have been and are important to you. Soon, connection will be impossible.
Today is another sad day. We’ll no longer connect directly with Rafe Mair and hear his stories and his passionate advice. He and I had planned to meet again but in the last three months, we never found a convenient time. I kick myself for not following the advice I once offered to others.
He knew this day was approaching but he intended to make his last years meaningful. And, they were. In 2017, Mr. Mair was finishing another book and he was a regular contributor to online journals. Beyond that, seeking to both inform and provoke, he broadcast a series of emails to people on his lists.
Rafe and I communicated often and got together occasionally for coffee at the Lions Bay Cafe, where, he said, they served the world’s best muffins. One time, Rafe introduced me to Grace McCarthy, who had remained his friend since their days in government decades ago. Moments in conversation with two important contributors to British Columbia won’t be forgotten. Both sparkled with wit and wisdom.
Today, I looked over correspondence with Rafe. He particularly encouraged my work on BC Hydro and we’d sometimes share our research and writings before publication. Once, Rafe applauded my bravery for thoughts expressed in an article.
When a former lawyer – who had been the defendant that won a precedent setting libel action in Canada’s Supreme Court – says you’re being brave, it’s time for a rethink. Indeed, wording changes resulted.
I first paid attention to Rafe when he was a Socred Cabinet Minister. As his deputy, Rafe hired Tex Enemark, a man I met numerous times at UBC when he, a law student, was sage of the political clubroom at Brock Hall. Tex and I were somewhat alike. We both knew about a lot of things; the difference was he knew a lot and I knew a little.
I figured any Minister who hired Tex Enemark was going to get good things done and Rafe didn’t disappoint. His work in Consumer and Corporate Affairs was so effective that business groups lobbied for the department’s elimination.
However, even though Rafe was an effective politician, he really came into his own as a broadcaster. At the peak, he enjoyed radio ratings double the audience share enjoyed by today’s market leaders. Not a reticent person, Rafe gave Georgia Straight editor Charlie Smith a recap of his political work in 2009:
When I was in government (1975-80) I was Minister, first, for Consumer and Corporate Affairs. During that time I passed more consumer legislation than anyone before or since including licensing Car dealers (with six of them in caucus setting their collective hair on fire) forced the Banks to acknowledge and obey BC laws for the first time, forced serious reporting changes to the Vancouver Stock Exchanges for which they have never forgiven me, licensed Travel Agents and made them create a fund to bring home passengers stranded by bankrupt charter companies and so on.
As Environment Minister I stopped the government killing of wolves, stopped exploration for and mining of uranium and went to Seattle and negotiated the saving of the Skagit River from a raising of the Ross Dam which Seattle was permitted to do under a 1941 deal with the BC government.
As Minister of Health I brought in the Homecare program and Palliative Care…
At the time, Rafe was campaigning against Gordon Campbell’s Liberals. The main issue in 2009 was the same for him as it was again in 2013 and once more in 2017. What he said eight years ago reflects what he continued to believe this year:
This election, for me, boils down to a single issue – the environment and the plans by Campbell to deface and destroy the province I was born in and love and where 7 out of 8 of my grandchildren live. The energy policy, in which no one but industry had a hand in formulating, will ruin an ever increasing number of rivers…
Rafe didn’t take these positions for his own gain; he’d lost mobility in recent years and wouldn’t be revisiting the rivers and wilderness areas he treasured. Rafe’s aim was to see BC lands preserved for the future. He didn’t oppose using the province’s natural resources but wanted them approached with respect and care so harm would be minimized or, better yet, eliminated. Rafe knew this required strict regulation of industries where quarterly profits often mattered more than sustaining the lands.
In these last months, Rafe’s body was failing him but his mind remained incredibly sharp. In conversation, he could relate a story from fifty years ago as easily as one from last month. His writing remained precise and his analytical skills were strong.
Last spring, Rafe encouraged a number of people in the online world to work for a Liberal defeat. He believed government mishandling of BC Hydro, particularly with respect to private power, was reason by itself but he could recite a litany of other arguments, with ethical failures at the top.
I’m glad that voters unseated Christy Clark’s government for many reasons. Not least among them is that Rafe gained satisfaction of seeing Ms. Clark’s departure from BC politics.
Rafe Mair will rest in peace if we continue efforts to protect the environment that surrounds us.