Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Death of Stan Hagen

I woke up this morning to hear that Stan Hagen, the Minister of Agriculture and Lands, died of a heart attack yesterday. I am saddened by this.

I first met Stan when he was the Minister of Advanced Education (or whatever the ministry was called at that time) in the Vander Zalm Social Credit government of the late 1980s. I was only 21 at the time and been fully indoctrinated that the Socreds were wrong, even evil. Stan came up to UVic to meet with student leaders, not that any of us were student leaders. We were much too ideologically narrow minded and focused on political navel gazing to be leaders to the students at UVic, but that is the nature of student politics then and now.

Stan came and met with a small group of us and honestly wanted to know what we thought the government should do with post secondary education. He did not lecture us, he listened and asked relevant questions. He made us see that our overly simplistic ideas were not realistic, though it took me many years to understand this.

In the '80s those of us on the left were conditioned to think of Social Credit as a hardcore right wing government that was incapable of governing in the interests of the people. It was only a few years early that Operation Solidarity happened, the most militant expression of the left in Canada after world war 2. Stan Hagen was part of the enemy, I came to that meeting prepared to 'stick it to the man', but that is not what happened.

I came away from the meeting liking Stan Hagen. I also took some steps forward in my political beliefs and for the first time saw that people could be civil to each other, respectful of each other and find common ground even though they are on opposite sides of politics. Just being a Socred did not make some a bad person.

For years I did not see Stan, not until he chose to run for the Liberals and I got involved with the party as well. Stan is one of the reasons I joined the BC Liberals. Since 2000 I have seen him a couple of times per year at different political events and we always had a great conversation about the way forward, how to make the world a better place. When we met his face would always break into a big smile.

Stan was by nature a positive person, he was looking for solutions that would make the world a better place. He listened well, he paid attention to what people said to him, and he almost always had a twinkle in his eye. Stan was a political with passion and a vision.

Stan was politically partisan, he was open and friendly but was firm in his politics. He was not a mushy politician without a backbone, he was clearly a free enterpriser and believed the market was the way to go. I never agreed with his push to remove the name of new Island Highway in the Comox Valley as Ginger Goodwin Way. We argued this in the hallways of several Liberal conventions.

Stan would have made a great premier of BC, but the way world unfolded there was really no chance for that to happen. He was a victim of the electoral destruction of Social Credit in 1991.

He was a man that made BC a better place for all of us.
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