WAC Bennett

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William Andrew Cecil Bennett
Date of Birth:September 6, 1900
Place of Birth:Hastings, New Brunswick
Spouse:May Bennett
Political Party: Social Credit
Term of Office:August 1, 1952 - September 15, 1972
Number of Elections as Premier:8

The Honourable William Andrew Cecil Bennett, PC, OC (September 6, 1900February 23, 1979) was a Premier of the Canadian province of British Columbia. He was born in Hastings, New Brunswick, Canada. He is usually referred to as W.A.C. Bennett, and both affectionately and mockingly by many as Wacky Bennett.

At the age of 18, Bennett moved to Edmonton, Alberta. He later moved to Kelowna, British Columbia and entered the retail hardware business. A successful merchant, he served as President of the Kelowna Board of Trade from 1937 to 1939. He entered provincial politics in the October 21, 1941 provincial election when he was elected as the Conservative member of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly for South Okanagan. He was re-elected in the 1945 and 1949 provincial elections.

After failing in his bid to become leader of what was now the Progressive Conservative Party in 1951, he left the party to sit as an Independent Member. In December of that year, he took out a membership in the Social Credit League.

In the 1952 provincial election, the province used an alternative vote system that had been designed to enable the Conservative and Liberal parties to keep the socialist Co-operative Commonwealth Federation out of power. Unexpectedly, this enabled Social Credit to win the largest number of seats with the benefit of second-preference ballots from CCF voters.

Social Credit fell short of holding a majority, however. Bennett had succeeded in convincing a Labour Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) to support the party, and so the Socreds were able to form a minority government.

The party had no leader, however. In a vote of the newly elected caucus, Bennett defeated Philip Gaglardi for the position of party leader and premier-elect on July 15, 1952.

On August 1, he was sworn in as Premier of British Columbia, an office he held for twenty years until 1972. Bennett engineered the defeat of his minority government with a school funding proposal, and forced an election in 1953. Social Credit was re-elected with a clear majority. Alternative voting was not used in BC again.

A conservative, he served also as the Minister of Finance, keeping tight control over government spending while leading his province into an era of modernization and prosperity.

While the Social Credit party was founded to promote the social credit theories of monetary reform, these could not be implemented at the provincial level, as the Alberta Social Credit Party had learned in the 1930s. While Bennett does not seem to have had much interest in social credit as a political ideology, he did actively campaign for the Social Credit Party of Canada in federal election campaigns. During the 1957 election, he spoke for the party at a rally in Regina, Saskatchewan. In the 1965 election, Bennett and his cabinet ministers toured BC to encourage voters to elect Social Credit Members of Parliement to promote BC's interests.

Following his party's defeat in the 1972 election by Dave Barrett's revitalized New Democratic Party (the successor to the CCF), he served as Leader of the Opposition until resigning his seat as Member for South Okanagan in June of 1973.

His son, William R. Bennett won the South Okanagan by-election in September, and W.A.C. Bennett retired as leader of the Social Credit Party on November 15. William was elected leader of the BC Social Credit Party on November 24, 1973, and in the provincial election of 1975, the Socreds were re-elected with a majority. William R. Bennett became the new Premier of British Columbia.

In 1976, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

W.A.C. Bennett died in 1979, and was interred in the Kelowna Municipal Cemetery, in Kelowna, British Columbia.

In 1998, the Government of Canada honored W.A.C. Bennett with his portrait on a postage stamp of Canada. The W.A.C. Bennett Dam near Hudson's Hope, built under the Two River Policy, is named after him. He was featured in Time Magazine on September 30, 1966.


  • "The finest sound in the land is the ringing of cash registers."
  • "The Socialist Hordes are at the gates of British Columbia!"
  • "I couldn't give it away, so we decided to build it and run it." - On the British Columbia Railway.
  • "We are a young country; we must build on the solid rock of sound economic policies and balanced budgets. But, we must be prepared, as a nation, to step from the solid rock onto new ground. The path of ease, the path of tradition alone, is not the path of a greater Canada." - Addressing the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in 1962.

Recommended reading

  • W.A.C.: Bennett and the rise of British Columbia, David J. Mitchell (ISBN 0-8889-4395-4) - the most authoritative biography
Preceded by:
Byron Ingemar Johnson
Premier of British Columbia
Succeeded by:
Dave Barrett