William Richards (Bill) Bennett, businessman, politician, premier of BC (born 14 April 1932 in Kelowna, BC; died 3 December 2015 in Kelowna). After leaving high school, Bill Bennett, whose father was W.A.C. BENNETT, devoted his efforts to a career in business and with his brother made a success of various real-estate and other speculative ventures. In 1973 he sought and won the SOCIAL CREDIT nomination in the Okanagan South seat left vacant by his father's resignation and shortly after became leader of the party and leader of the opposition. He was able to rebuild the party membership and provided a rallying point for opposition to David BARRETT'S NDP government. His party was returned to power on 22 December 1975 and he became the province's 27th premier. He did not enjoy an easy time in office.
Before 1983 his government was marred by minor scandals and suggestions that some of his leading ministers were actually in control. His government was then plagued by a stagnant economy. After the May 1983 election, in which Social Credit increased its majority, Bennett responded to the economic situation and rising unemployment by attempting to cut government payroll and by encouraging large scale development projects such as coal mining in the province's northeast, a rapid transit system in Vancouver and a world's fair in Vancouver - EXPO 86.
The controversial restraint program was met by large-scale demonstrations mounted by the SOLIDARITY coalition of trade unions and community organizations. In compromise, late in 1983, the government abandoned a number of the more far-reaching proposals introduced in that summer's budget but continued to reduce public-sector funding, which in turn continued to provoke hostility to government action from many groups. In May 1986, shortly after opening Expo 86, Bennett announced his retirement as premier and was succeeded by William VANDER ZALM in early August.
Bennett's reputation had survived nearly a decade of politics despite the rampant scandals of his administration but could not survive life after politics. An insider trading scandal involving Doman Securities resulted in prolonged litigation. After a series of investigations, the BC Securities Commission found the former premier guilty of insider trading in 1996. Yet despite this incident Bennett's commitment to public service as a whole did not go unrecognized. In 2005 the bridge across Lake Okanagan in Kelowna was named the William R. Bennett bridge in his honour, and in 2007 he received the ORDER OF BRITISH COLUMBIA.