Series GR-1414 - Premier's records

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Premier's records

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on the contents of the series.

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  • 1953-1972 (Creation)
    British Columbia. Premier

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19 m of textual records

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Biographical history

The Premier is the first minister of the government. In this role, the Premier makes recommendations to the Lieutenant-Governor for the selection and dismissal of ministers of government, and for the dissolution of the legislature. The Premier also signs orders-in-council, and presides over meetings of the Executive Council. The Lieutenant-Governor usually selects the Premier from the leader of the party holding the largest number of seats, or the party most able to form a government. In British Columbia, the office was established in 1871; when the province joined Confederation. However, it was not until 1921, when the office was first named in the Constitution Act (SBC 1921, c. 12). Since 1933, the Premier has also served as the President of the Executive Council. This was formalized in the Constitution Act in 1973 (SBC 1973 c. 20).

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Scope and content

This series contains official correspondence, reports, briefs to cabinet, articles and messages, etc. accumulated during W.A.C. Bennett's tenure as premier. It includes files on Dominion-provincial relations, civil defence, centennial celebrations, railways and major business corporations. Also includes copies of congratulatory letters sent to senior citizens by Bennett's successor, Premier David Barrett. Photographs transferred to Visual Records Division; maps, plans, and printed material transferred to Library and Maps Section. GR-1414 consists of a large number of records created and accumulated during the tenure of Premier William Andrew Cecil (W.A.C.) Bennett [1952-1972]. The records originally comprised the Central Registry of the Premier's Office. Included are letters from private individuals and business corporations, inter-departmental memoranda, copies of the premier's articles and messages, briefs to cabinet and other reports submitted for the premier's consideration. This unit also includes documents pertaining to Dominion-Provincial relations, as well as correspondence from federal politicians and foreign diplomats. The records, which comprise this unit, were transferred to the Provincial Archives from the Premier's Office in November 1982. Ten years earlier-following the defeat of Mr. Bennett's Social Credit government-the records had been consigned to a vault in the basement of the Parliament Buildings. Sometime later they were placed in cardboard boxes and removed to a builders' shed in the Parliament Buildings precinct. There they remained, apparently untended, until 1982 when they came to the attention of the Archives. When the records were transferred to the Archives a number of file folders were found to be empty. In most cases, the empty folders concerned cabinet ministers and the work of various government departments. Similarly, contemporary file lists [see Box 131, File 11] indicate that a number of folders were missing from the original series of files. No files marked "Anonymous," for example, were among the boxes received by the Archives, despite the fact that files containing anonymous letters inward were maintained over the years by the Premier's Office. Nor were any "Confidential" files included with the transfer, although they were part of the Premier's filing system. These files may have been removed when W.A.C. Bennett left office in 1972, or they may have been removed sometime after 1976 when W.R. Bennett became premier. [In her interview (taped in 1978) Mrs. Mylrea noted that Premier Bennett asked her to "go through" the correspondence files on 31 August 1972, the day after his party's electoral defeat. Mrs. Mylrea spent the next two weeks reviewing "every piece of paper in those files." "I did not find one thing that nobody else could have looked at" she related, "there was nothing that anybody need be afraid that anybody could see, opposition or otherwise." Nevertheless, some of the files were removed and were taken by Mr. Bennett to his Kelowna home. [SMID 3236:1-2, pp.16-17] Researchers should also note the absence of W.A.C. Bennett's constituency files in this collection. According to the premier's secretary, records dealing with the South Okanagan riding were maintained separately in the premier's Kelowna office. After his death in February, 1979, the Bennett family donated the records to the Simon Fraser University archives. [SMID 3236:1-1, p.17] Despite the absence of certain files, GR-1414 is a remarkably rich collection of executive records. The evolution of the Social Credit Party can be detected in many of the memos and reports in the collection; public attitudes towards government policies can be seen in much of the correspondence inward, while the province's economic growth can be discerned in files devoted to industrial development or to particular companies. Federal-provincial relations are also well documented, as are the activities of local chambers of commerce and sundry community groups throughout the province. Indeed, as a source of documentation for British Columbia in the 1950s and 1960s, GR-1414 is unrivalled.

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Transferred from the Premier's office, 1982.


Unlike his immediate predecessors [whose papers may be found in GR-1222], Premier Bennett did not maintain a tripartite filing system in which documents were filed under three separate categories (i.e. departmental, federal, and general) depending on their subject matter. Instead, in 1953 the Premier's Office instituted a new alpha-numeric system. Documents were filed alphabetically - by initial of correspondent or by the initial of the topic with which a document was concerned; files were then given disposition numbers, from #1-#38. Certain subjects (e.g. "Briefs to Cabinet," "Lieutenant-Governor," etc.) were assigned categories of their own, but in most instances documents dealing with a variety of topics were maintained in a single file. [The filing system of the Premier's Office is described in detail in an interview with Mrs. Katherine Mylrea, Premier Bennett's secretary. See SMID 3236:1-1 [transcript], pp. 11-18.]

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These records are subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act or other acts and access may be restricted. Please contact the BC Archives to determine the access status of these records.

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General note

Photographs, published materials, maps, and plans have been transferred from this records series to other sections of the Archives.

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Accession number(s): G82-056

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