Grace McCarthy, former MLA and leader of the B.C. Social Credit Party, has died at the age of 89.
According to the Pace Group, McCarthy passed away in her Vancouver home with a brain tumour.
Called “Amazing Grace” by members of her own party, McCarthy was the leader of the Social Credit Party from 1993 to 1994. She also served as an MLA from 1975 to 1991 and was a cabinet minister in the governments of all three Social Credit Party premiers and was the first woman to serve as deputy premier. Her portfolios included tourism, human resources, provincial secretary and economic development.
McCarthy was first elected as a Vancouver Parks Commissioner. Then in 1966, elected along with Les Peterson to co-represent the dual member riding of Vancouver-Little Mountain.
During her time in W.A.C.’s Bennett’s government, McCarthy successfully lobbied the government to introduce a law that would enable women to own property without a male guarantor.
The Social Credit Party lost to the NDP in 1972, but three years later, W.A.C.’s son, Bill Bennett, became the next Social Credit Party premier. McCarthy was reelected in Vancouver-Little Mountain where she would serve for 16 years. She is credited with helping to rebuild the party while serving as president of the party.
In 1991, then premier Vander Zalm resigned due to a conflict of interest scandal. McCarthy lost the leadership race to Rita Johnston. The Social Credit Party lost in 1991 and went down to third-party status in the legislature. Johnston lost her seat and resigned as leader. McCarthy was then chosen to replace her. However, she had no seat in legislature and lost a by-election in 1994. The party lost official party status when four of the six remaining MLAs left to join the BC Reform Party. The party lost all remaining seats in 1996.
But before her political career ever took off, McCarthy was known for being a florist. McCarthy, who was born in 1927 in Vancouver, opened her first flower shop when she was 17-years-old with a $50 war bond. The business grew to five flower shops.
McCarthy was also known for initiating the first toll-free help line for children, mobilizing the film industry in British Columbia, working to establish the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre and securing British Columbia as the host of Expo ’86.
She received the Order of Canada in 1992 and the Order of British Columbia in 2004. In 1995, Mrs. McCarthy created the CH.I.L.D. Foundation (Children with Intestinal and Liver Disorders).
The news of McCarthy’s passing came via a Facebook post by former talk show host and MLA, Rafe Mair.
“There has been no one quite like her in my public life – we worked together, fought battles side by side, yes, quarrelled sometimes, held each other in great respect and affection and were friends,” Mair wrote in the post.
“After we had both left government, Grace was the first person I called if I had a question that had even the remotest connection to politics.”