Former B.C. broadcaster and Kamloops MLA Rafe Mair dead at 85

By Amy Judd / Global News
October 9, 2017 - 10:18am Updated: October 10, 2017 - 3:27am

VANCOUVER — Legendary broadcaster and political commentator Rafe Mair has died at the age of 85.

Mair is remembered as a provincial cabinet minister, opinionated public voice, and above all as a radio host who spent much of his career at CKNW.

Mair joined the station in 1984, and quickly drew a massive following. His show drew nearly unprecedented ratings in the 20 per cent range, with hundreds of thousands regularly tuning in during his 19-year run.

Mair was known for his infamously bristly on-air personality, cutting and insightful questions, and his tendency to grill those in power.

Nevertheless, he never lacked for guests – politicians and opinion makers drawn to his massive audience and reputation.

Mair left CKNW in 2003 after his show was cancelled, and has since worked for a variety of radio, TV, and online outlets like the Tyee.

Mair actually begain his broadcasting career with a brief stint doing an open-line show on CFJC AM Radio, now known as B100. 

Mair was born and raised in Vancouver’s Kerrisdale, and attended the University of British Columbia where he studied law. He practiced as a lawyer from 1953 to 1968.

At that point, Mair came to Kamloops. The law firm MJB Law in Kamloops was originally Mair,Jensen Blair. 

In 1975, he was elected to the B.C. legislature as Social Credit MLA for Kamloops, and served as a cabinet minister for Bill Bennett where he handled the health and education portfolios.

He served as B.C.’s delegate to the patriation of the 1982 constitution, however is remembered for his vocal opposition to the 1992 follow-up Charlettown accord. He is credited with helping drive B.C. to one of the highest rejection rates in the country of the subsequent referendum.

Mair was also active as a political commentator, known for his conservative leanings shot through with a Green thread.

He has been an outspoken critic of B.C. hydro, and is remembered for his passionate activism against the move to private run-of-river power generation plans.

In 1994, he won the Governor-General’s Michener Award for public service journalism for his work opposing the completion of an Alcan hydroelectric dam, on the grounds that it would destroy the local salmon population.

Mair’s Twitter account confirmed the news of his passing Monday morning.

Those who worked with Mair are remembering a man who was both inspiring and infuriating.

Veteran The Vancouver Sun political columnist Vaughn Palmer spoke on CKNW’s The Jon McComb Show Monday morning.

“People used to go on his show even though they hated his guts frankly, as you know, because there was no avoiding going on and at least trying to have your say.  You didn’t always get a word in edgewise, but that was part of the experience as well.”

Palmer also spoke about how Rafe led the “no” side on the  Charlottetown Accord in 1992.

“Again, you know, Canada rejected Charlottetown but the rejection of that constitutional reform proposed by Brian Mulroney, the rejection margin in British Columbia was higher I think even than it was in Quebec. And again, it was Mair.”

In 1995, constant criticism in Rafe Mair editorials about the impact on the salmon led then-Premier Mike Harcourt to revoke Alcan’s water license, to divert a large portion of the Nechako River in the Kemano 2 power project that was halfway built.

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