VANCOUVER—Former B.C. cabinet minister and well-known Vancouver radio broadcaster Rafe Mair has died at the age of 85.
A longtime colleague of Mair’s said that he’ll be remembered as a hard-hitting interviewer who was tough but fair.
Shiral Tobin, who produced his show on CKNW, said Mair’s doctor confirmed his death at around 6 a.m. Monday morning.
Tobin said Mair’s health had been declining for a number of years, but that he had continued to write articles and appear as a radio panellist until recently.
She said Mair fought for Indigenous rights, feminism and the environment in his later years. He even gave up his pastime of fly-fishing over his growing concern for the welfare of animals.
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Mair’s show on CKNW ran for almost two decades, and was known as one of the most popular radio programs in the province.
“He was one of the best broadcasters in B.C. history,” Tobin said. “He used his radio talk show as a bully pulpit on behalf of the people of British Columbia.”
Mair’s political career began in 1975, after years of practising law, when he served as a MLA for Kamloops as a member of the B.C. Social Credit Party.
He also served as a cabinet minister in a variety of positions during Premier Bill Bennett’s time in office.
Former premier Bill Vander Zalm, who served as an MLA and cabinet minister in the legislature alongside Mair, said he was a strong and effective politician who no one could go up against without expecting a lively debate.
“I will remember Rafe, and I’m sure everyone will remember, he was a very determined fellow. He made up his mind about what he wanted to do and how it was to be done and no one could really stop him from doing it his way,” Vander Zalm said.
“In the debates and the arguments and the discussions that were held both in cabinet chamber or the legislature he certainly made his views known very effectively. As a lawyer that came relatively easy for him.”
Mair’s career as a broadcaster began when he was 49 years old. Tobin said Mair turned to journalism because he felt he could have a greater impact by holding power to account.
“He saw it as a gateway to power for the public,” she said. “He knew he had more influence, he could give a voice to the issues in British Columbia from the radio station.”
Tobin, who is now director of programming and journalism at CBC in Vancouver, said although he had strong opinions and was tough on his guests, Mair was wonderful to work with and great mentor.
Mair was a recipient of multiple journalism awards, including the Michener Award for courageous journalism in 1995, and the B.C. Association of Broadcasters “Broadcast Performer of the Year” award in 1993.
He is survived by his wife Wendy Conway, five children and stepchildren, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.