B.C. residents show admiration for province’s entrepreneurs

In Alberta, politicians held in high regard.


When Insights West asked British Columbians last month to choose the person from or associated with our province they admire the most, the final file included 142 names. (The Sun reported this B.C. Day poll in detail in the Friday, Aug. 1 edition.) Those who garnered the most mentions were not a surprise. Around the office, we thought Terry Fox would be No. 1, and expected David Suzuki to be in the Top 5 (he was No. 2). We had a hunch that politicians — with the notable exceptions of W.A.C. Bennett (No. 3) and Dave Barrett (No. 8) — would not make it to the Top 10. For the record, Albertans placed eight politicians, either elected or appointed, in their most-admired Top 10.

This is not to say politicians did not garner any admiration in B.C. Four premiers received at least three mentions (Bill Bennett Sr., Mike Harcourt, Christy Clark and Bill Vander Zalm), along with former provincial ministers Grace McCarthy and Carole Taylor. Still, this pales in comparison with the more than half of all Albertans who picked either one of two former premiers — Ralph Klein and Peter Lougheed — as their most admired person.

Some British Columbians looked to family, with mother making it to No. 9 on the list. We also saw a few mentions for father, spouse, daughter and son — and a vote each for former wife and stepfather.

Sports figures are also among our most admired people, starting with Canucks hero Trevor Linden at No. 7 (it was fitting he received 16 over-all votes). Other names mentioned included NBA All-Star Steve Nash, Burnaby’s Stanley Cup winner Joe Sakic, and B.C. Lions Grey Cup champion Lui Passaglia.

Those who make us sing and dance also appeared on the list, including Bryan Adams, Jann Arden, Michael Bublé, David Foster, Matthew Good, Guujaw, Bill Henderson, Sarah McLachlan, Bif Naked and Dal Richards. We also had actors, some who have left us (Raymond Burr and Cory Monteith) and others who still make us laugh (Ryan Reynolds and Seth Rogen).

When we asked British Columbians to describe what makes our province unique, words such as beautiful, nature, scenery, geography, mountains, environment, and green were used the most. We go to No. 22 to find something related to our economy: the word expensive. Albertans, in stark contrast, used words such as hard-working, opportunity, economy, and entrepreneurial in their Top 20.

So, if we’re all about beauty and our neighbours to the east are all about work, will we find a long list of businesspeople in Alberta’s most-admired list? Well, no. There is not a single entrepreneur in Alberta’s Top 20.

In British Columbia, once we remove the names of icons, politicians, relatives, sports heroes and artists, we are left with a unique list of people who built the province with their entrepreneurial expertise and made a name for themselves.

The chairman of Canada’s largest privately held company, Jim Pattison, is No. 5 on the list of most-admired British Columbians, by far the highest-ranking entrepreneur, but definitely not the only one. Several branches of business were represented on the list, including real estate (David Lam and Jack Poole), mining (Edgar Kaiser), finance (Milton Wong), food (Nat Bailey), apparel (Chip Wilson), media (Peter Legge), retail (Tong Louie) and forestry (Irving Barber and William Sauder).

It could also be argued two of the sportsmen on the list (Linden and Nash) are also admired for branching into the realm of personal fitness. There was even a vote cast for Bob Erb, who gave away his $25-million lottery jackpot.

From a quantitative standpoint, these businessmen will not come close to matching the influence and name recognition of Terry Fox. But, qualitatively, residents felt they are deserving of their foremost admiration, showing that our province is also a land of opportunity, even if we choose to focus on nature and beauty when we are asked about what makes B.C. unique.

The biggest contrast on our most-admired” lists in Western Canada was the dissimilar relationship we have with our politicians and our business leaders. Albertans effortlessly expressed deep respect for the politicians who established the policies that allowed the province to thrive while others faltered, but had a tough time mentioning even one entrepreneur they admire. British Columbians do not appear to credit governments of any slant for free enterprise success, and hold those private individuals who created jobs and wealth in high regard.

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