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Three Dutch-Canadian MLA’s appointed to cabinet after Liberal sweep province

Support growing for proportional representation

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

VICTORIA, British Columbia - Newly installed B.C. premier Gordon Campbell whose Liberal Party recently won 77 of the 79 electoral districts in the province’s recent general election, has appointed three Dutch-Canadians to his cabinet of 28. Minister of Forests is lawyer and Abbotsford-Mt. Lehman MLA Michael de Jong. Abbotsford-Clayburn MLA John van Dongen, a dairyman, heads Agriculture, Food and Fisheries while entrepreneur and former Whistler mayor Ted Nebbeling (West Vancouver-Garibaldi) as Minister of State is responsible for Community Charter. All three already served as opposition critics in the BC Liberal Party in the previous Legislature.

New Democratic Party whip Gerard Janssen who represented the Vancouver Island district of Alberni-Qualicum for three five-year terms was swept out of office. The victorious Liberals took nearly 60 percent of the popular vote. The defeated New Democrats dropped by nearly half to just over 20 percent. The Green Party was a strong third. Also-runs in some districts were the Unity and Reform parties.

Former Chilliwack mayor John Les overwhelmingly took the new Chilliwack-Sumas electoral district for the Liberals. Les’ predecessor as Chilliwack mayor, John Jansen, also was elected as MLA. He served as Minister of Finance in the cabinet of then premier Wm. VanderZalm.

De Jong, Van Dongen and Les all were raised in Dutch immigrant families in B.C. while Nebbeling as an immigrant entrepreneur ran businesses in the ski resort town of Whistler. On municipal council he charted the community towards international acclaim.

The North Island district sent entrepreneur Rod Sanderson Visser to the legislature. Sanderson Visser’s family has resided on Vancouver Island for over a century.

The socially conservative Unity Party, co-founded by former premier VanderZalm, also attracted Dutch-Canadian candidates. George Hoytema ran in Surrey-Cloverdale, Jim Hessels in Richmond Centre and Garret Golhof in Peace River South. None of the UP candidates were elected.

The first Dutch-Canadian to enter BC Legislature was Dorothy Biersteker Steeves. She represented the CCF and first was elected in the late 1930s. Adam Swart Vedder, a Schenectady, NY, born of Dutch colonial lineage who had settled in Chilliwack, served in the legislature around 1900.

Meanwhile, electoral reform proponent Fair Voting BC, a group headed by chartered accountant John Vegt, reports that a post-election poll puts public support for proportional representation at 75 percent.