Former lieutenant-governor and long-time political stalwart Garde Gardom proved it was possible to practise politics in British Columbia’s polarized, rough-and-tumble environment without animosity or making enemies.
Unfailingly affable, with a broad, ever-present smile, Mr. Gardom spent 20 years in the B.C. legislature, winning six straight elections in Vancouver-Point Grey, as a Liberal and then a member of the Social Credit, before retiring from the political fray in 1986.
When he died this week at the age of 88, Mr. Gardom was probably one of the best-liked politicians the province has ever had.
He spent 11 years in cabinet with Bill Bennett’s Socred government, serving as attorney-general and subsequently as B.C.’s first intergovernmental relations minister during critical federal-provincial negotiations to repatriate the Canadian constitution.
Mr. Gardom was appointed lieutenant-governor in 1995, a post he held for the next six years, performing his duties with his usual down-to-earth grace and good humour. Mr. Gardom’s appointment occurred in the midst of the NDP’s 10-year administration, indicative of his reputation for fairness and respect for political opponents.
“He was impossible to dislike,” recalled former NDP MLA Bill King, who worked with Mr. Gardom when both were house leaders of their respective parties. “We had a lot of meetings. He liked a good single malt whisky, as I did. Garde was a big, happy go-lucky guy. We got along pretty well.”
Mr. King said he learned from Mr. Gardom not to “go over the top” in political debate. “He believed in being fair.”
That didn’t stop Mr. Gardom, however, from playing a key role in the pivotal 1975 election that toppled the NDP’s first government from power. Along with fellow Liberals Pat McGeer and Allan Williams, he jumped ship to join Mr. Bennett’s Social Credit party just before the campaign began, sealing the so-called free enterprise coalition that did in the New Democrats.
Nor did it stop NDP MLA Gary Lauk from taunting Mr. Gardom’s occasionally colourful wardrobe. Observed Mr. Lauk in the legislature one day: “I want to bring to the attention of the poor wretch up in Trail who is looking for his Volkswagen car seats, that I think they have now become the minister of intergovernmental affairs’ jacket.”
Premier Christy Clark said Mr. Gardom was a great British Columbian.
“I went to visit him in the hospital before the election, and he never, ever lost that mischievous spark in his eyes … He was ferocious and compassionate and lively and unafraid to chart his own path. That was Garde Gardom,” she told reporters in Victoria.
Mr. Gardom was born in Banff, but attended school in Vancouver, graduating with a law degree from the University of B.C. He married Helen Eileen Mackenzie in 1956. He leaves five children and 11 grandchildren.
With a report from Justine Hunter in Victoria