Barb McLintock, a trailblazing British Columbia legislative reporter and until recently the public face of the province’s coroners service, has died from complications due to thyroid cancer. She was 68.
Ms. McLintock, or “McTick,” as colleagues affectionately called her, was one of the first women posted to the B.C. legislative press gallery. She earned a reputation as a no-nonsense journalist who quickly cut through government spin and went out of her way to help colleagues.
A black and white photo of the 1973 press gallery, which hangs in the legislature and was posted to Twitter after her death on Saturday, shows 22 men and just two women: Ms. McLintock, then with The Province, and Marjorie Nichols, then with the Vancouver Sun.
Vaughn Palmer, political columnist for the Vancouver Sun and The Province, started at the legislature in 1984 and describes Ms. McLintock as meticulous, generous and “incredibly reliable.” Colleagues say she never seemed to take notes – opting instead to knit or crochet while people spoke – but was able to recall quotes so perfectly that others would check their notes with her.
“I don’t know if you would call it a photographic memory,” Mr. Palmer said, “but she certainly had the kind of memory where she would hear people talking and be able to produce a full account of everything that was said."
Ms. McLintock served as the Victoria bureau chief for The Province for 21 years. Mike Smyth, who worked alongside Ms. McLintock in the legislature, first as a rookie correspondent for The Canadian Press and later as a columnist for The Province, remembered her generosity in sharing her encyclopedic knowledge of B.C. politics.
“She was an amazing source of tips, background, sources, phone numbers,” Mr. Smyth said. “I got a lot of column tips and leads from her, so I will always be grateful to her.”
In 2004, she began a second career with the BC Coroners Service, initially as an investigating coroner and later the agency’s first coroner of strategic programs, which included managing communications and media relations.
Her reputation for being helpful and no-nonsense followed her there. If she was unable to provide information to a journalist, she would often quietly point them to where they could find it.
“I cannot say enough about the credibility, professionalism and experience Barb brought to the coroners service,” chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a statement. “Barb was on a first-name basis with virtually every experienced journalist in the province, as well as most of the politicians.”
Her personal life was full, as well. She rode horses, sang in a choir and bird-watched. She was a Girl Guide supporter. She volunteered at book sales. She took tons of photos, mostly of nature, making calendars of her images and giving them to friends for Christmas.
“We have so many calendars she used to make us, and they would be the coolest pictures that she would take,” said long-time family friend Helen Leslie, adding that her “auntie” was funny, eccentric and “definitely her own person.”
She continued to mentor young journalists. Sean Holman, now a journalism professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said Ms. McLintock probably took “thousands” of calls from him over the years when he worked as an independent investigative journalist in Victoria.
“I didn’t have the advantages of a newsroom to guard against error and defamation,” Mr. Holman said. “If I made a mistake, I didn’t have an editor to catch it. And I would be legally responsible for it. But I did have Barb, who was always happy to read over my stories before they were published.”
Ms. McLintock retired from the BC Coroners Service in February, 2017, but returned a few months later on a part-time basis. Her thyroid cancer was recently diagnosed, according to the service.
“She was private and didn’t even tell most people she was sick until a very short time ago,” Ms. Leslie said.
B.C. Premier John Horgan posted on Twitter that “the world has lost a wonderful soul."
In one of their last conversations just a few weeks before her death, Ms. McLintock and Mr. Holman spoke of climate change and the state of politics. She mulled ways she could help make a difference.
“She was, in many ways, a crusader – as I think most of the best journalists are," Mr. Holman said. “And she was crusading until the very end.”