Hemingway Public House servers Missy Homan

B.C. Day is more than just a day off

B.C. was last province to get a long weekend in August - ushered in by a Surrey MLA

B.C. Day is about barbecues, beaches and backyard bocce for many Peninsula residents, but provincial politicians had other reasons for the holiday when it was introduced in 1974 by one of Surrey’s own.

Monday is B.C. Day – in a province that was last in Canada to get a long weekend in August. That changed when then-Surrey MLA Ernie Hall introduced a bill to establish the holiday.

Hall, of the ruling NDP party, said the holiday would honour B.C.’s pioneers, while others – reflecting the partisan atmosphere of the day – said the day would grant citizens freedom from socialists and give people a chance to just lighten up.

“We feel that British Columbia, like every other province, could benefit and should have a holiday around Aug. 1. We feel that the holiday should be dedicated to the pioneers who built the colony of British Columbia into the great province it is today,” Hall said in the house, according to legislative records.

Political rival Don Phillips chimed in to say he supported the bill, but it didn’t go far enough.

“There should be another section in this bill which, on this day, would give all British Columbians the freedom they had before the socialists moved in in September of 1972,” said Phillips, a Social Credit MLA.

Other MLAs said the day would allow British Columbians to celebrate the history of the province when the weather is best and to give “very serious people” a chance to enjoy a holiday.

At the end of debate, Hall concluded there was overwhelming support for a new holiday – and the bill received royal assent June 5, 1974.

One of Surrey’s current MLAs, Gordon Hogg of Surrey-White Rock, remembers when the holiday was brought.

“B.C. Day meant that we could have three-day ball tournaments. Our team would go off and play all over the province,” Hogg told Peace Arch News.

In more recent years, the long weekend has been a busy one for Hogg, volunteering with the White Rock Sea Festival and long sponsoring its annual waiter’s race. He’ll be out again on Marine Drive this Sunday at 3:30 p.m., asking the crowd B.C. trivia questions before servers compete for the “Souper” Bowl trophy.

“(It’s) celebrating B.C. Day, celebrating Marine Drive and celebrating the great restaurants we have down there. Usually there’s a pretty good crowd, and lots of fun laughing at the waiters trying to run up and down Marine Drive.”

Surrey-Panorama MLA Marvin Hunt said B.C. Day is a reminder of the “awesome privilege we have to live here.”

“B.C. Day to me, being in the middle of summer, is a time to celebrate the beauty of this province,” he said.

Boating and swimming at Crescent Beach are ways Hunt has enjoyed the long weekend.

“Swimming – way out there because the tide’s out or the tide’s coming back in – and the warming of the water. That to me is some of my great memories of the long weekends, just lay out out on the beach and soaking up sun.”

On B.C. Day, Crescent Beach will host an Instameet – an initiative by Destination BC to celebrate the holiday, and one of more than 20 planned across the province. Photographers are to gather before sunset to take photos and post them to Instagram.

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