The Turbulent ’70s

The inaugural decade of BCBusiness publishing was ripe with excitement – from newspaper strikes to riots, the turbulent '70s provided plenty of magazine-story fodder.

Business in the 1970s | BCBusiness

The inaugural decade of BCBusiness publishing was ripe with excitement – from newspaper strikes to riots, the turbulent ’70s provided plenty of magazine-story fodder.

The ’70s in B.C. were the best of times and the worst of times. On the good news front, there was Uncle Ben’s beer – the stubby bottles bearing the bearded visage of home-grown entrepreneur Ben Ginter gave British Columbians a brew they could call their own. The bad news was that beer would fall victim to one of the many labour disputes that marked the decade: in the infamous dry summer of 1978, a dispute between the major brewers and the Brewery Workers Union would send Lower Mainland drinkers streaming across the border to stock up on flats of Budweiser.

The unrest extended beyond breweries. There were also strikes at Vancouver’s two major daily newspapers – twice, at the beginning of the decade and again at the end. And then there were the riots, first in Kitsilano, then escalating to the Gastown riot of 1971 that is now memorialized in the Stan Douglas photo mural on display at the former Woodward’s site.

Then there was that brief hiccup in B.C. politics from 1972 to 1975, when NDP leader Dave Barrett interrupted the Bennett reign, which had begun when W.A.C. Bennett took office in 1952 and ended when his son, Bill Bennett, left office in 1986. Barrett left his mark in those three years, creating the Insurance Corp. of B.C. and the Agricultural Land Reserve, as well as introducing question period and a written record of daily proceedings to the legislature.


1973: The Insurance Corp. of B.C. is established as a provincial Crown corporation, an initiative spearheaded by Premier Dave Barrett. TODAY: By July 2011, ICBC nabbed the number nine spot on BCBusiness’s list of the province’s Top 100 companies, its revenue over $3 billion.

1973: Business in B.C. publishes its first Top 50 list in July. MacMillan Bloedel tops the list, with revenue of $968 million. Rounding out the top five: Woodward Stores, Cominco, Kelly Douglas and Crown Zellerbach.

1974: B.C. Tel announces plans to build “the ski boot:” new headquarters at Boundary and Kingsway, to be completed in 1976.

1976: B.C. Business reports that two B.C. wineries hope to break the $3-per-bottle barrier, the point above which no B.C table wine ever has been sold consistently. B.C. wineries accounted for 65.3 per cent of wine sales in the province in 1975, led by Andres (23%), Ste. Michelle (19.4%) and Calona (15.4%)

1977: MacMillan Bloedel and Kelly Douglas are the first two B.C. companies to break the $1-billion revenue mark on the B.C. Business Top 50 Companies list. Today a billion is old hat: 34 companies would break the $1-billion mark on the 2011 list, with Telus topping out at $9.8 billion.

1978: The Jim Pattison Group is born as Jimmy Pattison takes Neonex private. The conglomerate includes companies in neon and plastic signs, recreational vehicles, helicopter service, magazine distribution, paint and floor coverings and retail food distribution. Jimmy Pattison had acquired a controlling interest in the public company in 1967.

1979: Every resident of B.C. is eligible to receive five free shares of B.C. Resources Investment Corp., a former Crown corporation controlling a number of B.C. resource companies. Valued at $6 apiece at the time, the shares would become virtually worthless in May 1995.