McBride, Sir Richard (1870-1917)

Sir Richard McBride was born in New Westminster, B.C. to a family of Irish ancestry. He attended Dalhousie University in Halifax before taking his B.C. bar exams in 1892. Six years later he was elected to the B.C. legislature and, five years after that, he became premier—the first B.C.-born premier and at thirty-two the youngest. Up to the time he became premier, the divisions in B.C. politics revolved around personalities and issues. McBride introduced party politics to the province by identifying his government as Conservative and aligning it with the national Conservative party then in opposition. McBride was an exclusionist whose government passed immigration acts modeled on legislation in force in Natal, South Africa, and designed to keep Asian immigrants out of B.C. Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s Liberal government in Ottawa disallowed these acts every time McBride’s government brought one forward; but after the Vancouver anti-Asian riot, Laurier took steps to check immigration from India and Japan—as McBride wished. McBride was also a railway promoter who presided over a great expansion of the B.C. economy. He made a number of trips to London representing B.C. interests and achieved a friendly relationship with Winston Churchill, then Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. McBride resigned as premier in ill-health in 1915 and died in 1917 while serving as B.C.’s agent in London.

Sources: William Raynor, British Columbia’s Premiers in Profile: The Good, the Bad, the Transient (Surrey, B.C.: Heritage House, 2000); S.W. Jackman, Portraits of the Premiers: An Informal History of British Columbia (Surrey, B.C.: Grey’s Publishing, 1969).