MAIR, Rafe

Author Tags: Journalism

Former CKNW talk show radio host, Social Credit cabinet minister and lawyer Rafe Mair of North Vancouver moved to CKBD on the radio dial in 2004. He practiced law for 15 years in Vancouver and Kamloops before entering politics for five years with the provincial government of Bill Bennnett. Since he began writing at age fifty, he has won the Michener Canadian Media Award, the Hutchison Award for Lifetime Contribution to BC Journalism and has been inducted into the Broadcast Hall of Fame.

Around 2015 he stopped contributing to the online publication The Tyee after a ten-year stint and started writing for the Vancouver Observer on-line instead. He has been active in civic politics since he moved to Lions Bay, located between West Vancouver and Squamish.

In 2015, he wrote I Remember Horse Buns, largely about growing up in and around Vancouver, "the best place in the world." It describes his youthful adventures around Howe Sound and Indian Arm, as well as Stanley Park and other coastal environs.

"I deal a lot with what it was like to be a kid back during World War II," he wrote on his blog, "the standards we were expected to meet and what happened to us when we didn’t meet them. The comic books we read, the slogans we heard, the radio shows, are all part of it. I also talk about some of the things that occurred on the national and international scene when I was a kid such as the now conveniently forgotten Gouzenko case in Ottawa which actually started the Cold War."

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Rafe: A Memoir
Still Ranting: More Rants, Raves and Recollections & Rafe: A memoir
Radio Daze: 25 Years of Winning Awards and Getting Fired in Canadian Radio


I Remember Horse Buns (Promontory Press 2015) 978-1-987857-25-2 $14.95.
Radio Daze (Promontory Press)
What the Bleep is Going on Here? (Harbour, 2008)
Over the Mountains: More Thoughts on Things that Matter (Harbour, 2006)
Hard Talk (Harbour, 2005)
Rafe: A Memoir (Harbour, 2004)
Canada: Is Anyone Listening? (Key Porter, 1998)
More Rants, Raves and Recollections (Whitecap)
Rants, Raves and Recollections (Whitecap)
The Last Cast (Hancock 1995)

[BCBW 2015] "Journalism" "Fishing"

Still Ranting: More Rants, Raves and Recollections

Quote the raver evermore. Open-liner Rafe Mair returns with Still Ranting: More Rants, Raves and Recollections (Whitecap $19.95). The tireless radio host is becoming increasingly vital to B.C. as the fear factor muzzles and chills his peers in television and print. 1-55285-401-9 –[BCBW AUTUMN 2002]

Rants, Raves and Recollections (Whitecap $19.95)

Vancouver-born Rafe Mair has followed his musings in Canada: Is Anyone Listening? with Rants, Raves and Recollections (Whitecap $19.95). “The best place to keep it, I’m sure,” he says, “is in the loo where, especially as the years go by, it takes a bit longer.”

Mair’s passions include fishing, reading, family life and western alienation. The former Socred MLA first joined CKNW in 1984. Here’s a ‘rant’ that supports Mair’s contention that B.C. separation is not at all out of the question. He reflects on his experiences as chairman of B.C.’s Cabinet Constitutional Committee for three years:

"When I started visiting Ontario on a regular basis for a while twice or three times a month I was told by those knowledgeable sorts that thought the entire wisdom of the country abided in the Toronto Globe and Mail, that I would come to see that Ontarians and especially Torontonians really not only loved us but understood us. Well, I spent nearly half a decade putting that proposition to the test.

My contacts throughout this epiphany were Bill Davis—Buttermilk Billy—the premier of Ontario whom I watched at close range through endless conferences as well as his senior staff and political colleagues. I spent hours closeted with Ontario politicians and officials during the run-up to the patriation of the constitution. I may not have gotten to know the man on the street too well, but I sure as hell got to know the people who ran his affairs.

I went to Ontario convinced that central Canadians generally, and Ontarians specifically, knew little of British Columbia and cared even less. Not only did I not change my mind, my suspicions were emphatically confirmed. The bald truth is that Ontarians only consider British Columbia as a source of raw materials and chronic bitchers. They consider B.C. part of a seamless “West,” which, of course, it is not. It was only very recently that the Toronto Globe and Mail, in its polls, stopped lumping B.C. in with the Prairies as if what was happening in The Pas, Manitoba, bore some relationship with Sooke, British Columbia...

This, of course, has very important ramifications for Canada. Ontario, with a quarter of the Senate and, through its perennial government caucus, control of the House of Commons, simply cannot understand why B.C. sees Senate reform as a major issue. It is utterly beyond that province’s ability (John Nunziata, MP, excepting) to understand why we chafe under a system where 50 percent plus one of the House of Commons has 100 percent of the power. Nunziata is an exception perhaps because he was born and raised in B.C. before moving to Toronto.

Ontarians, generally speaking, see the country as an ongoing saga between Upper Canada and Lower Canada. In their view, solving that debate-or at least keeping it going without Lower Canada dropping out-is what Canada is all about and the other provinces aside from Quebec should simply stay on the sidelines and cheer Ontario on. There isn’t the slightest understanding of B.C. history. Ontarians don’t know and don’t care that, unlike the Prairie provinces, B.C. entered Confederation as a self-governing colony and did so after negotiating as a high contracting party with the five provinces that then made up the country. They don’t understand that the deal wasn’t to enter a two-party partnership, Quebec on the one hand and the rest led by Ontario on the other. British Columbia would never have accepted this “two founding nation” concept of the country and doesn’t for a second accept this notion now.

Much of Canada’s recent constitutional history reflects this central Canadian misunderstanding of Canada as seen through the eyes of British Columbians. Meech Lake and the Charlottetown Accord (so called) would have perpetuated central Canadian hegemony over the country through agreements that only faintly sugarcoated that fact. British Columbians by nearly 70 percent demonstrated that they understood this when they voted in the Charlottetown referendum of October 26, 1992.

So Ontario and Quebec don’t understand how British Columbia came into being. Because some Quebecers and some Ontarians did indeed move to B.C. in the early years, it is wrongly assumed that the province was populated by some great east-west migration such as occurred in the United States. In fact, B.C. was mostly populated from the south and the west, initially, and thereafter by people who arrived directly from the United Kingdom. The Ontario version of the “typical” Canadian has never lived in British Columbia. Also much misunderstood is the geography of the province. I well remember attending a constitutional conference in the 1970s where there was a huge wooden map of Canada on the wall. Missing were the Queen Charlotte Islands! When I questioned my hosts, they were amazed that I would be sensitive to the fact that these great islands, which carry so much native and non-native history, should be expunged from our geography. Again, in itself, perhaps no big deal. But cumulatively, little things like this do betray an astonishing ignorance of Canada’s third largest province. (In fact, B.C. will overtake Quebec as the second largest about midway through the twenty-first century, which helps explain why Ontario and Quebec especially want preserved forever the status quo.) Central Canadians would do well to fly over B.C. and see how everything—its mountains, rivers, and islands—all flow north-south so they don’t see it as such a mystery why British Columbian thinking also goes the same way. Central Canadians would also be well advised to try to understand the notion of Cascadia, which, while it will never become a political reality, may well express British Columbia’s economic future.

There is, in my opinion, a grave danger that British Columbia will leave Confederation. It certainly will do so if Quebec goes. But it may go anyway. As political decentralization around the world paradoxically goes hand and hand with economic unions, British Columbia may well find it in its interests to leave Canada and go it alone in NAFTA.

This sort of thing doesn’t happen by revolution, armed or otherwise. It comes when regions feel unrepresented and uncared for and British Columbia is both of those. It may well be that after another decade or so of chafing under central Canadian absolute rule plus central Canadian indifference, British Columbia will become, what it might have been in the first place but for the threat of American “Manifest Destiny,” an independent nation with friendly neighbours to both the east and south.

Then it will no longer be necessary for people in central Canada to ask, what the hell’s the matter with those people out there? What’s the matter and what always has been the matter—as I found out for myself—is that “back there” they really don’t give a damn about us. -- Rafe Mair



I Remember Horsebuns
Review (2016)

REVIEW: I Remember Horsebuns
(North Saanich: Promontory Press, 2015) $14.95 978-1-987857-25-2
by Rafe Mair
Reviewed by Ron Dart

More fox than hedgehog

Isaiah Berlin, in his oft quoted, “The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy’s View of History” (1953), took as his guiding theme a passage from Archilochus: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” The fox rambles across vast and varied terrain, often in haste and a hurry, whereas the hedgehog burrows ever down and deep.

Rafe Mair’s I Remember Horsebuns is very much the path of a fox, dashing hither, thither, and yon, seeing this, seeing that and reporting on the sights seen. That reference to horsebuns—fragrant horse droppings that once littered city streets—lets us know Mair will be revisiting bygone Vancouver from the 1930s-1950s.

Animated, theatrical, and liberty-loving, I Remember Horsebuns gives us journalist and broadcaster Rafe Mair at his best as he swashbuckles through his younger years while also shuttling forward to some of the main political, economic, and ecological issues that beset us today and likely into the future. Fast-paced, short chapters guide the reader into Mair’s layered life journey and pre-occupations, many often quite unknown until this autobiographical missive left the publishing tarmac.

There is, of course, Rafe Mair, the lawyer, Social Credit MLA and radio host for many a controversial year, owner of the bombastic pose, public persona, and posture. There is also Rafe Mair, the private person. In I Remember Horsebuns many a curtain is pulled back and many delightful and tender moments are revealed.

The Introduction can be off-putting for Canadians with more of a nationalist bent as Mair makes it abundantly clear that he favours and tips his hat more to the American dream and ideals, while recognizing their brutality, than to what he sees as rather boring Canadian history. Perhaps he could use some better coaching in the life, times, and complex personality of Canada.

And despite his tendency to view Western Canada as a victim of central Canadian oppression, much of the book simply revels in the Mair persona: the public figure of glorious rants and idiosyncratic ideological excursions.

There can be no doubt that Mair’s faithful and much needed ecological vision (he gives a supportive nod to Paul Watson) has much to commend it, as do his sensitive insights on Indigenous peoples, the salmon industry (which he sees as dominated by short sightedness), the energy industry, hydroelectric dams, and his compassionate support of animal rights.

These varied positions make Mair a most compelling political commentator who, in his career as in his retirement, transcends the tribalism of the right and left – though he did once serve in the Social Credit Party as a fifth column of sorts. Grace McCarthy’s Foreword is well worth the read, if for no other reason than to turn the ear to two comrades who were once in the thick of the political fray and still have many a tale yet to tell.

Mair provides vivid memories of carefree explorations, school life, fishing and boating expeditions, sports, films, music legends, and neighbourhoods that are no more -- as well as some startling reminders of an era when casual racism and a post-colonial Anglo-centric establishment culture tended to dominate.

And Mair is in fine literary fettle, dashing from chapter to chapter, as he covers life in Vancouver and on the West Coast in the middle to late years of the last century, his days as an MLA and cabinet minister, and his meditations on the poignant political issues we face.

But I Remember Horsebuns is an autobiographical excursion in the style of a fox. If readers expect deft and rapier-like insights, they will be rewarded and delighted. If hedgehog burrowing is hoped for, disappointment will reign.

Regardless, I Remember Horsebuns, Rafe Mair’s tenth book, is worth reading both as a pleasurable diversion and for its spotlights on an earlier British Columbia.

When reading the last few chapters, I was reminded of one of Stephen Leacock’s final essays, “Three Score and Ten.” The autumn years are upon the author, and his task is knowing how to live through such a weakening season of the journey. Behind him is his full past, when much has been seen and done, and before him is the future, when uncertainty is the reality and most of the leaves have fallen from the tree.

What remains when all the strong and pliant leaves of holding court and dominating the front stage have fallen from the branches, and the reality of human mortality presses ever closer? There are, in the final few chapters, some tender and suggestive thoughts to ponder by way of bringing the book to a close.


Reviewer Ron Dart of Abbotsford has taught in the department of political science/philosophy/religious studies at University of the Fraser Valley since 1990, undertaken Ph.D studies at McMaster University and served on staff with Amnesty International in the 1980s in B.C. He is a leading authority on the subject of Canadian High–Red Toryism, and some of its most significant thinkers, including Stephen Leacock and George Grant. His 25th book The North American High Tory Tradition (American Anglican Press, 2016) has a foreword from Jonathan M. Paquette of the University of St Andrews Institute of Intellectual History. It was celebrated with a public event sponsored by American Anglican Press and the George Grant Society.