Former cabinet minister, broadcaster, environmentalist, and author Rafe Mair dies

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      A legendary B.C. broadcaster and environmental crusader has passed away at the age of 85.

      Rafe Mair wore many hats in his lifetime. Born and raised in Vancouver, he became a lawyer after graduating from the UBC law school, practising in Vancouver until 1968.

      That's when he moved to Kamloops, where he was elected as a Social Credit MLA in 1975 when the right-wing party came roaring back into power under its new leader, Bill Bennett.

      Mair held several cabinet posts, including health, environment, and constitutional affairs. In 1981, he suddenly quit to become a talk-show host on CJOR Radio, which was owned by Jimmy Pattison.

      When Mair's soaring ratings started eating into "Top Dog" CKNW's audience, he was snapped up by the rival station. He spent 19 years on the air with CKNW but was fired in 2003 even though the number of listeners remained exceptionally high.

      Always brash and outspoken, Mair was never afraid of taking risks as a broadcaster. He closed out his radio-hosting career on AM 600, and later did commentaries for Omni Television. 

      One of Mair's passions was fly fishing and B.C.'s wild salmon were always close to his heart. This led him to become a vociferous critic of Alcan's Kemano Completion Project, which was a scheme to divert a river that's a key tributary to the Fraser, reducing water levels. It was eventually cancelled by then premier Mike Harcourt.

      During that fight, Mair was sued by the then Progressive Conservative fisheries minister, Tom Siddon, for his outspoken comments. The case was settled out of court after a judge ordered Mair to reveal his financial situation.

      It wasn't the only defamation suit he faced. Social conservative Kari Simpson sued Mair after he likened her actions to those of Adolf Hitler and U.S. segregationist George Wallace.

      In this instance, Mair won a landmark ruling in the Supreme Court of Canada, which defined what constituted "fair comment".

      Mair was also a vocal critic of the salmon-farming industry, often giving a platform to Alexandra Morton and others who shared his views.

      He also railed against those at B.C. Hydro whom he felt were eager to dam the Fraser River (and damn the salmon) to generate hydroelectricity.

      His hard-core environmentalism may have confounded his conservative listeners at first. But over time it attracted him an even larger audience as people who never would have listened to CKNW in the past started tuning into the station.

      Since he left, CKNW has never had anyone hosting a show who could come close to matching his passion for B.C.'s river ecosystems.

      Mair was also exceptionally well read and often spoke of his love for Winston Churchill. He also disclosed to his listeners that he suffered at times with depression and was a staunch advocate for better mental-health programs.

      In later years, Mair focused his ire on B.C. Hydro's support of the Site C dam and the Crown corporation's decision to sign run-of-the-river power deals with private companies for what Mair felt were exorbitant prices.

      He also became a big supporter of the Green Party of Canada as he lived in semi-retirement in Lions Bay.

      In addition to his broadcasting career, Mair wrote several books. He was also a columnist for several publications, including the Georgia Straight.

      In his days with the Straight, he was an outspoken critic of the Charlottetown constitutional accord, which would have granted distinct-society status to Quebec. That agreement was defeated in a referendum, even though it was supported by the then prime minister, Brian Mulroney, and the premiers.

      In his final months, Mair argued that B.C. should separate from Canada. This was in response to the Trudeau government approving the Kinder Morgan pipeline, as well as other federal decisions that put B.C.'s environment at risk.

      "I am an environmentalist," Mair wrote earlier this year. "When we lose our environment, be it the extinction of a species we've never heard of, a valley sustained by its fauna, flora and water or a run of herring it is a huge tragedy. That list, as you know, is endless. Reading reports from Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd breaks the heart."

      This is why he was such an outspoken advocate for the precautionary principle, which places the onus of proof on the proponents of industrial projects to demonstrate that they won't harm the environment. Mair didn't see this principle being applied by Ottawa whether it concerned fish farms, liquefied-natural gas projects, or pipelines.

      "British Columbia, my home, has been pushed around the 85+ years I have lived, worked, served, loved, and, yes, loafed in her," he declared. "To be called a bad Canadian because I want to protect her wild life and their habitat and didn't want to assist uncaring capitalists and their captive governments to spread ruin here and elsewhere has finally become too much."

      Mair is survived by his wife Wendy as well as his children and grandchildren.