Martyn Brown: In tribute to Jack Weisgerber, one of B.C.’s best-ever elected public servants

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      On Saturday. I learned via a tribute tweet from B.C. Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon about the sad passing of my former boss and friend Jack Weisgerber. He died on Friday (June 3) in North Vancouver at age 81 with his family at his side.

      With permission, I have reproduced below the version of Jack’s obituary that Bruce Hallsor forwarded to the media on behalf of the Weisgerber family.

      I could easily write a book highlighting Jack’s remarkable political career and all that he accomplished, especially in advancing reconciliation, opening up the North and rural B.C. to economic development, and championing direct democracy. But for now, this will have to suffice as my personal reflection on who he was and what he meant to me.

      As CTV reported, it didn’t take long for the tributes to pour in for the widely beloved former MLA for Peace River South, who served from 1986 to 2001 as a member of the Social Credit and B.C. Reform parties prior to winding up his elected tenure as an independent.

      It was a long time ago, I know. Ancient history for most B.C. voters.

      But Jack will long be remembered by so many people whose lives he touched and who he helped so much. Especially in his elected capacities.

      Under premiers Vander Zalm and Johnson he served as minister of state for the Northeast and Nechako, as minister of energy, mines and petroleum pesources, and as B.C.'s first minister of Native affairs. 

      Following the 1991 provincial election that reduced the mighty Socred party to a seven-seat, third-party rump group, Jack served for almost two years as its interim party leader.

      After Grace McCarthy’s 1994 by-election loss as Social Credit leader to the B.C. Liberals’ Mike de Jong in Matsqui, Jack bolted to join and then lead the fledgling B.C. Reform Party.

      Four Socred MLAs followed him, giving the Reformers official party status, but only two of them won their seats in the 1996 general election.

      It was during that those years in the 1990s that I had the privilege of working as Jack’s top political staffer. Fortunately, I was well supported in that capacity by our small, but incredibly talented caucus staff, which included Mr. Hallsor.

      Even after I left his caucus staff in 1996 and was subsequently hired in 1998 to serve as Gordon Campbell’s chief political adviser, my friendship with Jack blossomed.

      We spent many wonderful hours together skiing the slopes of Mt. Washington, trolling the Salish Sea for salmon and halibut, and dining out with our spouses. One of my fondest memories was the summer adventure we shared a couple years earlier, drifting around Shuswap Lake on a rented houseboat, along with his other caucus colleagues and their wives.

      Bit by bit, however, we went our separate ways as I was increasingly subsumed by my job as Campbell’s chief of staff, with Jack also being mercifully free of the political life that had demanded so much of him and his family over the previous 15 years.

      We became estranged over the next two decades, rarely bumping into each other during his stints under the Campbell government as a B.C. Hydro director and as a B.C. Treaty commissioner.

      Indeed, the last time I recall talking to him in person was at a media event to advance the Site C project, back in 2010—a project he helped shepherd as an independent contractor before rejoining the B.C. Hydro board in 2014.

      Suffice it to say, Jack was not impressed with my criticisms of the Christy Clark government, which he so publicly supported in the 2013 election.

      He was likely more than a little disappointed and dismayed by my vocal support for the NDP under Adrian Dix and John Horgan—a party whose ideology he strongly and consistently opposed as a true-blue progressive conservative who was anything but a social conservative.

      Weirdly, perhaps, the harsh reality of that unsatisfactory trajectory in our relationship made the news of his untimely passing hurt even more.

      It hit me like a ton of bricks, instantly flooding me with myriad memories of our close comraderie, as in a silent movie from yesteryear that was mostly marked by profound joy, gratitude, and even love. Not that I ever communicated those sentiments to him as I now wish I had.

      In politics, friends often fall out over partisan realignments, as I know better than most, having repeatedly wished that outcome largely on myself over the years. Mostly without regrets, I should add.

      Beyond that, however, as is so often the case with those in politics whose lives and identities are so defined and consumed by their vocation—as Jack’s and mine were for so long—it’s too easy to become disconnected and even alienated from friends when you come to realize that you’ve essentially lost the only glue that always bound you together.

      Which in our case was our mutual interest in aspiring to new political heights that filled our days and lives with potent meaning and shared enterprise as imagined partisan warriors under a common flag for greater public good.

      As long as Jack and I were partners in political mime, as it were, we were thick as thieves travelling endlessly across the province, talking about public policy, strategizing how to lead and build the Socred and B.C. Reform parties, and generally learning the hard art of politics.

      We spent so many hours and days working with one another, writing and rehearsing speeches, analyzing legislation, listening to others, exploring solutions, and sharing ideas to tackle societal needs and problems.

      Together we attended countless party events, often followed by late night pizzas or gabfests that allowed us to vent and unwind in earnest appreciation of the privilege we shared in being able to make some significant positive difference for the betterment of B.C.

      The pursuit of the Holy Grail, as it were, that made most work feel like play and somehow superior to almost anything else we could imagine doing with our lives.

      To say Jack taught me a lot is a risible understatement. 

      He taught me so much through his example of what a real leader can and should be, despite his acknowledged shortcomings as a guy who never really yearned to lead a party or even fully fathomed all he stood to contribute in that role.

      Fact is, I was humbled by all those qualities and attributes that he possessed, which I so lacked by comparison.

      Most notably, his innate decency, compassion, empathy, honesty, and integrity. Which always guided his resolve to elevate the public interest ahead of his own private interest. As such, he was a true prince of a politician that B.C. was lucky to have in cabinet and in opposition.

      Jack was above all, a loving family man who was utterly dedicated to his wife, daughters, and grandchildren. They were always what mattered most to him, never politics or the pursuit of power, passionate as he was about shaping public policy and using his elected offices to usher in a more prosperous, inclusive, and responsive government that would make his kids proud. 

      True, he was a reluctant and most unlikely leader who was never a great orator, visionary, or retail politician with a Rolodex to match. But he was always an exceptionally principled and exemplary public servant in the broadest sense of that word.

      He was always driven to make B.C. better and willing to lead as need be when pressed into service, unafraid to fail and ever optimistic about the value of responsible government in fighting to forge a more hopeful future for all British Columbians.

      Which is why all of those who worked with him or knew him, regardless of their political stripe, would all tell you: Jack earned universal respect by the force and consistency of his example that was defined by his abiding mirth, humility, and humanity.

      He was affable and engaging, but essentially a loner and an introvert—not at all a “party” person, in any sense of that word—who nevertheless won legions of fans by his selfless concern for enriching the lives of others.

      He inspired many more people than he would have ever imagined, let alone given himself credit for.

      In many ways, he was the gold standard for what all who seek elected office should aspire to be: a truthful, down-to-Earth paragon of virtues in short political supply that should matter more to all voters in casting their ballots—in contrast to the lesser mortals we so often elect at every level of government.

      Statement on Jack Weisgerber’s passing from his family

      It is with great sadness that I advise of the passing of Jack Weisgerber (John Sylvester Weisgerber) on June 3, 2022, surrounded by his family in North Vancouver.

      Jack was an upstanding community leader for more than 60 years. He was a member of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly for Peace River South from October 1986 until May 16, 2001. He has been an exemplary citizen, politician, businessman and family man. In the early 70s, Jack moved his family from Alberta to Dawson Creek, B.C. where he ran a small business and became an active member of the community. He then served as the Regional Economic Development Commissioner for the Peace River Regional District. He volunteered for many years as the President of the Dawson Creek Fall Fair Board, a major event in the community. His community service also includes being the President and Director of the Rotary Club of Dawson Creek. Jack continued to volunteer throughout his life. During this time Jack lived on a farm raising and training Conamara ponies and horses and taking his daughters to horse shows. He was involved with the Gyro Club for many years where he enjoyed the comradery and social gatherings of the members. He was an avid skier and fisherman and took the family on many great adventures, which we will always treasure.

      He is survived by his wife of 60 years Judy, his daughter Pam Haglof and son-in-law Dale Haglof, son-in-law Julian Wooldridge as well as three grandsons Josh, Luke, and Cole, one granddaughter Jemma, and his brother Richard. He is predeceased by his daughter Joanne Wooldridge and his sisters Lorna and Patricia.

      Jack was first elected to the British Columbia legislature in 1986 as the Social Credit Party of British Columbia candidate for Peace River South. He served in the Social Credit government in several posts including Minister of State for Nechako and Northeast as the Minister of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources, and as British Columbia's very first Minister of Native Affairs. This position was very important to him as he fostered relationships between the First Nations Community and the government. In the 1991 election, he was one of only seven SoCred candidates to win re-election. This re-election speaks to the great ties and respect his constituents had for him. Jack then became interim leader of the party, and then leader of the BC Reform Party, under which banner he was re-elected in 1996.

      After leaving politics, he was appointed to the board of BC Hydro from 2001 until 2007 and then served again in that position from July 2014 to July 2018. He was also a member of the British Columbia Treaty Commission, where he was chair of the Finance Committee. After retirement Jack and Judy became snowbirds where Jack enjoyed playing pool, shuffleboard, lawn bowling, playing poker and hiking. Jack made it a point to go for a walk every day possible.

      In keeping with his modesty, Jack did not wish to have a large public funeral.  His family will gather privately to celebrate and remember his life. 

      For information, please contact Bruce Hallsor at

      Martyn Brown was former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff, the top strategic adviser to three provincial party leaders, and a former deputy minister of tourism, trade, and investment. He also served as the B.C. Liberals' public campaign director in 2001, 2005, and 2009, and in addition to his other extensive campaign experience, he was the principal author of four election platforms. Contact him via email at