Grace McCarthy rides the new SkyTrain Canada line in 2011, accompanied by former transportation minister Blair Lekstrom (red shirt) and former cabinet minister Bud Smith (grey suit). (Flickr)

B.C. political legend Grace McCarthy dies

Remembered for rebuilding Social Credit, launching SkyTrain

Former MLA and deputy premier Grace McCarthy will be remembered many ways, from her service in W.A.C. Bennett’s cabinet to the launch of SkyTrain and Expo 86 in the subsequent Social Credit government of Bill Bennett.

McCarthy died May 24 at her Vancouver home, age 90, her family confirmed in a statement. She was being treated for a brain tumour.

McCarthy was credited with rebuilding the Social Credit Party after the elder Bennett was defeated by the NDP in 1972. As party president, she toured the province to rebuild membership and set the stage for Bill Bennett’s 10-year term, where McCarthy served as deputy premier and a senior cabinet minister.

McCarthy is best remembered as tourism minister, bringing Expo 86 to Vancouver and as minister for transit where she chose the name SkyTrain for the city’s new automated transit system.

When Bill Bennett retired, McCarthy was seen as a leading contender to succeed him. But at the 1986 convention in Whistler, Social Credit delegates chose Bill Vander Zalm, who resigned in disgrace in 1991.

McCarthy lost a byelection in 1994 that signalled not only the end of the Social Credit Party but the beginning of the B.C. Liberal rise to power. She was defeated by Mike de Jong in the former constituency of Matsqui, starting his long political career that now includes finance minister and B.C. Liberal house leader.

McCarthy received the Order of Canada in 1992 and the Order of B.C. in 2004. She was first elected as MLA for Vancouver-Little Mountain in 1966.

Born in Vancouver, McCarthy launched her first business at age 17, cashing in a $50 war bond and opening a flower shop called Grayce Florists that grew into five stores.