Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pam Barrett RIP

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Pam Barrett former leader of the Alberta NDP passed away this morning after a long battle with cancer. She will be missed but her fight goes on.

In 1997 I worked with Pam on the election campaign to get the NDP back into the leg after the disasterous election of 1993 saw the party wiped off the map. With a populist and popular leaders like Pam, and in a province driven by the politics of personality, we did changed the face of NDP politics forever.

As the unpaid volunteer Co Chair of the Party's Strategy and Communications committee we made the election about Pam. Our slogan was Pam Barrett and the NDP. Never before had the party done such a thing. Secondly we ran for opposition, all the old gray beards said it couldn't be done, you run for government, but we ran as the 'effective' opposition.

Finally we launched the first cyber campaign in the Province, with web pages, internet use and email campaigns as well as using regular media. It was one of the first cyber campaigns in North America.

With little money we elected not only Pam in Highlands but Raj Pannu in Edmonton Strathcona. Two seats which the NDP have held ever since.

Yes an anarchist ran a Leninist cult of personality campaign for the NDP. And it worked. Worked so well the party adopted it nationally as you can see with Jack Layton. And they also adopted the strategy of running as an effective opposition federally.

She had arisen out of the Anti-war left influenced by the Trotskyist movement as well as the British New Left around Tony Benn and Ralph Miliband.

Unknown to many but her closest confidantes, Pam was also a pagan and we celebrated many a solstice and other special days in her Riverdale backyard.

May the Goddess embrace her daughter in the wings of her darkness.

You know how well you have done in life when your enemies praise you on your passing.

"I’ll miss her": Ralph Klein

To her admirers, Pam Barrett was feisty, fearless and passionate. To a legion of people she helped, from the underprivileged in her Edmonton Highlands riding to the unrepresented Alberta women who followed provincial politics, she was a hero.

Barrett, the former leader of the Alberta New Democrats, passed away late Monday night at age 54 from cancer at the Cross Cancer Institute. Her legacy is admirable, said longtime friend and colleague Ray Martin.

Cancer claims New Democrat dynamo Pam Barrett
Canada.com, Canada - 4 hours ago
EDMONTON - Pam Barrett, a three-term New Democrat member of the Alberta legislature who also served as party leader, died late Monday at age 54, ...

NDP stalwart in Alberta, Pam Barrett, dies of cancer at age 54
The Canadian Press

NDP Leader Brian Mason remembers Pam Barrett

Here is the text of NDP Leader Brian Mason's statement on the passing of Pam Barrett:

I was saddened today to hear about the passing of Pam Barrett, former leader of Alberta's NDP.

Pam will be remembered most for her fighting spirit. She was always standing up on behalf of the little person in Alberta, the person who was passed by.

She was a voice for the voiceless.

Albertans who were there will never forget her defense of the legal rights of individuals who had been involuntarily sterilized by the government; she forced the government to back down and it was her finest hour.

Her commitment to the NDP was unquestioned. She spent a large portion of her career serving our party as staff, and MLA, and as leader. Her feisty performance in the legislature is an inspiration to us to this day.

Pam's public service to our province made Alberta a better, more humane place. We are forever in her debt.

Statement from NDP Leader Jack Layton on death of Pam Barrett
Tue 22 Jan 2008 |

I was deeply saddened to learn of Pam Barrett’s death today. On behalf of all New Democrats, I would like to extend my most heartfelt condolences to her family and friends.

Albertans – and all Canadians – will remember Pam as a hard-working, impassioned and witty NDP Leader and MLA. She punched above her weight in the legislature and effected important changes for everyday Albertans – even when the odds were stacked against her. In everything that she did, Pam was driven to make life better for the less fortunate.

Pam will be missed, but she has left her stamp on Alberta and the changes that she made will continue to be felt for years to come.


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Larry Gambone said...

Sorry about Pam. Although I was in Quebec at the time, I did hear about her and putting the NDP on the political map in Alberta. Isn't it odd though that Alberta NDP leaders tend to die early?

Hawk said...

I first met Pam when she asked me to appear on the Halloween edition of her CFRN television show to talk about Wicca. She said she didn't know much about the religion, and that made it interesting to her. She said that she thought others would be interested too.

She was right. The phone calls pored in. all of them (save one, later in the week) positive. We stayed in the studio for half an hour after the show ended, answering calls and questions. It was the largest response they had received on any topic to that date. The calls came in for days afterwards. One woman (who hadn't seen the show, and lived out of the broadcast area) called to complain about "the witch", but everyone else who called was friendly, polite, and interested.

That show led to a friendship that lasted for years, and she often had our group over to her house to observe the Sabbats. We lost touch when she moved to Vancouver. I spoke to her from time to time once she moved back to Edmonton, but we drifted mostly, and I hadn't spoken to her in months.

I'm saddened to hear of her passing, as the world needs more Pam Barrets, not fewer. We are all poorer for her loss.