Forests, Power and Policy

The Legacy of Ray Williston

Eileen Williston

and Betty Keller

As education minister, Ray Williston introduced the idea of university education for teachers, among other then-radical innovations. As minister of lands and forests, he had his greatest impact. From the mega-power projects to improved forestry practices, all major industrial developments in interior and northern BC during the 1950s and 1960s had Williston’s stamp on them.

He oversaw the building of the Bennett Dam on the Peace River and subsequent flooding of the valley behind it — now called Williston Lake — and the flooding of the Arrow Lake and displacement of many people in the Kootenays, but he was a man of his times and was determined to pull rural British Columbia into the modern era.