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Remembering Rafe Mair

14 October 2017 | Email This Post Email This Post | Print This Post Print This Post

The late Rafe Mair, broadcaster, writer, environmentalist and former BC cabinet minister, is remembered by his friend and former producer Shiral Tobin, and former CKNW reporter George Garrett, with clips from interviews Mair did with host Joseph Planta.

Text of introduction by Joseph Planta:

I am Planta: On the Line, in Vancouver, at TheCommentary.ca.

Rafe Mair died this past Monday, 09 October 2017. He was 85. Rafe was a great friend to this show, appearing eleven times over the last 14 years.


RAFE MAIR: Good… don’t tell me you’ve survived eleven of me, Joe!



PLANTA: They’re great chats over the years and…

MAIR: Well, it’s been fun.

PLANTA: It has.

He was one of the early guests when I started this program in 2004, and he has appeared the most over the last 1500 plus programs.

If you haven’t seen or heard the scores of news stories, tributes and posts online about Rafe, I’d suggest you start with the beautiful obituary written by the magnificent writer Tom Hawthorn that appeared on The Tyee’s site. There you’ll also read a fine remembrance from David Beers, who writes of Rafe’s conscience. Jim Goddard’s show featured Rafe regularly, even up to this past spring after the provincial election. Damien Gilles, Rafe’s friend and collaborator, has posted a tremendous piece over at the Common Sense Canadian, remembering his compatriot in the many advocacies they shared over the last decade or so.

This program now will feature clips of Rafe’s appearances over the years. Joining me as well will be Shiral Tobin, Rafe’s trusted friend and former producer at CKNW for many years, especially in the years where I was a devotee of their broadcasts. Ms. Tobin is now the Director of Journalism and Programming for CBC British Columbia. A position she took up recently, one that she told Rafe about shortly before his death. George Garrett will also join me to discuss what it was like working with Rafe at CKNW, where George was this town’s ‘Intrepid Reporter,’ a title that Rafe gave him.

I will miss Rafe very much. He was someone I knew for nearly twenty years. I was still in high school when we began exchanging emails. He was always quick with a reply, a suggestion for something to read, or some article to look up about our shared interests: politics—always politics, Winston Churchill, books, and jazz. I was a Sinatra fan, and he wasn’t. He didn’t think Sinatra was a good guy because he was such a bully. But we agreed on Ella Fitzgerald.

His generosity with his time early on, and especially when I’d invite him on this show to be a guest, I shall never forget. I appreciated it, and I can only hope he knew I did. If I didn’t tell him enough, I hope you’ll know just what he meant to me. In the days since his death though, I am not as sad as one might be for losing a friend, but actually heartened that so, so many others got to know Rafe as I did. He was a mentor to so many people in the broadcasting business, as you’ll hear Shiral attest. He managed to endear himself to a lot of people, with the little bits of encouragement he spread over the years.

He did have his flaws. Who amongst us doesn’t? As he says in a clip you’ll hear upcoming he realises them but did not dwell upon them. He was far from perfect, but that’s part of the impact he had on his colleagues, his friends, his listeners, this province and this country. Nobody was ambivalent about Rafe, and I think deep down he liked that.

You will hear throughout this show a more reflective Rafe, at times a more melancholy Mair. We talk about death, the subject of a later book he wrote The Home Stretch.

Rafe Mair was a giant in a province that it seems doesn’t have them anymore. His opinions didn’t change as much as they evolved, and that’s the eternal lesson that a lot of us take away from Rafe’s life. He never stopped learning and thinking about history, the future, and the world around him. If we can only live as fully as he seemed to, we might not do so badly. I think a lot of people that knew Rafe Mair, both afar and up close will look at the score of his life, the good and decent, the faults and frailties throughout and say he did not do too badly.