After over 20 years in politics, Bill Goodacre has decided to call it a career.
The long-time Smithers council member will not be running for re-election due to congestive heart failure.
Goodacre is known by most people for being a strong advocate for Indigenous rights and by a lucky few as a great mentor.
For all the work he’s done, Goodacre received Smithers’ highest honour: the Freedom of the Municipality. He becomes only the sixth person given the honour since 1972. The plaque reads that it is “in recognition of distinguished community service.”
Goodacre’s love of politics began at the age of 14 when he heard a speech by the man who is known as the father of medicare, Tommy Douglas, at St. Joseph’s church.
“He’s one of the best [speakers] you’ll ever hear,” said Goodacre.
In 1990 Goodacre was elected to Smithers town council and went on to serve a five-year term as MLA for Bulkley Valley-Stikine beginning in 1996. Goodacre returned to town council in 2002 and has been serving there ever since, minus a three-year break after losing his bid to be mayor in 2008.
Although these ideas weren’t well received at the time, Goodacre spoke of reconciliation and building a better relationship between the town and the Wet’suwet’en.
“It’s easy to be vocal when everybody is agreeing with you,” Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen said. “Real courage is raising your voice even if you know it’s going to challenge people and maybe even make you unpopular.”
As a youth Goodacre witnessed Indigenous people, some of whom he was friends with, being mistreated by nuns at his catholic school.
“I’ve been an advocate [for Indigenous rights] for well over 40 years. It’s just something I think is right,” Goodacre said. “I recognize that the aboriginal people are the original citizens here. This is actually their land.”
Goodacre was the president of the Dze L’ Kant Friendship Centre.
He helped the Friendship Centre purchase the old post office which is now their current base of operations.
Goodacre also created the aborignal lending books program, said executive director of Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre Society Annette Morgan.
The former MLA played an instrumental role in the creation of recently released book Shared Histories, which documents the relationships between settlers and the Wet’suwet’en in Smithers between 1913 and 1973.
Goodacre is the person who asked the book’s author Dr. Tyler McCreary to take part in the project.
“[Goodacre] had a strong knowledge and skill of what our people needed and how to make those needs a reality,” Morgan said. “What he has done for the aboriginal people and our community is [incredible]; we’re still growing due to his leadership.”
Goodacre had to resign from his position with the board three weeks ago because of his poor health.
“It was a sad day when I had to phone in and tell them I couldn’t do it anymore,” Goodacre said.
Morgan said Goodacre was a mentor to her and many of the youth working at the Friendship Centre. He’s the one who encouraged her to take up her current position.
“I believe it made me the leader I am today,” Morgan said.
This wasn’t the first time Goodacre has nurtured the potential of youth around him.
The former MLA also convinced Cullen to run for his current position — but it wasn’t easy. Cullen said it took three coffee meetings and a little reverse psychology for him to think it was a sane idea.
“After our third meeting I said ‘Bill, you’re crazy I can’t win.’ He very wisely agreed. He said ‘yeah, now that I think about it you would get hammered — it would be terrible and embarrassing,’ ” Cullen said. “Kinda laid it on a little thick and after 20 minutes of that I had to defend myself and the seed was planted.”
Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach said he’s learned lot during his time working with Goodacre.
“One thing I’ve learned from Bill is how to be strong in your ideas but to be kind to people,” Bachrach said. “Bill is a tremendously kind man. His approach to politics is rooted in compassion for his neighbours. That’s something I’ll always remember about my time serving with him.”
During his days as MLA Goodacre’s unofficial office was Mountain Eagle Books. It didn’t matter whether you voted for him or not, anyone was welcome to pull up a chair and discuss the state of the region.
“I try to emulate him by making sure that when people come visit Victoria I’m available even though a cabinet minister schedule is crazy these days,” Forest, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Minister and Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson said.
“You always have to remember where you come from and who put you there, and Bill was a good example of that.”
Goodacre’s wife Mary Etta said the former MLA plans to spend his retirement resting and being with family.
He will also be donating 5,000 books to the library. As a result of his condition reading has become very difficult.
“It’s sad because books are his addiction but that era has to go,” Mary Etta said.
Although Goodacre is stepping away from politics his ideas will remain.
“The greatest way to say thank-you to him is to continue on with his work,” Morgan said. “Remembering the teachings, remembering ethics. [Just think] what would Bill do?”