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Lorne Nicolson — Passionate about people, and protecting the earth

Michael Jessen
By Michael Jessen
March 17th, 2021

August 30, 1972 was a momentous day in British Columbia and the provincial riding of Nelson-Creston.

That was the day the province elected its first New Democratic Party government and the riding elected its first NDP MLA.

Lorne Nicolson was that MLA and he served the riding’s constituents for 14 years until he retired in 1986.

It is with deep sadness that I have to report Nicolson passed away on February 26th at age 84.

Nicolson taught math and physics and coached wrestling at L.V. Rogers Secondary School in Nelson for 10 years prior to his political life. 

Before becoming a teacher, Nicolson had joined the United Steel Workers Union while working at Continental Can, an event that sharpened his appreciation for the good that unions provided for working persons.

Later as a teacher, when he appeared before the school board during a bargaining session, school board member Vera Kristiansen was impressed with Nicolson’s speaking skills. Kristiansen was a prominent member of the local NDP constituency association at the time.

The story that I’ve heard many times is that she went home and told her husband Lyle that she knew who the next NDP provincial candidate should be for the Nelson-Creston riding.

Nicolson accepted the Kristiansen’s invitation to enter politics but he lost his first bid for election in 1969.

But 1972 was a different year. Social Credit under W.A.C. Bennett had been in power for 20 years. The party was bereft of new ideas, tired and old.

Nicolson was chosen for cabinet by Premier Dave Barrett and he served as BC’s and Canada’s first Housing Minister despite having no background in housing policy.

Under Nicolson’s watch, the government bought a private development company and began the task of creating social housing.

Nicolson’s ministry acquired and converted properties and built new housing as well, 1,400 units in 1974 alone – a 36 percent increase.  One of the properties purchased was the former Fairview Motel at Gordon and Fourth Streets in Nelson.  

After his retirement as MLA, Nicolson’s love of computers motivated him to open a computer store with his son Sean.

As he grew older, Nicolson became more and more concerned about global warming and ocean pollution and he grew disenchanted with the NDP for supporting fracking and the export of liquefied natural gas.

In one of his final public appearances last October, Nicolson attended the campaign launch for Green Party candidate Nicole Charlwood. He spoke passionately about the need to protect planet Earth and endorsed Charlwood’s candidacy, urging NDP members to vote for her.

Nicolson is survived by Frances, his wife of 62 years, sons Sean (Leslie Dickinson) of Nelson and Cameron (Susan Rutherford) of Calgary, and his sister, Karen Lehmann of Midway, several family members and many friends.

The Nicolson family has stated there will be no ceremony for him. 

Anyone wishing can make a donation to Kootenay Lake Hospital in Nelson, or to the BC Cancer Society.

 

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