Grace Mary McCarthy
(born October 14
) is a former Canadian politician
and florist in British Columbia
. Nicknamed Amazing Grace
by members of her longtime political party, the Social Credit Party of B.C
, she was largely responsible for rebuilding the party after its defeat in the 1972 provincial election
First elected in 1966 to co-represent the riding of Vancouver-Little Mountain
, McCarthy was later a senior cabinet minister
, serving in a variety of portfolios, in the governments of Social Credit Premier W.R. Bennett
from 1975 to 1986 and of Social Credit Premier Bill Vander Zalm
from 1986 until her resignation from cabinet in 1988.
In 1968, McCarthy successfully lobbied both the Canadian federal and British Columbian provincial governments to broaden home ownership credit legislation to include single, divorced and widowed women without the need for a male guarantor.
In 1982, McCarthy was suspected of interfering in the re-drawing of the electoral boundaries of her Little Mountain constituency, to include an appendage of a wealthy westside Vancouver area, thus helping ensure her electoral success. This appendage and subsequent scandal became known as 'Gracie's Finger'. The actual area in question was between 16th and 33rd Avenues in Vancouver around the Arbutus Street corridor.
In 1986, McCarthy parlayed the idea to illuminate the main cables of Vancouver's Lions Gate Bridge and arranged private-sector sponsorship by the Guinness family, the bridge's builders and original owners.
Social Credit downfall
In 1991 when Vander Zalm was forced to resign amid scandal allegations, the Social Credit party became bitterly divided. Socred members voted the lesser-known Rita Johnston
, a close ally of Vander Zalm, to be their new leader, over McCarthy. Many viewed this as a mistake, as Johnston was close to the Vander Zalm legacy; even future Premier Mike Harcourt
admitted later that he preferred Johnston over McCarthy, as the latter would be a much tougher opponent in an election. Johnston lost the 1991 provincial election
badly, with the party only winning third-place status in the legislature. Johnston resigned as leader shortly thereafter, and McCarthy was chosen to replace her.
However, McCarthy had no seat in the legislature, and the Socreds were in danger of being dismissed as an increasingly irrelevant political force in British Columbia. She missed a chance to re-enter the legislature when she lost a by-election in 1994 by 42 votes in the provincial riding of Matsqui. Social Credit lost official party status in the BC Legislature when four of their six MLAs bolted from the party to join the fledgling BC Reform Party. Subsequently, she stepped down as leader in 1994 amid further infighting. In the 1996 election the Socreds lost all their remaining seats.
In 1992, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 2004, she was awarded the Order of British Columbia.
Currently, McCarthy is Chairman of the Board of Directors of the CH.I.L.D. Foundation (CHildren with Intestinal and Liver Disorders). McCarthy began the charity in 1995 with her daughter, Mary McCarthy Parsons and J. Lindsay Gordon.