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Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Ron Basford, 72, served in Canadian Cabinet

VANCOUVER, B.C. — Ron Basford, a former Canadian federal Cabinet minister who led the campaign to convert the city's Granville Island from a rundown industrial area into a thriving tourist Mecca, is dead at 72.

Mr. Basford, a key Western Canadian ally of the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, died Monday of a heart attack at his home near Sechelt, relatives and associates said.

A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and longtime member of the Canadian Parliament, Mr. Basford was in charge of consumer and corporate affairs in 1968-72, minister of state for urban affairs in 1972-74, head of national revenue in 1974-75, minister of justice and attorney general in 1975-78, and acting solicitor general in 1978.

With the consumer-affairs portfolio, Mr. Basford won passage of legislation to reduce drug prices and helped pass the Hazardous Products Act, which among other things eliminated children's bedding that was flammable, and clothing and cribs that were unsafe because the bars were too far apart.

He also was responsible for conversion to the metric system through an amendment to the Weights and Measures Act in 1971, led the campaign to eliminate capital punishment in Canada in 1977, and won passage of the Canadian Human Rights Act to assure equal pay for work of equal value.

In Vancouver, he was known as Mr. Granville Island for leading the campaign to turn the once-gritty site just south of downtown into a center of art and culture with a farmers market, art college, theaters and galleries.

"He helped us put that jewel in the whole south side of False Creek development," said Mike Harcourt, a former British Columbia premier and former mayor. "He was tough. He was good. He was going to make sure Vancouver got what it deserved."

Harcourt also credited Mr. Basford with preserving communities such as historic Strathcona and with developing thousands of units of co-op housing in False Creek, Champlain Heights and the Downtown Eastside.

Mr. Basford helped scuttle a plan to put an elevated expressway along the waterfront. It would have wiped out thousands of homes in Gastown and Chinatown.

In social-housing development, "we were probably the most aggressive city in the country with his help and connivance," Harcourt said.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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