A Short History of the Libertarian Movement in Vancouver

In the spring of 1978, two young guys from Ontario, Mike Little and Rick Bolstler, quit their well-paying jobs of airline pilot and computer systems analyst  respectively, to move to Vancouver. They thought the ideas of liberty would be particularly well received in the West and they established an educational foundation, The Libertarian Foundation, to spread the word.

They did the radio talk show circuit and soon were attracting people to their regular meetings. Many of these were hosted by local businessman Gord Robson at the hotel he owned in downtown Vancouver, but many informal meetings were held in private homes as well.

They quickly saw the need for a newsletter to keep in touch with their supporters and so they launched The Libertarian. It was published from April 1978 to February 1980.

They also launched a second organization dedicated to fighting high taxes in July of 1978. Borrowing from the title of Ludwig Von Mises epic economic treatise, they called the group Human Action to Limit Taxes or HALT for short. Their logo was a stop sign with the word HALT on it. One of their supporters was talk radio host Ed Murphy who had written an explosive expose of government waste called A Legacy of Spending. HALT grew beyond Vancouver with an especially active chapter in Calgary, Alberta. HALT also published a newsletter every two months from February 1979 to April 1982.

Two members of the Libertarian Foundation, Cam Osborne and Marco den Ouden went on to found the first Vancouver based riding association for the Libertarian Party of Canada in 1980. They called it the Greater Vancouver Libertarian Association. Their newsletter, West Coast Libertarian, was published continuously from February 1981 until 1999.

Vancouver libertarians were very fortunate that a leading American libertarian, Walter Block, author of Defending the Undefendable, was the senior economist at Vancouver’s Fraser Institute from 1979 to 1991. Walter became an active supporter of The Libertarian Foundation as well as the Greater Vancouver Libertarian Association.

One popular activity of the GVLA was the Supper Club. The club held frequent meetings with guest speakers of note. Walter, of course, has been a frequent speaker, as have such libertarian notables as economist David Henderson, marijuana activist Marc Emery, and many more. The club still meets periodically to this day.

The GVLA morphed into the West Coast Libertarian Foundation when the party lost official party status one year by not fielding the required 50 candidates. The foundation continues to this day. Longtime local activist, economist Paul Geddes, has been the mainstay of the group for three decades.

In 1996, a group of local libertarians led by Kurt Pokrandt organized the annual world conference for the International Society for Individual Liberty. The event was held at the Whistler Conference Center from August 19-24 and featured such notable speakers as Mary Ruwart, Jarrett Wolstein, Dr. Rigoberto Stewart, Marshall Fritz, Marc Emery, Frances Kendall, Leon Louw, John Hospers, Barbara Branden, George Smith, Pierre Lemieux, Ken Schoolland, Bumper Hornberger and, of course, our hometown favorite Walter Block.

The WCLF website has been idle for many years, but now it has been resurrected, and maybe the newsletter will be brought back to life as well. In any event, an active blog will now be maintained.

The first part of the story is elaborated on here: The Origins of the Libertarian Movement in Vancouver Part 1

You can also check out the Newsletters section of this website.

If anyone can add to this short history, please email your webmaster.