Andrew Petter
By Steve Ray

Background Study: Andrew Petter 101

January 28, 2010

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Andrew Petter was born (1953) and raised in Victoria (Oak Bay). His father owned The Clock Shop on Victoria’s Antique Row and his mother, who was once a professional dancer with the Bodenwieser ballet company of Vienna, taught dance. During Petter’s high school years his family moved to Nelson, where he graduated from L.V. Rogers secondary school as class valedictorian.

He began his post-secondary studies at Nelson’s former Notre Dame University (where his father had taken up a post as a history professor) and did a stint in the early 1970s as CKKC Radio’s news director and open-line show host. There, he got a first-hand taste of politics interviewing the likes of newly elected premier Dave Barrett and former premier W.A.C. Bennett.

An avid follower of U.S. politics, his own political experience began at 19 when he was asked to serve as executive assistant to local MLA Lorne Nicolson.

Petter attended the University of Victoria (UVic) in 1976 to study political science. Encouraged by the law school’s first dean, Murray Fraser, he entered the law program in 1978.

Graduating from UVic Law in 1981, he received the Law Society of BC Gold Medal for finishing top in his class, and went on to earn an LL.M (Public Law) with first-class honours from Cambridge University. Cambridge was also where his son Dylan was born.

Petter briefly practiced law in Saskatchewan before becoming an assistant professor at Osgoode Hall Law School (York University) in 1984. He joined the UVic Faculty of Law in 1986. He has taught and written extensively in the areas of constitutional law and public policy, and is currently a member of the B.C. and Saskatchewan law societies.

Petter taught in the UVic law faculty for five years before heeding Premier Mike Harcourt’s call to run as NDP candidate in Saanich South in the 1991 provincial election. Petter spent the next decade as an MLA and held a series of key cabinet posts:

  • 1991–93: Minister of Aboriginal Affairs
  • 1993–96: Minister of Forests
  • 1996: Minister of Health and Minister Responsible for Seniors
  • 1996–98: Minister of Finance and Corporate Relations, and Minister Responsible for Intergovernmental Relations
  • 1998–2000: Minister of Advanced Education, Training and Technology, and Minister of Intergovernmental Relation
  • 2000: Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Human Rights

In 2001 Petter resumed his teaching career at UVic, soon filling the vacancy of acting dean in the faculty of law. He went on to serve as dean—the first graduate of the school to serve in that position—from 2002–2008.

In 2002 he received an honorary citizen award from the City of Victoria and in 2003 was given UVic’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

In 2008 Petter stepped down as dean and resumed teaching and research. He was also awarded a residency as visiting scholar at the Rockefeller Foundation Centre in Bellagio, Italy.

Besides running 30 km a week, Petter spends his leisure time cycling, reading and attending theatre, opera and movies with his life partner Maureen Maloney. He is an aficionado of mystery novels and political biography, a fan of baseball, and has a passion for Marx Brothers and Frank Capra films. His son Dylan is currently pursuing an MBA in England.


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