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Press accounts

[ Route, S. Daniel. Starshell Maps,   ]

The death of Peter Verigin and eight others in an explosion of unknown origin was a huge local story, a significant British Columbia story and even of some consequence nationally. The Globe and Mail in Toronto, for instance, reported the tragedy on its front page on both October 30 and 31. But it was the provincial press, and especially the nearby Nelson Daily News and Grand Forks Gazette, that covered the story in greatest detail and persisted in reporting it.

Verigin’s death, and that of his fellow passenger John McKie, the Grand Forks-Greenwood Member of the British Columbia legislature, were more than personal tragedies. They also had economic and political consequences. With Verigin’s death, newspaper reports almost immediately began to speculate about the fate of the Doukhobor commune. Would it disintegrate? More than a few of the readers no doubt hoped the answer was yes.

As the press pointed out, McKie’s death, which occurred as he made his way to Victoria, changed the configuration of the provincial legislature and saved the Liberal Party. The Liberals under John Oliver had emerged from the June 20 election with 24 of the 48 legislative seats. But that equilibrium was expected to tip on November 3, when the legislative session opened and the Liberals would have to choose a speaker from among their ranks. McKie was a Conservative, and with his death, Oliver could breathe easier, enjoying a majority of one. In fact, Oliver’s government would survive a full four year term. Could the target of the attack have been McKie? See if any observers at the time thought so or if there is any plausible evidence to support this possibility.

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