Philip Gaglardi was key to the development of the Kootenays’ infrastructure following the Second World War. He’s profiled in a new book by Michael Cone. Photo: Submitted

Philip Gaglardi was key to the development of the Kootenays’ infrastructure following the Second World War. He’s profiled in a new book by Michael Cone. Photo: Submitted

New book profiles minister responsible for Kootenays’ post-war infrastructure boom

Michael Cone’s new book, Connecting the Kootenays, explores the prosperous post-Second World War era of infrastructure upgrades in the southern West Kootenay. Vintage photographs and anecdotes illuminate this dynamic period, during which the honourable highway’s minister Philip Gaglardi played a key role.

To celebrate the release, Touchstones Nelson is kindly hosting a meet the author event with Cone in Gallery A on Nov. 5 from 2 to 4 p.m.

In the decades following the Second World War, the West Kootenay witnessed unprecedented growth in infrastructure projects. Impressive in their size and scope, these projects were undertaken by the Department of Public Works, whose mandate included the planning and construction of highways, bridges, and inland ferries.

In 1952, Philip Gaglardi, a Social Credit MLA from Kamloops, became its minister, and three years later he headed the newly formed Department of Highways. Charismatic, self-confident, and outspoken, he was nicknamed Flying Phil because he acquired many speeding tickets and persuaded the government to purchase a Lear Jet to whisk the premier and his ministers around the province.

During his 13-year term as Minister of Highways, Gaglardi’s expansion of the transportation network was impressive. The construction and improvements in the highway system included the Nelson Bridge, the completion of the new highway between Castlegar and Christina Lake, and the construction of the new Salmo-Creston “skyway.”

In 1954, Gaglardi’s ministry launched the MV Balfour at Nelson. This innovative ferry would significantly reduce the long lineups at the Balfour and Kootenay Bay ferry terminals. A year later, the department added a 60-metre all-steel submersible dry dock at Sunshine Bay.

Backlash over his family’s personal use of a government jet led to Gaglardi’s resignation in 1968. He remained in the SoCred cabinet as a minister without portfolio and later served as Minister of Rehabilitation and Social Welfare.