Bill Barlee was first elected to the BC legislature as a New Democrat in 1988 He served as Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food from 1991 until 1993 and then as Minister of Small Business, Tourism and Culture from 1993 until 1996.
In 1998 Bill partnered with Mike Geoghegan to form the government and media relations firm Barlee, Geoghegan & Associates. Two years later he resigned as President of BGA in order to run as a Federal Liberal candidate in the riding of Kootenay-Boundary-Okanagan. After the election Bill then returned to BGA's successor company, Michael Geoghegan Consulting, as an Associate for several more years before retiring from the firm.
During his time as Agriculture Minister, Bill conceived of and implemented the successful Buy B.C. program, the logo of which can now be found on virtually all food products made or grown in B.C. Vancouver Sun columnist Denny Boyd credited Bill Barlee as being one of the best Tourism Ministers B.C. has ever had. Bill is well known and well regarded by nearly everyone within the ranks of the provincial and federal government, civil service and media.
Bill has had a varied career as a high school teacher, writer, publisher, and placer miner. Over the past few decades he has carefully amassed an impressive collection of Old West artifacts. Parts of the Barlee collection, valued at more than $1 million, have been placed on display in the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa as well as in museums around the country. Pieces from his collection were also used on his award winning television series "Gold Trails and Ghost Towns," which ran from 1986 to 1996 on five different networks nation-wide, with an audience of over 200,000 viewers.
Bill has received a number of honours during his career including the "Golden Door" award from the BC and Yukon Hotel Association; the "Stellar Award" by the BC Restaurants and Food Services Association; and the "Visionary Award" from the BC Council of Tourism Associations. In addition to consulting work, Bill Barlee is still invited to be a guest speaker and a wide number of conferences and is currently working on another historical book on the Old West.