Ed Fast

Class of 1984-1985

Ed Fast grew up in Vancouver, attending high school at Magee and John Oliver before enrolling at the University of British Columbia. Near the end of his undergraduate, he was faced with the decision of what to do next. He wanted to be an airline pilot, but couldn't due to a heart murmur. Instead, he enrolled in the law school at UBC, a move that was eventually followed by his sister Marie-Louise Fast.

Recalling his time in law school, Mr. Fast remembers being instructed by many incredible faculty. He remembers having Professor McLachlin for Evidence, which he considers ironic, as "later on as Minister of Trade, I served in a cabinet that was responsible for some legislation that was challenged at the Supreme Court." Fast remarked that it was "very interesting...how things come full circle." Many other professors classes feel victim to the only tradition Fast had in law school. "Typically it would be on Thursdays I would designate someone to take notes for me in class," he recalls "and we would go up and ski."

After graduation Ed Fast moved to Abbotsford, in the Fraser Valley. As a child he'd picked berries in Abbotsford, and during his schooling his father had moved his dental practice to Abbotsford. Ed Fast saw the growing community as one with a bright future and the commercial opportunity for him to open his own practice. Over 5 years of very challenging work he built his practice, and each day seemed to present a new lesson. "You have to learn so much from scratch," says Fast "much of what you do in the practice of law you don't learn in law school."

He was first elected to public office as a school trustee for the city of Abbotsford. When a former councillor for Abbotsford was retiring in 1996, Ed Fast ran for his spot on city council. He was successfully elected 3 times, and was yet again presented with the opportunity to assume the place of a retiring politician. He replaced retiring MP Randy White as the Conservative party candidate for the Federal electoral district of Abbotsford, and was successfully elected to parliament for the first time in 2006. Ed Fast admits to always having an interest in federal politics. He credits his father for nurturing this interest from a young age, when during the 1964 federal election his father had them watch the results together and explained what was happening. His father influenced Ed Fast's strong personal philosophy: "There's no country that has the governance, the prosperity, the human rights, the natural beauty of its landscape that Canada does," he reflects, "so I think we as Canadian citizens have a duty to reciprocate what we have received."

Ed Fast believes that there's a natural relationship between law and politics that has helped him greatly during his time in office. He understands that the practice of law gives one an understanding of legislation and the limits of government, as well as how to balance the demands of constituents. While being a politician can be difficult in the sense that he's 'always on,' whether it's meeting people in his office or while grabbing himself a coffee at the local Tim's, Fast is grateful to be a representative of the community.

As a parliamentarian, Fast has had a strong impact on Canada. In 2006 he introduced Bill C-277, a private member's bill to increase the maximum sentence for luring a child online. Prior to passing the bill, the maximum sentence for the crime was the same as for stealing a head of cattle (an observation naturally made by an MP from a riding with a strong agricultural industry). The bill passed, doubling the maximum sentence and giving judges more freedom to impose a harsher penalty for the crime.

After being re-elected in 2011, Ed Fast was appointed by Prime Minster Harper as Canada's Minister for International Trade. He remembers spending many late nights in the first 6 months studying the relatively new area of international trade, which had emerged after his time in law school. The position also involved plenty of travel - he traveled frequently with PM Harper and Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, and found meeting people the most interesting. Fast remembers meeting Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama, and Angela Merkkelll, and was fascinated by how different world leaders grappled with the issues defining their countries. The most interesting trip he remembers taking was to Israel, and seeing the importance of free speech in that country while Harper faced hecklers during a speech to the Israeli parliament.

Member of Parliament Ed Fast still speaks passionately about trade, and advises students today to learn some trade law. It's an area he advocates for due to its international scope, its significant interface with government, and the growing opportunities for challenging work. "Trade law actually is not keeping pace with the rapid pace at which trade relationships are developing," believes Fast.

Ed Fast was interviewed by the Peter A Allard School of Law History Project in the Summer of 2017.

Listen to his interview to hear more about his time at UBC, his work as Minister of Trade, and the importance of public service.