Born in Scotland, Strachan was a carpenter by trade. He immigrated to Canada after quitting a 10-shilling-a-week job as messenger boy in Glasgow to go to Nova Scotia on a $10-a-week farm labor scheme. He moved west, in 1931, to the northern B.C. copper-smelting town of Anyox and then to Powell River, where he became a carpenter and an active unionist eventually becoming British Columbia head of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.
In 1952, he was elected to the British Columbia Legislative Assembly as an MLA for the socialist Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. In 1956, he was elected CCF leader thus becoming Leader of the Opposition to the Social Credit government of W.A.C. Bennett. Strachan's CCF ran in the 1960 general election on the platform of nationalizing the province's private hydro-electric company, B.C. Electric. Bennett denounced the idea during the election campaign but, in 1961, turned around and announced plans to do exactly that in order to create BC Hydro leading Strachan to denounce the Social Credit government as hypocrites.
He remained leader after the party transformed into the British Columbia New Democratic Party in 1961. He defeated a leadership challenge by "Young Turk" Thomas Berger in 1967, but sensing a mood for change he stepped down in 1969.
Strachan remained in the legislature, however, and was appointed Highways Minister when the NDP formed government for the first time as a result of the 1972 general election. He was appointed to the new position of Minister of Transport and Communications in 1973. Strachan oversaw the implementation of the NDP's promise to institute public automobile insurance and was responsible for the creation of the government owned Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. Strachan left politics in 1975 when he was appointed the province's agent general to the United Kingdom by Premier Dave Barrett. He served in the position for almost two years.
- Canadian Press, "Robert Strachan Led CCF-NDP in opposition for 13 years in B.C. House", Globe and Mail, July 22, 1981
- Palmer, Vaughn, "Robert Bonner was the bright young Mr. Fixit for W.A.C. Bennett", Vancouver Sun, August 17, 2005
- Mitchell, David J., "The power of politics A Bennett takeover to change the Socreds", Globe and Mail, October 15, 1983
- Johnson, William, "Two heroic men in a conflict", Globe and Mail, July 6, 1983
|Leader of the Opposition
in the British Columbia Legislature