Peter Knight was first hired as an electrical inspector in 1955. From 1960 he was stationed in the Richmond Provincial Office. In addition to Richmond, his inspection territory also included a small part of Vancouver and, thanks to a quirk in the electrical districts map, the area around Lillooet, BC (about four hours north of Vancouver).
In the 1950s and 60s there was a great deal of variety in the electrical equipment being used in Canada. There were dozens of manufacturers, each fabricating in different countries to different standards with varying quality control, and then exporting these products into Canada. In western Canada, most imported equipment arrived by ship in Vancouver, the vast majority of equipment being distributed in the region by three companies with local warehouses. This lack of standardization was problematic for contractors and for inspectors; it removed surety for the contractor in inspection approval and for the inspector it removed surety in the safety of an installation. The benefits of standardization were pretty clear, and Peter Knight decided to do what he could to improve the chaotic products import situation.
From his arrival in Richmond in 1960, Peter Knight made it his inspection policy to reject any electrical job which utilized non-CSA approved equipment. At the time, that was most of them. The three distribution companies of course, were quite upset about this upstart inspector because they sold a lot less imported equipment in his inspection areas. Peter was harassed a fair bit for his pro-CSA policies. Distributors and their partners in contracting were complaining about him to the Province, doing their bit to run him down wherever they could. And they even started calling him at his residence, hounding him with the usual arguments: “What exactly do you want?” “This stuff is used all across Europe, we bring it out here and you reject it, what’s the problem?” And so on. Overall, he endured several years of badgering. His policy was unpopular, but it was a first step toward standardizing electrical equipment in Canada.
The Richmond inspection office was located in a building with some colourful characters. There was a dentistry. Down the hall was a law firm of sorts, and a collection agent was immediately across the hall from Peter Knight’s office. The law firm didn’t last too long, the lawyer was caught doing something decidedly unlawful (we don’t know what) and found himself more in need of legal services than free to furnish them. The most interesting tenant however, was the collection agent. It was a small agency, two or three people at most, and was run by a friendly but rather domineering woman with a very clear voice and a talent for shouting. She was relentless. One could track her progress in tracking the “deadbeats” in call after call. On one occasion, a debtor had cleared out his residence and left the country, thinking he’d escaped her, and for a few weeks he did. But this woman was tenacious. Through a lot of research, she’d found that the debtor owned a small dog and was particularly attached to it. So, naturally, she found a means of gaining control over the animal. With this newfound motivation, the offending debtor cleared his account and the collections dragon-lady added to her already impressive recovery record. All this made for an entertaining environment at the Richmond office.