Bass was born in New York City, attended Antioch College, Case-Western Reserve Medical School, Harvard, and Johns Hopkins. He served as a preventive medicine officer in the US Army's 7th Infantry Division in Korea and Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. After his military service, he was a tuberculosis control officer for the New Jersey Department of Health and unit medical health officer. He earned a master's degree in epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and a Doctor of Science at Johns Hopkins, writing a thesis on medical care use attributable to cigarette smoking. He taught at the University of Pennsylvania and came to the Vancouver Health Department in 1975. There, in 1982, he became director of health promotion.
In 1989, he founded the BC Doctors Stop-Smoking Program to help doctors help their patients stop smoking. He helped to form the Society for Clinical Preventive Care in 1997, which has a mission to implement proven clinical preventive measures. In 2001 he was awarded a Senior (life) Membership in the Canadian Medical Association for his extensive work in tobacco control. He continues in 2007 to serve as the medical director of the Society for Clinical Preventive Health Care.
Early involvement with Vancouver politics
In 1989–90, Bass served on Vancouver's Clouds of Change Task Force which addressed the issues of global climate change. Bass, concerned about global warming, entered electoral politics in 1996 as a candidate for Vancouver's civic Green Party under the leadership of Stuart Parker but was defeated by a wide margin. However, the increased share of the vote won by the Greens and of a new populist party called VOICE resulted in a total rout for the city's leftist forces in which every single candidate who was not a member of the Non-Partisan Association was defeated. Despite being the Greens' second-best vote-getter in the 1996 election (second only to the party's provincial leader Stuart Parker), Bass was defeated when he sought renomination by the Greens in 1999. With the support of the Greens' executive and provincial leadership, he sought and won the nomination of the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE), the party with which the Greens had just inked a coalition agreement.
Elected city councillor
Bass was first elected to city council in 1999 as a member of COPE, and topped the polls when re-elected in 2002 with 70,525 votes. His political priorities were action on the environment and transit. Bass was outspoken in his opposition to the expansion of gambling and to excessive expenditures for rapid transit by a faction of his party under the leadership of Mayor Larry Campbell.
In 2003–2005, three COPE councillors and the mayor split from the party to form Vision Vancouver. Bass and councillors Tim Louis, David Cadman, Anne Roberts and Ellen Woodsworth remained in COPE. Bass was not re-elected in the 2005 election, finishing 12th overall with 48,248 votes.
Bass introduced a controversial motion in 2005 to widen the sidewalks on the Burrard Bridge to encourage cyclists and pedestrians, but first do a minimal-cost trial of using one lane in each direction for bicycles, reserving the existing sidewalk for pedestrians, despite the failure of a similar experiment in 1996. The sidewalk-widening was slated to cost $13 million if the $2 million trial failed. Some cyclists applauded the move, though other users of the current bridge sidewalks questioned whether any changes were necessary. Concerns about motorist rage did not deter Bass, who stated "Motorists called for my head long ago and my head is still on my neck." Heritage advocates strongly supported the bicycle trial, since the sidewalk-widening would impair the heritage value of this landmark, art deco bridge. Bass was the council lead on the Vancouver Area Transit Plan, which planned six new bus routes and a number of transit-friendly changes.
Intentions to run for mayor
In late 2006 he announced his aspiration to run for mayor in the next Vancouver civic election because of his concerns for respect, global warming, homelessness and lack of affordable housing. In August 2007, he announced that he no longer intended to participate in the mayoral race.
- Doug Ward, Vancouver Sun Published: Wednesday, July 20, 2005