When you are young, it is easy to follow the crowd.
Following the convention in Ottawa, Trudeaumania swept across Canada, but in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Liberal Tide was going out.
After 19 years of Smallwood rule – and no successor in sight – people of the province turned against the Liberals and elected six Tories. Only Don Jamison on the south coast was spared from the anti-Liberal backlash.
Many teenagers would have gotten on the bandwagon and switched sides to the more popular choice. Yet, Jim remained a Liberal, campaigning for the Liberal candidate Meech Matthews in the riding of Humber-St. George’s – St. Barbe.
Jim says he still meets people today who recalls his audacity as a 15 year old, hopping on a 10-speed bike with a Liberal sign and following a 200-car Tory procession led by the popular Frank Moores and Jack Marshall.
|Jim being sworn in as MHA by Hon. John Crosbie|
The following year, Smallwood announced his retirement and Jim – now 16 – joined the John Crosbie for Leader Team. Smallwood did his famous comeback pronouncement saying he had changed his mind and he would be running to succeed himself. At that point many people would have switched back and supported the stronger candidate.
Not Jim. To him, in politics, as in life, a commitment made is to be honored. He stuck with Crosbie and they were trounced by the more experienced, better funded Smallwood machine. A bitter John Crosbie and many of his supported abandoned the Liberal Party and joined the Tories.
Not Jim. To him, Liberalism has always been a cause much larger than any one person. Leaders will come and Leaders will go, but to Jim, the Liberal Party is the best party to advance the interests of most people over the long term.
Even in his early years, Jim showed a strength of character uncommon to men of his age, and he exhibited a steadfast commitment to the Liberal Party which he still holds today.
Team Jim Bennett