I was raised by a mother and father who — my father
was a sort of a liberal, but as my mother once said, a very conservative one.
My mother was an old Irish Ontarian Tory.
Of course I grew up during the war. I never ever heard them
argue about politics. But what was constant in everything I learned as I grew
up, and I was about 14 when the war ended, was patriotism and service to your
country. And, of course, family.
That’s the way I grew up and when I finally joined the
Conservative Party on the campus at UBC, this would be 1949-1950. I was 17, I
guess, when I started at UBC. I can remember my mother told my father, “your
son has become a Conservative.” And he sat me down in front of the fire in the
living room and he said, “look, you know son, John I will support you in
anything that you think is honourable.” But he said, in British Columbia, as a
young man probably going into law, and maybe eventually you might even be
interested in politics, with the Liberal government that’s in this province and
in the country, he said, “you have picked the hardest route you could for any
But he was very encouraging.
And when I started off I did not intend to get elected. That
wasn’t my idea. I thought you should work in a party and push things that you
thought were important. A lot of people believed that — later on,
years later, that well I was always going to do this. In fact, I got out of law
school in 1954 and things had not been easy; my father was not well and
financial difficulties and it wasn’t an easy time. And so I sort of looked
around at the world, and I didn’t have a silver spoon to be handed by any means.
And I said “well I don’t know how smart I am,” and I looked around at my class
— and it was a good class by the way, the class that graduated in 1954
— and I said, “but I do know one thing: I can outwork any one of
these people.” I had terrific regard for a lot of them, but I said I could
outwork ’em. But I’m going to become such a good counsel, that’s a barrister,
that even the Liberals, who I assumed would always be in power, would have to
appoint me to the bench.