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John Fraser interview

On elections, democracy and responsibilities

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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 success.”

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.

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