By MPP Toby Barrett
Recently the Ontario Legislature paid tribute to my predecessor, former MPP Norm Jamison.
First and foremost, having known Norm for 30 years, I can attest that Norm Jamison was a true gentleman. He was quiet, thoughtful, and courteous. He was a listener and an engaging conversationalist. Norm had respect. And why wouldn’t he have respect? He was a steelworker, loyal to his union, and a devoted family man who served the people of our great riding between 1990 and 1995.
Norm was Northern Irish, with the kind of stature you do not mess with. I will quote area NDP Ian Nichols: “One of the things that sticks in my mind is that he was from Ireland … if you wanted to go toe to toe with someone, he wasn’t the guy to do that with. Everyone who knew him understood this.”
Norm was born in Magherafelt, Northern Ireland. His family immigrated to Canada in 1952 to escape sectarian strife between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Norm returned to Ireland in 1970 and joined the Ulster Defence Unit. But, he tired of the violence and the occasional chance meetings with Irish Republican toughs.
Upon his return, Norm renewed his acquaintance with Sharon. The pair had met at a dance in Hamilton in the weeks just before he left for Europe. They married and had four daughters.
I recall Eileen, the youngest, speaking at the funeral, describing herself as “my dad’s favourite,” saying her dad would drive his daughters anywhere, just to be with them, shopping for things they didn’t need. Then Shannon came forward saying “I’m pretty sure I was his favourite,” describing her dad as so physically and emotionally strong. Then from Andrea and Carrie—also their dad’s favourites, by the way—we heard that Norm taught his daughters how to throw a punch.
To quote the former Premier, Bob Rae: “He was an outstandingly hard-working, decent, engaging man, and was the source of good advice, counsel and support to me as Premier. I thought the world of him then and now. He thoroughly enjoyed his elected service and was an outstanding MPP. He was one of those politicians who generated respect and affection from people in all parties.”
Prior to my being elected in 1995, I was fortunate to build a working relationship with Norm. I was doing joint union-management work with industry, including steelworkers and Stelco management. Every year I would sit in Norm’s office to get his commitment to do the opening keynote address for our annual symposium.
We also worked together during the 1995 election to ensure that the all-candidates’ nights were fair, respectful and well organized. I was the rookie and Norm offered me good advice throughout the election. And that is just one measure of the kind of man that was Norm Jamison. I’ve said this many, many times: Norm Jamison was a true gentleman, a true representative of his family and our local area.
Sharon, just the other day, told us the day Norm was elected was a dream come true, and throughout his service, his priority was to do a good job for his constituents and to contribute to the area. And that he did—I can attest to that—all the while looking after and making time for his family.
“Norm was honoured to serve,” Sharon said.
Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk