News

Norm Jamison, 67, was surprise MPP in Rae government

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

Former Norfolk MPP Norm Jamison, left, is seen here with former Ontario Premier Bob Rae during a campaign stop in Hagersville in the run-up to the 1990 provincial election. Jamison, 67, died Tuesday at this home in Port Rowan. (File photo)

Former Norfolk MPP Norm Jamison, left, is seen here with former Ontario Premier Bob Rae during a campaign stop in Hagersville in the run-up to the 1990 provincial election. Jamison, 67, died Tuesday at this home in Port Rowan. (File photo)

SIMCOE  - 

Norm Jamison found himself at the centre of a political Cinderella story in 1990 when he and 73 other New Democrats were elected as the new government in Ontario.

Until that moment, Jamison was vice president of Local 8782 of the United Steelworkers of America in Nanticoke.

Jamison didn’t expect anything when he tossed his hat into the ring. Norfolk had never voted NDP. However, he wanted to ensure the principles he believed in were represented.

To Jamison’s surprise, he upset incumbent Gord Miller of Jarvis. Jamison served Norfolk until 1995. That was the year Mike Harris’s Common Sense Revolution took the province by storm.

The rebuke was difficult for the party to swallow. Jamison, however, was proud of his service and came away with many good memories.

Jamison was diagnosed with liver cancer this spring. He was in the midst of a leading-edge therapy when he took a turn for the worse a month ago. Jamison died Tuesday at his home in Port Rowan. He was 67.

As he faltered last week, Jamison received a phone call from Bob Rae, the premier he served under.

Jamison’s wife Sharon put Rae’s call on speaker phone. She said Wednesday that Jamison opened his eyes and smiled when he heard his leader’s voice.

“I was able to speak with Norm and Sharon last week and was glad to be able to share with him my warm memories of his service to the community and the province,” Rae said in an email Wednesday.

“He was a hardworking, decent engaging man and was a 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.”

Jamison was born in Magherafelt, Northern Ireland. His family immigrated to Canada in 1952 to escape sectarian strife between Protestants and Catholics.

Jamison returned in 1970 and joined the Ulster Defence Unit. He thought the training would be useful if he ever wanted to pursue a career in policing in Canada.

Jamison, however, got tired of the violence and the occasional chance meetings with Irish republican toughs.

Upon his return, Jamison renewed his acquaintance with Sharon. The pair had met at a dance in Hamilton in the weeks before he left for Europe. They married and had four daughters.

“He was shocked,” Sharon Jamison said this week of her husband’s victory in 1990. “We thought 'What do we do now?’ We had no idea how this was going to change our lives. It was a good five years for him.”

Jamison started as a steelworker at Stelco’s Hilton Works in Hamilton. An immediate improvement in seniority prompted him to transfer to Lake Erie Works in Nanticoke when it opened in 1980.

Jamison’s election created an opportunity for Bill Ferguson of Jarvis to move up to the vice president’s position at Local 8782. Ferguson has since been promoted to the presidency.

On Wednesday, Ferguson said Jamison was a kind man who would go out of his way to help others. Ian Nichols of Simcoe, president of the federal and provincial New Democratic Party riding associations in Haldimand and Norfolk, expressed similar sentiments.

Nichols said Jamison was a valuable source of advice after he offered himself as an NDP candidate locally in 2008.

“We express our deepest condolences to the family,” Nichols said. “It is a loss for us all. I appreciate everything he did for me. We’re very proud of Norm and what he accomplished.”

In memory of Jamison, the flag at Queen’s Park will fly at half staff on Friday. Several MPPs will speak of his contribution in the Legislature.

The Hyde & Mott Funeral Home in Hagersville is looking after arrangements. Visitation will be held Thursday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and again from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

A funeral service will be held 1 p.m. Friday at Ebeneezer Christian Reformed Church in Jarvis.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com