Beaton Tulk, former teacher, MHA, cabinet minister and premier, passed away Thursday.
He leaves behind him a strong legacy of service to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.
From 1979 to 1989 and again from 1993 to 2002 Tulk served in the House of Assembly as a Liberal MHA.
In government, Tulk served as the minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods, minister of Development and Rural Renewal and later as deputy premier.
Following the resignation of then Premier Brian Tobin on Oct. 1, 2000, Tulk served as premier of Newfoundland and Labrador for four and a half months until Roger Grimes was elected Liberal Party leader and was sworn in as premier on Feb. 12, 2001.
During his time as premier Tulk conducted himself with objectivity during an emotionally volatile Liberal leadership race and competently maintained the administrative affairs of the province. He again served as the deputy premier from 2001 to 2002 and provided assistance to Premier Grimes during the Voisey Bay negotiations that resulted in a very profitable agreement for Newfoundland and Labrador.
With all his monumental political contributions to Newfoundland and Labrador, Tulk had a greater personal touch that was very much evident during the 1993 federal election campaign when he was serving as the federal Liberal party co-chairman in Newfoundland and Labrador. On an early autumn Saturday, Tulk took a group of approximately 20 young Liberal campaign volunteers — Memorial University students and mostly from rural Newfoundland — out to dinner as a reward for the hard work that they were putting into the campaign.
Tulk made those young people who were away from home feel welcome in St. John’s, made them feel they were a big part of their first federal campaign. He also made a certain shy townie youth feel engaged with kids his own age.
Tulk told us that the youth were elevating the spirit of the campaign and that our political engagement would be vital to building a bridge to a 21st century Canada.
On the night of Oct. 25, 1993, as the federal election results were coming in, Tulk and a few others were gathered in the main backroom of St. John’s West candidate Jean Payne’s headquarters.
When it became clear Payne had won and a federal Liberal wave was transpiring, a 21-year-old young Liberal who had been deeply involved in the campaign began to cry as he shook the hands of everyone present.
When that young Liberal shook Tulk’s hand and Tulk saw the tears, Tulk said, “Young man, I’ve worked and run in many campaigns but seeing the emotional elation of tears of joy in your eyes makes me feel like a young Liberal again. You have worked your heart out on this campaign.”
About an hour later at the Hotel Newfoundland party with our winning candidate Payne, Tulk and some other prominent Liberals were standing in the middle of the lobby as hundreds of campaign volunteers from both of the St. John’s federal ridings were about to file in.
Tulk saw the young Liberal he had previously complimented come in and immediately went up to him and brought him to meet Payne, the federal MP elect, who gratefully acknowledged his efforts on the campaign. In front of everyone, Tulk said, “This young man did so much for this campaign. I am so proud of his great work and passion.”
Beaton Tulk made a 21-year-old kid on his first federal campaign feel very prominent, and greatly uplifted the boy’s spirit and self-esteem. He helped the boy feel that he could win and motivated him to continue on with life and attain multiple post-secondary degrees and remain in politics.
Along with his great teaching and political career, Tulk gave all those young Liberals a symbol of respect that we would seek the best for a bright future because we had him as a tutor — The Incredible Mr. Tulk.