Zachary LeShane is passionate about politics
North Shore teen a fervent defender of government; aspires to be premier
It’s 2003 and five-year-old Zachary LeShane is listening to political banter on the radio in the playhouse behind his home in Gull Island, a tiny community on the north shore of Conception Bay.
He’s trying to finalize his predictions for the outcome of the upcoming provincial election, knowing in his heart that the f lamboyant Danny Williams, leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, will unseat the Liberals and their leader, then premier Roger Grimes.
Loose pieces of paper are taped to the walls, covering the small “headquarters” like wallpaper, and there’s a binder filled with notes placed next to Zachary.
The 48 sheets on the walls represent each electoral district, and are colour-coded in blue (PC), red (Liberal) and orange (NDP), each colour reflecting the party currently holding the seat.
On each sheet, Zachary has scribbled his prediction of what party will win. Inside the binder are more sheets of paper with more predictions and details on each individual district.
It’s like a mini-war room, but in this case the general is still in primary school.
The strategizing and analyzing, however, is interrupted by a knock on the door. It’s Charlene Johnson, a political newcomer and candidate for the Progressive Conservatives in the district of Trinity-Bay de Verde.
It’s Johnson’s first introduction to this young political upstart, and she’s hardly prepared for what greets her as she ducks her head and walks inside.
“My dad (Ronald) was with me that day, and we still talk about it,” Johnson recalled during an interview on Dec. 16. “He spent a lot of time out there with the radio on, listening to the political chatter.”
That encounter was the beginning of a very close friendship that continues to this day.
Johnson went on to easily win the d istrict, making her t he youngest female to ever earn a seat in the House of Assembly, and the Tories swept into power.
Zachary’s predictions were spot on, and his love for politics was cemented.
Now 16, Zachary is a valued youth member of the PC Party, and is on a first-name basis with most of the government members, including Premier Kathy Dunderdale.
He’s well-versed on many of the most important issues facing the province today, including the massive hydroelectric project at Muskrat Falls. And in another example of his political astuteness, he’s also digested every detail of the Liberal Red Book, which details that party’s platform.
He freely makes his opinions known on social media such as Twitter and Facebook, where he fervently defends the record of the governing Tories.
He also played an important role in Johnson’s re-election in 2011.
“He knocked on doors with me, helped with fundraising, the campaign, web design and looked at my brochures,” Johnson explained.
It’s not the typical pursuits of a 16-year-old, at a time when more and more young people are tuning out of politics.
When asked why she took an interest in Zachary, she didn’t even need to think about it.
“When we see that ( kind of involvement), we need to take it, embrace it and encourage it,” Johnson said. “He’s a really well-rounded individual.”
Interests earned top spot
Zachary is not only a political enthusiast. He is involved with many organizations, including 295 Baccalieu sea cadets in Old Perlican.
For the past four years, Zachary has competed at the annual provincial cadet public speaking competition, which is open to air, army and sea cadets.
In previous years, Zachary spoke on topics such as bullying, outmigration and Muskrat Falls. His topic this year? Can media manipulate our viewpoint.
His presentation took top spot in the senior division
“I believe he could be MHA in the district someday.” — Charlene Johnson
Zachary blew many people away with his speech in the preliminaries and semi-finals held at Gonzaga High School, and again during the f inals at HMCS Cabot Naval Reserve Station, both in St. John’s, because of his confident delivery.
His strong and passionate words painted a picture of how he believes the media has incorrectly portrayed the current provincial government, giving reference to Bill 29 and Muskrat Falls.
His speech drew words of praise and encouragement from family and friends on social media.
Zachary posted a recorded video of the speech on Facebook, prompting MHA for Terra Nova Sandy Collins to call him, “impressive.”
Vimy pilgrimage award
Only a week after getting honoured with the first place award for the speak-off, Zachary received other exciting news.
In April 2014, he will join 20 other Canadian students — only one other, Victoria Jackman, from Newfoundland and Labrador — on an educational trip to Europe during Vimy Week (April 5 to 13) to study this country’s involvement in the First World War.
Open to all students between the age of 14 and 17, this award has given Zachary a lot of pride.
“I’m so excited and honoured,” he said of the accomplishment.
This trip will not be a vacation. It will involve classroom study and daily field trips.
Those chosen have been referred to by the Vimy Foundation as “exceptional Canadian youth,” who demonstrate “outstanding service, positive contributions, notable deeds, bravery or leadership.”
He has volunteered and helped out others throughout his life and he doesn’t plan on stopping now.
Cadets have been a big part of growing up for him, teaching him discipline and leadership skills, but also giving him opportunities to travel to camp and work his way up the ranks.
He spends some of his evenings and weekends on the donation kettle for the Salvation Army during the holidays, one of the youngest involved in this area.
And finally, he said his political aspirations will continue to grow. He joked that Johnson should step down and he take her place in the next election.
“I believe he could be MHA in the district someday,” Johnson suggested.
“He’s known very well in the district and now in the province. I think he’ll be around (the political circuit) for a long time,” Johnson stated.
You won’t get an argument from Zachary. He has high ambitions for the future, and one day wants to be premier.
Zachary LeShane has been a political enthusiast since he was five years old, which has given him the opportunity to work side-by-side with the provincial Progressive Conservative caucus.