Andy Scott remembered for commitment to social and aboriginal issues

FREDERICTON – Andy Scott, a former New Brunswick Liberal MP and cabinet minister who was known for his interest in social policy, has died at the age of 58.

Scott was remembered Tuesday as a politician from an earlier era who was more comfortable meeting his constituents face-to-face than through cyberspace on Twitter or Facebook.

“He was one of the great guys,” said former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna. “Andy was a joyful warrior and always a pleasure to be around.”

Scott was a senior provincial public servant before he ran for Parliament in 1993 and won a seat in Fredericton. He was re-elected in 1997 and appointed solicitor general by Jean Chretien.

He resigned, though, after a New Democrat MP overheard him talking during a flight about a pepper-spray incident that occurred during an international meeting in Vancouver. Scott was said to have told a companion that the RCMP officers involved would take all the blame.

Former prime minister Paul Martin reappointed him to cabinet as a minister of state in 2003 and made him Indian affairs minister after the 2004 election.

A spokeswoman for New Brunswick’s Liberal party said Scott died of cancer overnight in Fredericton.

New Brunswick Liberal Leader Brian Gallant paid tribute to Scott’s role in the party both federally and provincially, saying the provincial wing of the party grew when he served in organizational positions and as its executive director.

“Andy’s passing is a great loss to all,” he said in a statement. “His passion and dedication to social issues knew no limits and extended well beyond partisan lines.”

Scott was a senior policy adviser to McKenna before entering federal politics. Gallant said Scott played an instrumental part in the campaign that resulted in the Liberals winning all 58 seats in the legislature in 1987.

McKenna also spoke about the role that Scott played in that first election win, and recalled how he took on the cause to improve literacy in New Brunswick.

“He was one of the most compassionate human beings that I’ve ever known,” he added. “He loved everybody, political adversaries included. He reached out to everybody. He listened to everybody.”

McKenna said the culmination of Scott’s political career was the Kelowna accord, an agreement reached between native organizations and Martin’s government that would have pumped $5 billion over five years into improving the quality of life for Aboriginal Peoples. It was scrapped when the Conservatives came to power.

“I think the plight of aboriginals really struck a chord with him. He was probably, and will continue to be, the most admired ever minister of a federal government involved with the aboriginal community,” said McKenna.

He described Scott as an old-time politician who often eschewed modern forms of interaction in favour of conversation.

“He didn’t use social media. He didn’t use robocalls,” McKenna said from Toronto. “He touched people personally. He was at the market every Saturday morning talking to people and listening to what they had to say. He was just a wonderful human being whose entire life was dedicated to improving the lives of others.”

McKenna said he spoke to Scott last week and he had come to terms with death.

“He came to the conclusion that he really had a fulfilling life, that he really had contributed a great deal. I think it gave him great comfort in his final days, that he truly had lived a rich life and had accomplished much and given much. That will be my lasting memory.”

New Brunswick Premier David Alward reflected on Scott’s work in the community.

“Andy had been a tireless community builder in New Brunswick throughout his many years of service to the people of this province,” he said in a statement.

“Andy put down roots in his hometown of Fredericton, and over the course of his varied career, he remained connected to the people whose lives he worked so hard to improve. He was always driven to help people and lay the foundation for a better future in his community and throughout our province. Andy never backed away from a challenge or an opportunity to make a difference.”

More recently, Scott was executive director of the New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network at the University of New Brunswick. The legislature unanimously named him the province’s first Learning Champion last week in recognition of Scott’s efforts to improve literacy and education in New Brunswick.

Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield, who last week announced he is battling Hodgkin lymphoma, said Scott was always generous in helping him when he became the MP for Fredericton, despite the fact he is a Conservative.

“Andy was a good friend, and an even better community leader,” he said. “I will always appreciate his help and guidance when I became the MP for Fredericton, as he kindly pushed aside all partisan politics to help me and my staff transition into the role.”

Scott is survived by his wife Denise and three sons, Nathan, Nicholas and Noah.