When Andy Scott accidentally spilled coffee on a colleague’s desk, he bought her flowers the next day to apologize for the mess.
The former Liberal cabinet minister and long-time political operative was widely known for such simple acts of kindness, along with a deeply rooted sense of compassion that friends and colleagues say he brought to his work.
Mr. Scott died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in Fredericton on June 24, at the age of 58.
He was a senior public servant in Frank McKenna’s Liberal government in New Brunswick when he decided to take a shot at running in the 1993 federal election that swept the Liberals into power, giving Jean Chrétien a majority government and Mr. Scott his first seat in the House of Commons. Mr. Scott won a surprise victory in his Fredericton riding against popular Progressive Conservative incumbent Bud Bird.
Throughout his time in Ottawa, Mr. Scott returned to New Brunswick at every opportunity. He became renowned for hosting regular community policy forums and chatting with constituents on the weekend at the Fredericton farmers’ market.
“You never went anywhere with Andy in Atlantic Canada that you didn’t have people coming up to you, talking about their issues, talking about everything else,” former prime minister Paul Martin said. “His ability to respond was, it was just so natural. I mean there was no pretense about him at all.”
Len Hoyt, who ran Mr. Scott’s 1993 campaign, said his friend’s first years in politics were likely among his most enjoyable. “That’s probably the time he enjoyed it, more than any other, was working as a backbench MP, working more closely with constituents.”
That was also the time when some of Mr. Scott’s community engagement work began to take shape. From the time he was elected, Mr. Scott held carefully structured policy forums – called “people’s forums” – in Fredericton, often bringing back constituents’ recommendations and feedback to Ottawa.
On Saturdays, Mr. Scott set up shop at a table in the Fredericton farmers’ market. “He made every effort to get home from Ottawa so that he would be there on Saturdays,” Mr. Hoyt said. “And people just knew if they wanted to go see their member of Parliament he was going to be there and very accessible.”
Speaking at Mr. Scott’s funeral, Mr. Martin jokingly recalled accompanying Mr. Scott on a visit to the market, only to be left alone at his table while the Fredericton MP chatted with constituents.
New Brunswick Premier David Alward praised Mr. Scott’s dedication to the province and his work on aboriginal and disability issues.
“One of the greatest things I think he’s done for the province is his ability to cross partisanship and bring people together to work towards common goals,” Mr. Alward said.
New Brunswick Liberal Leader Brian Gallant echoed the sentiment: “For Andy, policy trumped partisanship. He was someone that truly believed that politics is a vehicle to make good decisions to make the lives of New Brunswickers and Canadians better.”
Mr. Scott was re-elected in 1997 and named solicitor-general by then-prime minister Jean Chrétien. But the cabinet post was short-lived: In 1998, an NDP MP said he overheard Mr. Scott chatting with a companion on a plane about the possible outcome of an inquiry into the use of pepper spray against protesters at the 1997 APEC summit in Vancouver.
In what would become an infamous and highly damaging scrum outside the House of Commons, Mr. Scott was grilled by reporters over his comments. Friend and former New Brunswick deputy minister Julian Walker calls the moment “a classic case of [Mr. Scott] wanting to be open, not quite having the skills, the modern skills to deflect questions, you know, bridge to another topic, that sort of thing. He just was stuck there.”
Mr. Scott was accused of prejudging the outcome of the inquiry and the incident eventually led to his resignation as solicitor-general. When Mr. Martin became prime minister in 2003, he brought Mr. Scott back into cabinet, first as minister of state for infrastructure and then as minister of Indian affairs and northern development – a post Mr. Scott cherished.