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Andy Scott, New Brunswick’s voice in Ottawa

Andy Scott was named solicitor-general in 1997, a position he resigned from the next year after he was overheard talking about the possible outcome of the APEC inquiry.

TOM HANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS

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.

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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.

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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.

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"His ability to work with people was so great and had been manifested in everything he'd ever done that he was just clearly the right person for the job," Mr. Martin said.

Mr. Scott approached his work as minister of Indian affairs and northern development with a deep respect for aboriginal leadership and culture, eventually helping to broker the landmark Kelowna Accord between the provinces and territories, the federal government and aboriginal leaders. He felt it was essential for the government to stop acting paternalistically and unilaterally, and co-operate with aboriginal leadership, Mr. Martin said.

Born in Fredericton in 1955, Mr. Scott grew up in the working-class neighbourhood of Barkers Point, just five houses away from the woman he would eventually marry. He had three sisters, two older than he and one younger.

His parents were both supporters of the Liberal Party, and his father, Keith Scott, was a particularly keen volunteer. His family had a precast business making cement blocks for houses and fireplaces and his father was also involved with a summer Rotary camp for children with disabilities.

As a student at the University of New Brunswick, Mr. Scott held a part-time job driving a school bus for young people with disabilities – part of a lifelong passion for working with and advocating for those with disabilities.

For two summers, he and Mr. Hoyt drove around the province in a van, meeting with young people to talk about the Liberal Party and encouraging them to become involved.

Mr. Scott proved to be a skilled political organizer with a particular talent for communication, Mr. Hoyt said. But he also loved to have a good time.

Mr. Hoyt recalls an invitation the two received to meet then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau during a national convention in Winnipeg, where organizers, "didn't discourage us from staying up late the night before."

With only about an hour to go before their morning meeting, Mr. Hoyt and Mr. Scott got themselves ready, put on the only sports jackets they owned and headed out the door. "We probably looked quite presentable when we showed up there until Andy reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of pizza from the night before," Mr. Hoyt said.

Mr. Scott's passion for politics and the Liberal Party helped him land a job as a speechwriter for then-provincial Liberal leader Joseph Daigle after university. Later, when Mr. McKenna was elected premier, Mr. Scott worked in his office.

He was perfect for the job, Mr. McKenna said, particularly because he managed to combine a "wonkish public policy expertise with a political can-do attitude."

When Mr. Scott announced his plans to run for office in the 1993 federal election, Mr. McKenna said he was "probably over-cautious" in warning his staffer about the challenges he might face.

Mr. Scott was running in a long-time Conservative stronghold and against an incumbent candidate – Mr. Bird – who was widely respected and well-liked. Mr. Scott would not be dissuaded, however. He sold his house to raise money for the campaign and spent months knocking on doors in the riding.

Politics was "just in his blood," Mr. McKenna said. "And I think for him the ultimate culmination of that political experience would be an elected member, so it was a natural forum."

Mr. Scott was chair of the justice committee when the Liberal government's landmark same-sex marriage bill passed. "When the legislation went through, the place erupted behind me," Mr. Hoyt said. "You know, it was a euphoric moment, really, for Andy and for civil rights advocates."

Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett said many members were struggling to reconcile the fact that they had voted against same-sex marriage just two years earlier.

Ms. Bennett recalled a caucus meeting in 2003 in Chicoutimi, Que., where the Liberals talked about policies on same-sex marriage. Mr. Scott, who had earlier voted in favour of a Reform Party motion to uphold the "traditional" definition of marriage, addressed the caucus to explain why he had decided to support same-sex marriage in the next House of Commons vote.

He told the group, "'The last time I voted for my parents – this time I'm voting for my kids,'" Ms. Bennett said.

The words "just swayed the whole room," she said. "Everybody was worried they were going to be hypocrites because they had voted differently only a few years before."

In 2003, Mr. Scott was beaten up outside his constituency office by a man who said he opposed the Liberal government's policy on same-sex marriage. "I think it just charged his batteries further, really. It didn't set him back at all," Mr. Walker said.

Mr. Scott left federal politics in 2008, a decision he made primarily so he could spend more time with his young son, Noah, two older sons from a previous marriage, Nathan and Nicholas, and his wife, Denise. "I think he had contributed a tremendous amount and he had sort of earned a bit of a break," Mr. Walker said.

After politics, he directed a social policy research network at the University of New Brunswick, aimed at connecting academic researchers with public officials and policy-makers.

He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in July, 2012. Shortly after the diagnosis, Mr. Scott was given a bear claw necklace by members of the Metepenagiag Mi'kmaq First Nation near Miramichi, N.B. The claw – a long, dark-brown nail about as long as an index finger – symbolizes strength, something Mr. Scott felt he needed while undergoing cancer treatment.

When it went missing one day from his Saint John hospital room, he called Denise in a panic. "Hospital staff turned the place upside down," before they finally found it in the hospital's laundry room, she said.

When the treatment didn't seem to be working and his prognosis looked grim, he would tell friends, "'But I'm open to a miracle,'" Ms. Bennett said.

"He just always was the boy from Barkers Point," she said. "He was really so proud of his humble roots and so whether you were buying lobster at the fish market or a bottle of wine at the liquor store, you were on home turf with Andy as someone who made them all so proud."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Kim Mackrael has been a reporter for The Globe and Mail since 2011. She joined the Ottawa bureau Sept. 2012. More

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