Kiss of death: Who will be the next Canadian Minister of Fisheries?

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In the 32 years since the modern-day minister of fisheries and oceans was created, 24 different people have sat in the office. Bernadette Jordan’s replacement will be the Trudeau’s fifth in just six years.

Following the election earlier this month, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been forced to reshuffle his cabinet.

One of his biggest headaches will be the vacancy created by the the loss of Bernadette Jordan as both fisheries minister and Nova Scotia’s representative at the cabinet table.

Jordan’s loss was no shock. Jim Bickerton, a political science professor at St Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast has called the fisheries portfolio “the kiss of death.”

The kiss of death, appointment to the role of Canadian Fisheries Minister PHOTO: CBC

According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, in the 32 years since the modern-day minister of fisheries and oceans was created, 24 different people have sat in the office. Brian Mulroney had five fisheries ministers in his nine years as prime minister. Jean Chretien cycled seven people through the portfolio during his decade in power. Stephen Harper had four ministers in nine years. Jordan’s replacement will be the Trudeau’s fifth in just six years.

Trudeau’s task is made more difficult by his commitment to a gender-balanced cabinet – the Liberal Party lost four sitting female cabinet ministers in the election. Compounding this challenge is the fact that Jordan was the only female cabinet minister from the Atlantic region. Meanwhile, he will have to find space for new regional representation from Nova Scotia and Alberta.

Convention has it that small provinces like those in Atlantic Canada usually only get a single seat at the federal cabinet. But the country’s most seafood dependent province, Newfoundland and Labrador, already has a federal minister, Seamus O’Regan, the country’s energy czar.

With all that in mind, here are some of the runners and riders for the DFO portfolio:

Seamus O’Regan
There hasn’t been a federal fisheries minister from Newfoundland  since Conservative Loyola Hearn held the post from 2006 to 2008. While Newfoundland and Labrador traditionally has only one representative in the federal cabinet, and with Seamus O’Regan likely to be returned to the Department of Natural Resources, it seems improbable that Trudeau will promote another of his Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal MPs to cabinet. Nevertheless speculation has mounted that O’Regan might have his brief moved. This has, however, been discouraged by the man himself: “I very much enjoy being minister of Natural Resources,”  he said following his re-election win.

Seamus O’Regan PHOTO: Canadian Liberal Party

Lena Metlege Diab
A Halifax-based lawyer, Metlege Diab was first elected to the Nova Scotia legislature in 2013 when the Liberals formed a majority government. Elected to parliament in the federal election of 2021, this experienced and highly respected Halifax West MP would be an easy replacement for Jordan.

MP Elect in Halifax, Lena Metlege Diab PHOTO: CBC

Ken McDonald
Former mayor of Conception Bay South, the MP for Avalon was elected in 2015, and has chaired the standing committee on Fisheries and Oceans, making him an obvious choice for promotion to fisheries minister.

Ken McDonald Liberal MP for Avalon PHOTO: Canadian Liberal Party

Gudie Hutchings
Gudie Hutchings, also elected in 2015, represents the Long Range Mountains fishing region in Newfoundland. Having been parliamentary secretary to two ministers, Hutchings is in line for a promotion and with previous experience operating fly-fishing lodges in Labrador, has some experience of the portfolio.

Member of Parliament for the Long Range Mountains, Gudie Hutchings PHOTO: Canadian Liberal Party

Sean Fraser
Sean Fraser, who has made the traditionally Tory riding of Pictou Centre his own since 2015, has been taking on progressively greater parliamentary duties. He is widely regarded as a front-runner for a cabinet post in the new government. Fraser was overlooked in 2019 to make Jordan the first female federal cabinet minister in Nova Scotia history, could this be his time?

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Sean Fraser. PHOTO: The Canadian Press

Jaime Battiste
A seat at the cabinet table for the Mi’kmaq MP for Sydney-Victoria in Nova Scotia could help ease some of the tensions between indigenous and non-indigenous fishermen that helped bring down Bernadette Jordan. This promising MP, however, has a history of unfortunate social media posts that have a habit of resurfacing.

First Indigenous MP from Nova Scotia, Mi’kmaw lawyer and activist Jaime Battiste PHOTO: Star Halifax

Andy Fillmore
Andy Fillmore, the MP for Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, was a respected city planner in his former life. A non-fishing riding, such as Halifax might also help relieve pressure on the minister from angry fishermen – one of the factors that made Bernadette Jordan’s life so difficult.

Andy Fillmore, MP for Halifax PHOTO: Canadian Liberal Party

Read more: Poisoned chalice? Impossible role awaits new Canadian fisheries minister