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Tribute to Andy Scott, Former MP for Fredericton

07/01/2013 04:40 EDT | Updated 08/31/2013 05:12 EDT

Andy Scott had a diverse career, starting out as a political organizer, holding various positions in the New Brunswick Liberal Association -- including Executive Director -- and being a key player in the 1987 McKenna sweep, where the provincial Liberals won every seat in the Legislature. Mr. Scott was later an MP representing Fredericton, a Cabinet Minister serving with two Prime Ministers -- Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin -- and then, after retiring from elected office, a social policy expert at the University of New Brunswick.

Andy Scott's death at the age of 58 was untimely and tragic. He was a hard worker, with deep roots in the community, dedicated to progressive social policy. He was someone with a strong social conscience, committed to helping the poor and vulnerable, committed to human rights. He was respected across party-lines, as evident from the mourning and tributes from members and elected officials across party lines.

As an MP for my riding of Fredericton, I remember Andy Scott as someone strongly committed to his constituency, having a regular seat at the Fredericton Farmer's Market every Saturday where he was accessible, talking directly to his constituents. As MP, he would host policy forums, often on contentious issues, not afraid to face tough questions.

Andy Scott was a notable presence in Fredericton, someone whose permanent absence will be greatly felt. His commitment to community was noted by New Brunswick premier David Alward, who stated that "Andy had been a tireless community builder in New Brunswick throughout his many years of service to the people of this province."

Andy Scott's commitment to community was evident in his continual re-election as MP, in what was then considered a traditionally "Tory riding", including in 1997 which was a tough election year for federal Liberals in Atlantic Canada.

As Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Andy Scott played a key role in the achievement of the Kelowna Accord, which would have provided $5 billion over five years to Aboriginal communities, an agreement which was unfortunately not fulfilled after the defeat of the Liberal government in 2006. In light of tragedies such as on the Attawapiskat reserve in northern Ontario, where there is poor housing and living conditions, the importance of the Kelowna Accord is all the more evident.

Former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna stated, regarding Andy Scott's role in the Kelowna Accord, that "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."

It is hard to have a perfect record in politics, but Andy Scott's is overall a record to be proud of. In a time of increasing cynicism about our political institutions and politicians - with often-dysfunctional minority Parliaments, with the Senate expense scandal - someone like Andy Scott reminds us that politics can still be a means to achieve positive results, to employ the levers of power and government to help the lives of people.

Andy Scott's post-electoral career reflected his commitment to sound policy. He played a leading role in the establishment of the New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network (NBSPRN), an organization which brings together academics and policy makers to support sound evidence-based policy. This is an important function, as often academics and policy makers (in the civil service and in elected office) exist in isolation from each other, with those in academia unable to reach a wider audience, and with policy-makers often acting in the dark, without sound qualitative and quantitative research to help identify problems and solutions.

At worse, policy can end up being driven more by ideology and pre-set assumptions than by concrete and substantive explorations of society's problems and their solutions

Andy Scott's contribution, in establishing NBSPRN, is an invaluable and lasting legacy, as stated in an e-mail from NBSPRN regarding Andy Scott, "your passion, legacy and spirit will live on in our work at the NB Social Policy Research Network."

When establishing this initiative, Andy Scott's office was at the University of New Brunswick's Department of Sociology, at the university's Fredericton campus. While I unfortunately did not get the chance to work closely with Mr. Scott as others had the privilege to, I did have several chances - as a Sociology PhD candidate - to speak with him during his time there.

I always found Andy Scott to be very approachable, engaged and enthusiastic about the issues, passionate about his work, and about public service.

In politics, in policy-development, in academia, and in the community at large, Andy Scott leaves a deep and lasting legacy, one that affects those who knew him well, and those who knew him as a leader in the community. Andy Scott was tragically taken from us too soon, but this legacy - as a model example of a public servant, as a leader in public engagement, in his commitment to aboriginal issues, and through the work of the New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network - will live on.