MP Seamus O’Regan hungry for a second term
By Chris Lewis | Vol. 12 No. 18 (September 4, 2019)
With one full term under his belt, St John’s South - Mount Pearl MP Seamus O’Regan says he is looking forward to taking another swing at federal politics.
O’Regan says he is proud of the work he was able to put in during his first term, describing his riding as having some of the best of both worlds in terms of urban and rural areas.
O’Regan spent about 15-years in a national media position, where he worked for CTV, and even sat as a host of Canada AM at one point before coming back home to Newfoundland and Labrador to enter politics. Prior to his media career, O’Regan had served as a political staffer in the Brian Tobin administration, both for the premier himself and the then Justice Minister Ed Roberts.
“I feel like I’m right back where I started, it came full circle,” said O’Regan. “To be back here, and as Indigenous Services Minister as well, is really something special. It feels great.”
However, his time as MP started with a bit of a rocky start. Shortly after being elected, and sworn in as Veterans Affairs Minister, O’Regan entered rehabilitation for an addiction to alcohol. But, he said, he is glad to have had the experience, and that it’s served as a means of making him a better person at the end of the day. He spent about a month in rehab, and describes each day since then as a blessing.
“It’s the work, the work is a real blessing. Sometimes I’m not the most showy about it all - I’m not a ranter or a roarer in public, it’s just not who I am. I do that in private, and when you’re in government, a lot of the work happens behind closed doors,” he said.
Not that he is afraid of the public side of the work, mind you.
“People are busy. They’ve got kids, jobs, volunteer work, and don’t often have the time to think hard about how the federal government affects them,” O’regan said. “My job is to remind them of those things, and it’s my job to make sure they’ve got all the information in front of them. Then, be evaluated on that. This is the most public performance review I’ve had in my life, and that’s what it is.”
In the last four years, O’Regan said, the Liberal party has managed to achieve a lot for not only his riding, but the province as a whole. Still, he sees plenty of areas for more work to be done.
O’Regan said one of the biggest things that’s been accomplished during his term was the $2.5-billion from the Atlantic Accord - $2-billion over the next 10 years that he said will be a big boost in financial security for the province.
“Unless oil prices go up substantially, these are going to be a rough 10-years, and we need to be able to see our way through that. So, that’s had a very positive effect on the provincial economy,” O’Regan maintained. “We’ve still got some challenges, big time, but we’re in a much better spot than we were. It was tremendously important that we find that kind of financial latitude, and we’re committed to working on (Muskrat Falls electricity) rate mitigation in the province.”
He said that although it may take a while for the province to feel a little more financially stable, he feels as though he and the Liberals are capable of doing just that, describing them as the party of the middle class.
“The notion of people’s power bills going up astronomically is not something that is good for the middle class, so we’ve got work to do there, but we’re committed to that work,” he said.
O’Regan sid another federal project, the ocean supercluster, will have a positive effect all across the province, and that it will be where the province’s ocean and high-technology industries meet, ultimately creating work for young, talented Newfoundlanders.
He added that he hopes to work more on the arts and tourism industries in the province, calling the arts a distinct identity for Newfoundland as a whole. He wants to see artists making a decent living, and have more opportunities.
O’Regan said he has not heard much from residents about the SNC-Lavalin scandal that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau found himself involved in earlier in 2019.
When asked how he felt the Prime Minister handled the ordeal, O’Regan said Trudeau followed the will of his caucus, and the will of his MPs, who he says all shared strong feelings about it. O’Regan said he did not feel the situation harmed his position as Minister of Indigenous Affairs.
“The SNC-Lavalin case came up absolutely zero times,” he said of his various visits to small communities across the country, particularly in northern regions of Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes. “What they’re interested in are water treatment plants, roads, housing, health clinics, schools, and increasing economic development … Our focus really didn’t waver much. We’ve always been concentrating on the work.”
With seven MPs in the province, all from the same party, O’Regan said he and the other Newfoundland and Labrador members have been able to form a strong working relationship, touting their combined work ethic when it comes to bettering the province.
“One thing that I learned when I went away early on in this term, and when I came to terms with the depression and anxiety that I had then – I learned that you only have so many hours in a day, and only so much energy that you can dedicate,” said O’Regan. “So, you really have to come to terms with where you want to dedicate that energy. I am of the firm mind that I want to dedicate that energy to the work, and not to the drama. It’s a waste of time and effort, we’ve got too much to do. We’re a noted force in Ottawa, because we’re focused and we’re organized … We go into meetings agenda-ready and focused on our issues. That doesn’t make good drama or headlines, but that’s not what we’re interested in doing.”