Former provincial NDP cabinet minister looking to re-enter politics

·3 min read

Sterling Belliveau wants to return to the ball, only this time it would be with a different dance partner.

The former provincial NDP cabinet minister wants to run in the next provincial election and he wants to do it for the Progressive Conservatives.

Online ads declaring Belliveau's intentions to seek the Tory nomination for the Shelburne district recently started to appear.

SouthCoastToday.ca first reported the news.

The former commercial fisherman said it was the controversy this past fall surrounding the launch of a Mi'kmaw moderate livelihood lobster fishery in St. Marys Bay that pulled him back into public life. At times protests turned violent as non-Indigenous and Indigenous fishermen and their supporters clashed.

Police have laid multiple charges against people in relation to alleged assaults and property damage.

Looking to provide a voice

Some fishermen, believing their concerns were not being heard, invited Belliveau to speak at several rallies around southwestern Nova Scotia. From there, he appeared at a federal committee meeting and was then approached by the local executive about running for the Tories.

While most of the details related to the situation with the fishery fall under federal jurisdiction, Belliveau said he thinks there is an important role for the province to play when it comes to advocating on behalf of the industry. The province issues buyers' licences.

"It's the economic engine that drives our communities in coastal Atlantic Canada, especially in Shelburne County, and we need to have a say," he said in an interview.

"The provincial legislature has never sat since March, since the COVID virus got on our shores."

With that in mind, Belliveau said he wants to run for the Tories because he believes they are best positioned to win the next provincial election, although he's also dissatisfied with the way the federal NDP has responded to the fisheries situation.

Welcome back Shelburne

He said he recognizes the First Nations' treaty rights outlined in the Marshall decision, which allows for a moderate livelihood.

But Belliveau also noted the subsequent clarification from the Supreme Court of Canada, known as Marshall 2, that gives the federal government the ability to regulate. To do so, however, the government must have justification.

Belliveau was an MLA for 11 years, first elected in the Shelburne district and then re-elected in the reconfigured Queens-Shelburne district.

When the NDP formed government in 2009 for the first time in the party's history, Belliveau was named to cabinet, holding the Environment and Fisheries portfolios.

He was re-elected in 2013 at a time when most of his caucus colleagues were wiped out by a Liberal wave. He did not reoffer in 2017.

The next election will see Shelburne and Queens return to standalone districts, a change Belliveau welcomes.

"It's a personal victory for me because, if you recall, I voted against my party at the time because I felt that it was not right [to abolish the district]."

Tory officials say they expect the nomination to be contested. A date for a nomination meeting has not been set.

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