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Politics across generations

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Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of articles profiling the MPs who represent Halifax on Parliament Hill.

 

For Geoff Regan, things are generational.

Son of a premier, husband of a Nova Scotia cabinet minister, and grandson of a Member of Parliament, Regan’s family is pretty much a staple of Canadian politics.

But it might end with him. The long-time Liberal Member of Parliament for Halifax West doesn’t think his kids will go into the family business.

If one of his three children do run for office, Regan’s got some advice for them.

“You’ve got to start at the bottom,” he says. Working his way up from being just the son of premier Gerald Regan to being a capable politician in his own right, he says it was all done through doing the unglamorous hard work that needs to be done in politics to earn your stripes.

So it’s no surprise that he’s been elected in five consecutive elections.

He actually won his first campaign in 1993, only to take what he calls an “involuntary sabbatical,” four years later, when he lost to the NDP. He decided to give it another go, and was re-elected three years after that.

“If it had lost by 25 votes, I probably would have been more upset,” he says. “I’ve talked to people who’ve lost by very close margins, and they spend time thinking about the ways they could have gained 25 more votes. I lost by 1,734 votes, so I didn’t go through that process,” he says. (Actually, he lost by 1,729, but who’s counting?)

Regan has seen virtually every up-and-down there is to be had in politics. When he came back to Ottawa, his star started rising as he was moved up to progressively bigger offices. By 2006, he occupied a nice big spot in Centre Block, as Justice Minister. Now, he’s settled into an, admittedly, poorly heated, but cozy office in the Confederation Building.

His office is dotted with an assortment of model boats, given to him during his brief stint as Minister for Fisheries and Oceans in the government of Paul Martin. Directly behind his desk is a painting of Peggy’s Cove, passed down from his parents.

On one table, next to a replica of a Bluenose, there’s an ashtray encased in glass—it’s not encouraging anyone to smoke in the office, he says—that was passed down to him from his wife’s father, John Harrison, who served as an MP for Saskatchewan throughout the ‘50s.

Kelly, who married Geoff the year he was first elected, now serves as Labour Minister in the new Nova Scotia government. Having been alongside him for his introduction to politics, Regan says his wife has managed to navigate her introduction pretty easily.

The couple are one of a handful of similar pairings across the country. Sean Casey, fellow Liberal MP in Charlottetown, whose wife is the speaker of the PEI legislature, called Regan for some insight before deciding to run.

“It’s busy,” Regan says, of living in a fully elected household. “The household is busy, and some things have to be put aside, like taking care of our garden.”

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