Former cabinet minister, Richmond MLA passes away

STRAIT AREA: Last week, the region reacted to the death of Gerry Doucet.

After first being elected in 1963 at the age of 26, defeating Liberal leader and incumbent Earl Urquhart by 83 votes, Doucet served nine years as Richmond MLA.

Gabriel LeBlanc of Isle Madame worked on Doucet’s first campaign as a teenage volunteer, then became president of the Richmond Progressive Conservative Association. After that, he “became a trouble-shooter” for Doucet.

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“Gerry had to shake hands and see everybody,” LeBlanc noted. “He made as much out of the average fisherman and farmer as he did out of what you could call the upper echelon of society. He had this knack for making people know he was listening to them.”

In 1971, Doucet lost a hotly contested Progressive Conservative leadership race to John Buchannan.

During his time in government, Doucet served as Nova Scotia’s first ever Acadian cabinet minister, serving as Minister of Education.

LeBlanc described Doucet as “a true Acadia patriot” who was proud of his roots and paved the way for others.

“He was certainly what you’d call a workaholic,” LeBlanc recalled. “He always got things done. If there was a need, he was the type of person to go the extra mile to make sure that need was met. He also had a tremendous affiliation with the Acadian community; he involved them quite a bit when he was a member and cabinet minister.”

Gerry Doucet was leading on the first ballot during the PC’s 1971 provincial leadership convention.

In 1974, Doucet decided not to run. At that time, he was one of the principle partners in Kelly, Doucet, Evans, the Port Hawkesbury legal firm that’s now EMM Law.

Bob MacEachern, owner of 101.5 FM The Hawk, said his relationship dates back to the early days of radio in Port Hawkesbury when Doucet established CIGO 1410 AM in 1975.

“He was doing law, and when he got out of politics, he still wanted to do some community service,” MacEachern recalled. “He had always wanted to see a radio station established in the Port Hawkesbury area, and that was his next project.”

Interestingly, the original home of CIGO was the Port Hawkesbury Professional Centre, as the facility accommodated staff before the station’s MacIntosh Avenue venue was built. In later years, after CIGO became The Hawk, MacEachern Broadcasting purchased the professional centre from Doucet and his brother. Doucet had practiced law out of the professional centre, when he first got CIGO going.

MacEachern moved the radio station back to the building.

When speaking with The Reporter last Friday, MacEachern said he was doing so from Doucet’s old office.

“[Doucet’s] autobiography is called Acadian Footprints, and I certainly think he left some pretty big footprints in Nova Scotia,” MacEachern said. “It was his vision that established the station.”

Doucet owned the radio station until 1985 but MacEachern said he remained a champion for the Strait area.

“He was always a guy who promoted the Strait region,” MacEachern stated. “He worked behind the scenes even in the 1980s in re-establishing the community after the heavy water plant closed. He did a lot in the background that people might not realize.”

After purchasing the station in the 1990s, MacEachern said Doucet became a “go-to guy.”

“He was a guy with a lot of ethics, a lot of class, and very compassionate as well,” MacEachern said. “He always spoke with great love for his parents, and he never forgot his roots in Grand Etang. He was just a good guy.”

Last Friday morning, Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie released a statement on Doucet’s passing.

“Gerry Doucet was at his best encouraging the careers of aspiring business people and politicians from all political parties and backgrounds,” Baillie said. “He truly felt joy at the success of others. I am one of the lucky beneficiaries of his endless patience, kindness, and support. There are also many others who are mourning the loss of a true friend and mentor today.”

The statement noted that Doucet was the driving force behind more political and economic successes in Nova Scotia than people will ever know, but despite his many successes, Baillie said he was most proud of his family and in particular his five children and two step-children.

“My heartbroken condolences go out to Gerry’s wife Vida, his children Michelle, Dana, Gerry, Paul and Denise, and his step-sons Brian and Brad at this sad time.”