SHEET HARBOUR — Eastern Shore MLA Kent Smith, who was appointed Nova Scotia’s new provincial minister of fisheries and aquaculture Sept. 14, says he’s more determined than ever to represent the interests of his constituents now that he’s a member of cabinet.
“I would never be in the position I’m in without having been on the ground, representing my constituency,” he told The Journal in an interview on Sept. 16. “I’m incredibly excited to get going and, in fact, I’m already well underway.”
Smith assumes the major portfolio at a key point in the industry’s history. “We want to make sure [seafood], our number one export, is protected; obviously, there are some issues that aren’t so cut and dry. A couple of the bigger ones are federally regulated. But, certainly, we’re going to be at the table and part of the conversation.”
Topping that conversation’s agenda, he said, is the impact of climate change. “It’s absolutely [a priority]. I mean I’m an optimist, in general, but changing water temperatures could change where we fish, where we catch the crustaceans. So, it might eventually be that the fishing areas will shift. Still…we are a resilient bunch here in Nova Scotia, and so we’ll find them and catch them and export them.”
While Sheet Harbour-raised Smith acknowledged the Eastern Shore’s long sea-faring tradition, he noted, “I’m fisheries and aquaculture minister for the entire province. Of course, the Eastern Shore is near and dear to my heart, so I’m certainly going to represent the constituency to the best of my abilities, be it as MLA or minister.”
Earlier this year, Smith – who has represented the riding since Aug. 2021, when he defeated Liberal incumbent Kevin Murphy in the provincial election – played a vocal role in turning Eastern Shore Memorial Hospital’s frequently closed emergency department into a reliably open urgent care unit. “I don’t want to take too much credit for it, but I was a pain in the ass to Nova Scotia Health,” he said. “I will tell you that it was on a weekly basis that I reached out to the folks that I deal with to say, ‘What’s going on with Sheet Harbour hospital and why aren’t we moving faster?’”
He added: “I am so proud of the changes that have happened there. We’ve just recruited a brand new doctor who’s got a three-year return of service in that community. I know things are now definitely trending in the right direction.”