Harold ‘Junior’ Theriault has officially announced he will not run in the next provincial election.
Theriault has represented Digby-Annapolis as our member of the legislative assembly (MLA) for the last nine years and says he will continue to do so only until the next election.
The retired fisherman from Digby Neck says stress, it’s effect on his health and the pleas of his family all contributed to his decision to leave politics.
“The family is telling me to smarten up and come home,” says Theriault. “The doctor is telling me the stress is killing me and the kids are asking me if I want to die up there in the Legislature. This is the kind of thing I’m hearing every day.”
Theriault’s great grandfather, grandfather and father all died of heart attacks in the fall of their 57th year. Theriault also had a heart attack in October 2010, when he was 57. He survived he says only because of new medical technology. He has two stints, recurring bouts of angina and the doctor tells him his arteries are all getting old and collapsing.
“He says if I take care of myself, change my habits, eat right, lose some weight, stop drinking coffee, do all those things, he can give me another 10 years,” says Theriault. “He says the biggest thing I have to get out of my life is stress. And I’m in the worst job going for stress.”
Theriault says the first seven years as MLA, he loved every minute of it.
“I couldn’t wait to get up and get to work. I followed Joe Casey’s advice. He told me when I got into this if I set aside 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, it should just about cover me. He didn’t tell me I’d be dreaming about it too.”
Theriault says he felt it was part of the job to be among the people of the riding and he didn’t see anything wrong with going to three suppers and a funeral on any given night.
“I never did know how to say no—anywhere there was three balloons, I was there. But the last couple years, my family has been teaching me how to say no.”
Theriault says while he is doing all the important work, and still tackling the concerns of the people in the constituency, he hasn’t been to as many funerals or social functions the last two years.
“The fight has gone out of me,” he says. “I promised the people of this riding, I’d do my best and that’s what I’ve done but I can’t do it anymore.”
Theriault remembers back a decade when he was asking for his mother’s approval to run for the Liberals in the first place.
“No son of mine is going to be a politician,” she told him.
He went away and thought about it and went back the next day.
“Remember all the work I’ve been doing representing fishermen around here?”
Theriault, who had spent 35 years fishing, was the chair of the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association and he sat on the advisory board for lobster fishing area 34.
“Yes,” his mother answered. “You’re doing great there. Why don’t you keep doing that?”
Theriault told her he didn’t want to be a politician.
“I want to be a representative like I was for the fishermen, but for all the people here.”
With that he earned his mother’s approval and threw his hat in the ring.
He upset the incumbent Gordon Balser, then the Minister of Agriculture by 350 votes in 2003. An important issue in that election was the Conservative government’s support for, and Theriault’s opposition to, a quarry proposed for White Point on Digby Neck.
In 2006, Theriault defeated Conservative candidate Jimmy MacAlpine (who is now deputy warden of the Municipality of the District of Digby) by almost 1,000 votes. In 2009, Theriault came out of ahead of NDP candidate Sherri Oliver by 2,500 votes.
He intends to keep working right up to the next election but wanted to announce his decision now, so that others can start preparing to take his place.
Theriault says he has lots to keep him busy around home—helping his three sons with lobster fishing and the family whale watching business.
“There’s lots to do, no shortage that’s for sure. And I want to watch the grandkids grow up. It’s time to come home.”