Fisheries minister to be treated for cancer
OTTAWA • Dominic LeBlanc has been diagnosed with leukemia, but says he’s confident that won’t get in the way of his work as federal fisheries minister.
In a joint statement Wednesday with his oncologist, LeBlanc revealed that he was diagnosed last April with chronic lymphocytic leukemia after his family doctor noticed an anomaly in his white blood cell count during his annual physical.
Hematologist-oncologist Dr. Nicholas Finn described the disease as “one of the most common types of leukemia in adults.”
“CLL is a chronic disease in the sense that it must be closely monitored and sometimes treated but can be controlled,” he said.
LeBlanc, 49, is scheduled to begin treatments next week, which will conclude in the spring. Finn said LeBlanc can then expect a pause between treatments “for many years, with only routine follow-ups.”
Due to the stage of his condition, he added that LeBlanc has the flexibility to schedule treatments in a way “that will have minimal impact on his work.”
“Like tens of thousands of Canadians living with chronic illness, I will continue to work and to serve as a member of Parliament and cabinet minister, including during treatments,” said LeBlanc.
He recognized that “many Canadians face health challenges much more difficult than this,” adding that he’s “confident that this will not impact the work I will continue to do for Canadians.”
LeBlanc said starting treatments next week “could not have happened at a better time” given the parliamentary calendar. The House of Commons is scheduled to break at the end of next week and won’t resume sitting until the end of January.
LeBlanc is one of the longest-serving MPs in the largely rookie Liberal caucus, having represented the New Brunswick riding of Beausejour for 17 years. He’s been a friend of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau since childhood, when Trudeau’s father, Pierre, was prime minister and LeBlanc’s father, Romeo, was fisheries minister. Romeo LeBlanc, who died in 2009, also served as governor general from 1995-1999.
All this week — including Wednesday, only a couple of hours after issuing the statement — LeBlanc has been filling in for Trudeau, who is in China, during question period in the House of Commons. He deflected opposition jabs Wednesday with his customary partisan enthusiasm.
No one on the opposition benches directly mentioned LeBlanc’s condition, until the closing moments of question period when it was Green party Leader Elizabeth May’s turn to pose a question.
“It’s tricky to do this but I can’t ask my question until I express what I think is in all of our hearts — best wishes to the minister of fisheries as he faces his new health challenges,” she said to applause all around.