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Liberal MHA and cabinet minister Derrick Bragg dead at 59

Derrick Bragg is the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. He is also the MHA for Fogo Island — Cape Freels, and his district includes the Fogo Island ferry route. (Mark Quinn/CBC - image credit)
Derrick Bragg is the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. He is also the MHA for Fogo Island — Cape Freels, and his district includes the Fogo Island ferry route. (Mark Quinn/CBC - image credit)
Derrick Bragg is the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. He is also the MHA for Fogo Island — Cape Freels, and his district includes the Fogo Island ferry route.
Derrick Bragg is the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. He is also the MHA for Fogo Island — Cape Freels, and his district includes the Fogo Island ferry route.

Liberal MHA and cabinet minister Derrick Bragg has died at 59. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Seven months after announcing he had been diagnosed with tongue cancer, Derrick Bragg, a Newfoundland and Labrador cabinet minister and MHA for Fogo Island-Cape Freels, has died.

He was 59 years old.

Premier Andrew Furey announced Bragg's death with a statement early Monday afternoon.

"It is with a heavy heart that I acknowledge and honour the passing of the honourable Derrick Bragg. On behalf of the people of the district of Fogo Island-Cape Freels, the entire House of Assembly, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the people of this province, everyone who was lucky enough to work with, be a friend of, or simply know Derrick, including my family, I send my deepest condolences," said Furey in his statement, issued shortly after 1:30 p.m. on Monday.

"To his family and all those feeling the weight of this loss, may the memories of a life well lived comfort and console you in these hard moments."

Bragg was first elected as MHA for the district of Fogo Island-Cape Freels to the provincial legislature in 2015,  which saw Dwight Ball's Liberals take the reins of government from the Progressive Conservatives.

Premier Andrew Furey made Derrick Bragg the minister of transportation and infrastructure before shuffling him to fisheries, forestry and agriculture in April 2021.
Premier Andrew Furey made Derrick Bragg the minister of transportation and infrastructure before shuffling him to fisheries, forestry and agriculture in April 2021.

Premier Andrew Furey made Bragg the minister of transportation and infrastructure before shuffling him to fisheries, forestry and agriculture in April 2021. (Andrew Furey/X)

After stints as parliamentary secretary, first for the minister of fisheries and land resources and then for the minister of municipal affairs and environment, Bragg was re-elected in the May 2019 election. That September, he joined cabinet as the minister of municipal affairs and environment, minister responsible for the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board and the registrar general.

In August 2020, new Premier Andrew Furey shuffled the cabinet, putting Bragg in charge of transportation and infrastructure and making him minister responsible for the Public Procurement Agency. In April 2021 he was moved again, becoming minister of fisheries, forestry and agriculture.

Bragg stepped away from the portfolio in June 2023 after announcing his diagnosis of tongue cancer. He remained in cabinet as minister without portfolio to provide advice to his government colleagues without specific responsibility while he continued his cancer treatment.

As fisheries minister, Bragg was in the spotlight for several weeks last spring as crab fishermen, protesting a low season-opening price for their catch, kept their boats out of the water. Bragg was in the middle of the dispute between the Fish, Food & Allied Workers' union and the Association of Seafood Producers.

As the tie-up dragged on, Bragg angered union leadership after he suggested FFAW members should get to vote by secret ballot on whether they should continue holding out. When the two sides eventually reached an agreement, the seafood producers' association commended Bragg for "encouraging a fact-based market discussion" on the way to a deal.

"As a premier, a colleague, and as a friend, I will miss him dearly. His counsel, his humour, and his unwavering belief that the brightest days are still ahead for Newfoundland and Labrador," wrote Furey.

"Our province is a sadder place today without Derrick Bragg at her stead. God grant thee safe and easy passage, Minister Bragg, and God guard thee, Newfoundland and Labrador."

Bragg, who died early Monday morning, was born and raised in Greenspond, where he was town clerk and manager for three decades and fire chief for 28 years. He also served on the board of directors for the N.L. Association of Municipal Administrators for eight years, including five years as president.

Greenspond Mayor Herbert Burry taught Bragg at Heritage Academy in the community.

"I still remember the little boy sitting in my class room with a big smile on his face, not realizing at the time that he would be instrumental in moving the province forward in portfolios like the fisheries and municipal affairs," Burry said.

"It's interesting the number of people he touched by the way he spoke, by the was he listened to you and sometimes the way he fought with you."

Bragg remembered for generosity, humour

Speaking with CBC News on Monday, Humber-Bay of Islands MHA Eddie Joyce, a former Liberal colleague of Bragg, said Bragg was a great friend who cared deeply for the province.

"He was a true politician who never forgot where he came from. He never forgot his roots, he never forgot why he was involved in politics, which was to help other people," Joyce said.

A crab harvester confronts Fisheries Minister Derrick Bragg in Confederation Building after Wednesday's session at the House of Assembly.
A crab harvester confronts Fisheries Minister Derrick Bragg in Confederation Building after Wednesday's session at the House of Assembly.

Bragg was known for speaking his mind freely as a politician, and welcomed open discussions with those who agreed with and debated his positions. Bragg, right, is seen speaking with a crab harvester after he confronted the then Fisheries Minister during a CBC interview. (Darrell Roberts/CBC)

In a statement, House Speaker Derek Bennett said Bragg was "not just a colleague, but a friend to all."

"His cheerful smile will be missed and his legacy of devoted public service will forever be etched in the history of our legislature."

NDP Leader Jim Dinn wrote Monday that Bragg exemplified a "rare sense of service to community" throughout his life.

"Before he ever was elected to the House of Assembly, he worked and volunteered for decades in his own community and in the province," Dinn wrote. "As a minister, he was dedicated and open to discussion. As an MHA, he was respectful with a quick sense of humour and a generous collegiality. He was a decent and down to earth person," Dinn said.

PC Leader Tony Wakeham said Bragg was open, accessible, fair and a pleasure to work with.

"Derrick served with distinction in the House of Assembly and was a gentleman in every sense of the word. Proud of his rural roots and strong community connection which defined the man, Derrick was held in high regard on all sides of the House."

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