FREDERICTON – Tributes were pouring in Monday for veteran New Brunswick and federal politician Keith Ashfield, whose death at the age of 66 was announced Sunday.
Rick Lafrance, president of the Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick, posted a short message on Twitter announcing that Ashfield had passed away.
“On behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick I want to express our sorrow upon the passing of Keith Ashfield,” it said. “Our deepest sympathy to Keith’s wife, Judy, his family and to everyone who loved our friend and colleague.”
Ashfield served as the member of Parliament for the riding of Fredericton from 2008 to 2015 and filled a variety of positions in then-prime minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet.
From 2011 to 2013, Ashfield was the federal fisheries minister, but was defeated in the 2015 federal election.
Harper also posted a message on Twitter, expressing his appreciation for the long-serving politician.
“A champion of New Brunswick, Keith Ashfield’s advice was always sought and valued at the cabinet table,” Harper wrote. “Laureen and I mourn the loss of a great Canadian and friend.”
Ashfield was diagnosed with cancer in 2013, but had reportedly beaten the disease by the fall of 2014 and announced last month that he would seek a nomination to run as a provincial Tory in the fall election.
Before his time in federal politics, Ashfield served as a provincial member of the legislature from 1999 to 2008. He was named deputy speaker of the legislature and was later sworn in as minister of natural resources and energy.
“Saddened to hear of the passing of former provincial and federal cabinet minister Keith Ashfield,” New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant, a Liberal, said on Twitter. “Keith was a dedicated public servant and he will be sorely missed.”
From 2011 to 2013, Ashfield served as the federal minister of fisheries and oceans, but was defeated in the 2015 federal election.
“Tremendously saddened to learn of the passing of Keith Ashfield, a much-admired member of our Conservative family and a friend to all of us,” said federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.
“As an MLA, MP, and cabinet minister, Keith was always a champion for the people of New Brunswick. His loss will be felt across the province.”