Seamus O'Regan faces lifelong struggle to stay sober, says political strategist

A political strategist in Ottawa is praising MP Seamus O'Regan for going public about his battle with the bottle, but Tim Powers says staying sober will be a lifelong challenge.
Seamus O'Regan addresses supporters after being winning St. John's South-Mount Pearl for the Liberals. (CBC)

A political strategist in Ottawa is praising St. John's South-Mount Pearl MP Seamus O'Regan for going public about his battle with the bottle, but Tim Powers says staying sober will be a lifelong challenge.

"It's a very brave thing to do, and we all wish him luck as he begins this battle, which doesn't end. It lasts your whole life," said Powers, in an interview Monday with CBC Television's Here and Now.

"I say bravo to Seamus on both fronts," he said about O'Regan's decision to seek treatment, and to talk openly about it.

"As a politician, he's a leader," said Powers. "And by going public and talking about his struggles, he helps humanize an issue — alcohol addiction — that's very real for many people."

Power, who spoke with O'Regan Sunday said he doesn't know if any one thing was a catalyst.

"Seamus has had a lot of change in his life over the last year-and-a-half. I'm not a doctor so I won't try and diagnose how that manifested itself, but I think he decided....that now is the time to take control."

Ottawa like a 'frat party'

Powers, who is now vice chair of Summa Strategies, has worked with the Conservative Party of Canada and with John Crosbie when he was Minister of Fisheries.

Tim Powers, who worked as a policy advisor to the national Conservative Party, says politics and drinking often go together. (CBC)

He said Ottawa can be a tough place to stay sober.

"There are a number of other politicians here that fight the demon drink," said Power.

"Ottawa is a bit like a frat party all of the time. He's going to need good support around here, and people who will help him when he feels the temptation to drink again."  

He said O'Regan is not the first MP to struggle with alcoholism.

Historians will tell you Canada was conceived over a bottle.   - Tim Powers

"In 2012 an MP here in Ottawa on the NDP side, Romeo Saganash, announced he was taking a leave to deal with alcohol. The current immigration minister John McCallum had some struggles before that were publicized," said Powers.

"Historians will tell you Canada was conceived over a bottle. John A. Macdonald and all the fathers of confederation drank quite heavily when they brought Canada together a hundred and some odd years ago, so it's sadly part and parcel of political life, and everyday life."

As for O'Regan's poliitcal future and his friendship with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Powers said the most important thing is O'Regan's own health.

By going public, Powers says O'Regan humanizes the issue of alcoholism. (CBC)

"Every relationship he has, has likely been influenced by alcohol and now he wants to put that out of his life, and one would think that only creates the opportunity for improvement."

Powers said O'Regan will have to lean on his friends and family when he returns to Parliament, and to everyday life.

"He may fail, he may stumble sometimes. Humans do that, but as long as he continues to try to get back up I think he will always have support."


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