Jim Carr to strike balance between battling cancer, being voice for Prairies

Winnipeg South member of Parliament Jim Carr says he will work to strike a balance between battling cancer and his newly appointed role as a special representative to the Prairies.

'I went ... and gave my victory speech and was then told to immediately check in to the emergency room': Carr

Jim Carr was named the federal government's special representative to the Prairies on Wednesday. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Winnipeg MP Jim Carr says he will work to strike a balance between battling cancer and his newly appointed role as the federal government's special representative to the Prairies.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named Carr to his inner circle Wednesday, but this time his role is outside of cabinet.

"I feel well, my energy level is right, but you have to strike a balance. I don't want to do too much," Carr told CBC News Thursday.

Carr was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, the day after he was re-elected in his riding of Winnipeg South Centre on Oct. 21.

Carr served in cabinet as minister of international trade diversification before the election was called. He was minister of natural resources from 2015 to 2018.

The prime minister's minority government is paying extra attention to the West after the party was shut out of seats in Alberta and Saskatchewan in last month's election.

Two of Trudeau's top cabinet ministers, Saskatchewan's Ralph Goodale and Alberta's Amarjeet Sohi, lost their seats as Conservatives swept Saskatchewan and took every riding except one in Alberta, as well as much of Manitoba and B.C.

Carr's position is a new one, created to rebuild relations in Western Canada.

"I will be the prime minister's eyes and ears and voice in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta," he said.

"It'll be my job to communicate with the prime minister what I hear across those three provinces and convert that, with my colleagues, into policies that are best for the West, and therefore, good for Canada."

Carr sees it as an opportunity to build on his knowledge of the Prairies and use that for good.

"The West is a dynamic and vibrant region and much more than resources," he said.

"I have a lot of experience in the West, both as natural resources minister and minister of trade. I've spent virtually my whole life in Manitoba, with a little bit in B.C., and I feel a real affinity, so I feel like there's a bit of a head start there on boning up on the issues that are important: Energy, agriculture, trade, transportation."

Cancer diagnosis

Carr said last month's election was a whirlwind.

"I went to the Caboto Centre and gave my victory speech and was then told to immediately check in to the emergency room at the Health Sciences Centre," he said.

"I went from the Caboto Centre to my house into my jeans to the hospital, and the very next day I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and now I'm in treatment. Not a lot of time to savour the victory."

Jim Carr hugs a supporter at the Caboto Centre after his re-election on Oct. 21, the day before he was diagnosed with cancer. (Angela Johnston/CBC)

Carr said it's "sensible" that he was shuffled out of cabinet.

"It has to be a staged approach. I don't think it's in anybody's interest to take on more than my treatment schedule can accommodate," he said.

"This is a stimulating and important bit of work for the prime minister and the government that allows me to keep up my [treatment] schedule, which is, after all, the most important thing. We have to look after ourselves."

Carr plans to schedule his time efficiently and make use of support staff and resources at his fingertips to make sure he's healthy but doing his job.

"No one wants to go backwards; you want to go forward every day," he said. "And that means that there has to be a combination of work that's stimulating, treatment that's effective and friendships that I must say is overwhelming."

    With files from Kim Kaschor and Julie Dupre


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