Former P.E.I. MP Gail Shea: politics is over, she's enjoying retirement

Former Egmont MP Gail Shea, defeated in last fall's federal election, recalls the highs and lows of her political life and tells CBC what she is enjoying and looking forward to now.

'You realize just how busy you were and how the job really took every moment of every day'

Gail Shea, former Egmont MP, recalls her political life (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

Gail Shea has no desire to make a political comeback, and says she has 14 good reasons: her 14 grandchildren.

"It's nice to be able to respond to and to pick up grandkids at school if the parents can't, so just to be there to do that is great," Shea told CBC Island Morning co-host Matt Rainnie. 

Shea, the former Conservative MP for Egmont and federal fisheries minister, was defeated by Liberal Bobby Morrissey in last fall's election after seeking a third term.

There's a time for everyone in politics. I think it's time for other people now to step up to the plate— Gail Shea

"It wasn't a huge surprise. There was a strong anti-Harper movement out there," she said. 

Shea has now had six months to reflect on her career in provincial and federal politics, and settle back in to being a private citizen. 

"It's certainly been a big adjustment and I think that once you are no longer busy, you realize just how busy you were and how the job really took every moment of every day," she said. 

"The last six months have been trying to reintegrate into regular society and to do all the things the people in the community are used to doing, that I was used to doing. And just being home all the time is quite a change."

Shea had already had a long political life with seven years under P.E.I. PC Premier Pat Binns before being elected federally in 2008. She then made history as the first P.E.I. woman named to the federal cabinet.

Over the years, she served as minister in several portfolios -- including fisheries and oceans, and national revenue.

Highs and lows — and a pie

Looking back, Shea said one of the low points in her career was when an anti-seal hunt protester shoved a pie into her face. She said her staff were more upset than she was. 

"And they said, 'Oh my God, what are we going to do?'" she recalled.

As she washed pie off her face, Shea told her staff she was going back out to face the protestors.

"And they said, 'You're not!' And I said, 'Yes I am. If there's one thing that will tick them off, I want to do it ... they're not going to interfere with the government of Canada.'"

Shea got a pie in the face from a seal hunt protester in 2010. ((CBC))

Shea remembers that while in the federal cabinet, she didn't always agree with her party on issues but she was not allowed to disagree publicly with her colleagues. 

However, there was one issue she said she would have spoken out on if it ever came to a vote — abortion. She's not happy the provincial Liberal government will soon allow abortions to be performed here.  

"Because I am pro-life," she said. "Government has made that decision, but I guess it wasn't part of the platform during the election campaign last year. I still think Prince Edward Island was unique. I was really proud of that."

It's sometimes hard to stay away from politics, admits Shea, especially when she bumps into people on the street who only want to talk politics. However, she said it's a relief to no longer be required to be on top of the news. 

"The only TV I would watch were Question Period and The National. I had to absolutely watch those. So now not so much. I keep an eye on the news but I'm not glued to everything like I once was," she told Rainnie. 

One thing she doesn't miss about the job? Flying to Ottawa every Sunday for seven years. 

"Sometimes the family was going to do fun things, but you'd have to leave. Just things that you'd miss," she recalled.  

No interest in a comeback

Shea insists she has no interest in getting back into politics at any level, even though there is the interesting carrot being dangled — P.E.I.'s Progressive Conservative leadership. 

"Let's just say I've been asked several times. But no, I won't be doing that. You know, there's a time for everyone in politics. I think it's time for other people now to step up to the plate," she said. 

She's enjoyed relaxing into life for the past six months, Shea said, and now plans to start thinking more seriously about her future, which could include starting up a small business.

Listen to Island Morning weekdays from 5:55 a.m. to 8:37 a.m. 

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With files from Matt Rainnie

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