Politics

Dominic LeBlanc makes 1st public appearance in months since non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis

Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc, who stepped back from his cabinet duties earlier this year to focus on his non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment, has made his first public appearance in months, telling reporters he intends to be in "fighting form" on the campaign trail.

New Brunswick MP asked about controversial Irving flight

Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc says his cancer treatments are going well and he's ready to be on the campaign trail for the October election. (CBC)

Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc, who stepped back from his cabinet duties earlier this year to focus on his non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment, made his first public appearance in months this morning, telling reporters he intends to be in "fighting form" on the campaign trail this fall.

The longtime New Brunswick MP said his treatments for the cancer, which affects the lymphatic system, are going well.

"I have successfully completed five chemotherapy treatments," he said in Moncton. "The doctors at the Georges Dumont Hospital are very, very encouraged by the results, very positive."

He was also forced to respond, for the first time in person, about the controversial flight he took on a private aircraft owned by J.D. Irving to undergo cancer treatments in Montreal. The Irving family is tied to the shipbuilding, oil, forestry and agriculture industries. 

The flight, first reported by the Globe and Mail, took place on June 13, according to a filing on the ethics commissioner's website.

LeBlanc reiterated to reporters on Wednesday that he cleared the flight with the ethics commissioner.

"The particular treatment that the doctors at the Georges Dumont hospital are pursuing in my case, which would constitute a cure, those particular treatments are not offered in New Brunswick and New Brunswick patients are referred in most cases to Quebec or to Nova Scotia," he said. "In my case the doctors referred me to Montreal. 

"I can't speak to what other patients do."

Democracy Watch, an organization that advocates for greater government accountability, has argued Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion erred in preapproving LeBlanc's private trip aboard an Irving plane.

"The ethics commissioner acted like an unethical lapdog by approving this unethical gift of a flight," co-founder Duff Conacher said last month.

Leblanc plans to be in ' fighting form'

LeBlanc set up a conflict of interest screen with the ethics commissioner's office, after he was appointed to cabinet in 2015, that bars him from taking part in decisions that directly affect James D. Irving and his companies.

The Beauséjour MP served as minister of intergovernmental affairs and northern affairs before stepping aside in April for treatment.

Watch: LeBlanc 1st appearance in months after cancer battle

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc spoke about his use of a private plane - owned by the the J.D. Irving company - to get to his cancer treatments in June during his first public appearance in Moncton after stepping away for treatment for his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma earlier this year. 0:59

"I intend to be in fighting form for the election this fall and look forward very much to the campaign," said LeBlanc, following a funding announcement at the Greater Moncton Roméo LeBlanc International Airport, named after his father.

LeBlanc was diagnosed with lymphocytic lymphoma in 2017, when he was fisheries minister. Last October, LeBlanc announced that cancer was in remission.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has temporarily taken over responsibility for intergovernmental affairs, while Carolyn Bennett, the minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, took over LeBlanc's duties for northern affairs.

With files from The Canadian Press

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