|Jeremy Bernard Akerman|
|Leader of the
Nova Scotia New Democratic Party
|Preceded by||James H. Aitchison|
|Succeeded by||James 'Buddy' MacEachern|
|MLA for Cape Breton East|
|Preceded by||Layton Fergusson|
|Succeeded by||Donnie MacLeod|
|Political party||New Democratic Party
Nova Scotia Liberal Party
Akerman was born Alvechurch, United Kingdom. He was attracted to politics at an early age, being drawn to the British Labour Party. However, his education was anything but that conventionally received by a politician, attending Cardiff College of Art where he studied to become a draftsman. After graduation in 1964 Akerman was invited by the Canadian government to come and work as an archaeologist on the Fortress of Louisbourg Restoration Project, at Louisbourg, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. While in Cape Breton he wrote a report on the Cape Breton fishery that was so controversial it cost him his job. He then worked to organize the fishermen in the Louisbourg area into an organization that eventually affiliated with the United Fishermen and Allied Workers' Union. He then joined a radio station in Sydney, Nova Scotia as a reporter and radio talk show host but was fired for unionizing the staff.
During the Canadian federal election of 1965, Akerman and other workers from the Louisbourg site, volunteered on the campaign of Ed Johnston, who was the NDP candidate for the federal riding of Cape Breton South. It is at this point that he met Paul MacEwan, a local school teacher and activist, who would become one of his closest colleagues and confidants.
In the provincial election of May 30, 1967, Akerman ran for the first time as an NDP candidate, in the constituency of Cape Breton West, and won 13 per cent of the vote. In the following year, he ran as the party's candidate in the federal election in Cape Breton—East Richmond, and won 7,750 votes. He placed third, but in Glace Bay, Akerman won three wards out of six. He decided to run in the Glace Bay provincial constituency in the next provincial election.
Later in 1968, the NDP held a convention at Sydney, at which Akerman sought the party's provincial leadership. He was opposed by law professor Keith Jobson of Halifax, who was backed by outgoing leader James H. Aitchison, and won the contest by four votes becoming party leader at the age of 26.
The next provincial election was held October 13, 1970. Akerman was elected in Glace Bay with a majority of 1,527 votes. Sydney school teacher Paul MacEwan was also elected, so the party held two seats in the Legislature until 1974. In the vote held April 2, 1974, Akerman and MacEwan were both re-elected, along with a third candidate, James 'Buddy' MacEachern, who ran in Cape Breton Centre, a riding sandwiched between Akerman's seat and MacEwan's. And in the following provincial election, held September 19, 1978, these three were re-elected, and Len Arsenault won in the constituency of Cape Breton North, thus bringing the NDP presence in the Nova Scotia Legislature up to four seats.
During his years as head of the NDP in Nova Scotia, Akerman had met increased resistance to his efforts from the Halifax branch of the party which was critical of the party's inability to win seats on the mainland. Through gaining a majority of seats on the party's provincial executive, the Halifax group came to dominate the party, even although they were unable win a seat in the Legislature. Akerman also faced strains on his health and personal life, due to the stress of the workload he carried; he missed the 1977 session of the House because of an illness and his marriage ended in divorce. By 1980, reportedly tired after 12 years at the helm of the party, he announced his retirement. At the time he was the longest-serving NDP leader anywhere in Canada.
Soon afterwards, Akerman received a contract from the provincial government to become executive director of intergovernmental affairs. In order to accept a job in the civil service he severed his ties with the NDP. He worked in this position or other provincial government posts for the next eleven years. Following this, he served for a time as editor of the Metro Telecaster, then pursued a career in acting. He has appeared in at least 24 movies, including Cloudburst, Hobo with a Shotgun and Blackbird.
During his time as NDP leader in Nova Scotia, Akerman earned a high level of respect from all political parties and was considered one of the ablest debaters in the House.
Akerman attempted a return to politics in a March 6, 2001 byelection in the provincial constituency of Halifax Fairview. This time running as candidate for the Nova Scotia Liberal Party, Akerman finished second behind NDP candidate Graham Steele.
- Canadian Press, "Void facing N.S. New Democrats...", Globe and Mail, May 19, 1980
- "Woman elected to lead NDP in Nova Scotia," Globe and Mail, November 17, 1980