Gord Brown served this riding as a Member of Parliament for almost fourteen years. He was a member of the Committee on Canadian Heritage from 2004, and was Chair from 2013-2015. He also sat as a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. No matter what political party you support, every resident of the riding has to acknowledge the tremendous contribution this man made to our common society. Gord would have been just 58 years old at the end of August, but he died on May 2 in his office on Parliament Hill of a heart attack.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Gord during the last federal election campaign in 2015. We sat in the North Grenville Archives and I asked him why, after serving at that point for eleven years, he wanted to continue as an M.P. My question was: What do you want to accomplish and why do you want to go on? His answer, in part, was: “That’s a very good question. I served in municipal politics for two terms before I was elected to the House of Commons. In the interim, I served as the Chair of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, which runs Fort Henry and Upper Canada Village. So, I’ve effectively been in politics for more than 22 years. One of the things that I enjoy is serving. You know, there are people who want to be in politics because they want to be somebody. And there are people who want to get into politics because they want to do something. I’m one of those who want to do something: I don’t want to stop doing things. I’m proud of my record. There’s a lot more to do. I still have the passion for the job, I’m still enthused about it and I still like serving. I want to continue to do that”.
His workload was significant, especially for a man with a wife and two young sons. The work took so much of his time, I asked him if it was difficult to represent a riding that is geographically diverse.
“It is a challenge and it is a lot of work to be out and about all the time. I go to Ottawa and I’m there from Monday to Thursday or Friday, depending on how many days the House is sitting that week. And then I come home and get on the road for most of the weekend. I have a young family and I try to bring them with me as much as I can. My 3-year old, especially, likes getting out and about. He likes meeting people, so maybe there’s a future for him in politics.”
Gord’s passions included the history and heritage of Canada, and of this region in particular. He spoke about that, too: “In terms of historic sites, [the riding] has what I think is the largest concentration of national historic sites and parks in Canada, if you look at the Rideau Canal, Fort Wellington in Prescott, the Battle of the Windmill site, the Mill in Delta. Education is so important for young people to understand where our country was. For me, it’s something I am very passionate about.” Gord was proud of the fact that he was part of the initiative that provided funding for renovating the Rideau Canal and the Battle of the Windmill site.
He was also very involved in promoting agricultural issues and the issue of local food was high on his list of concerns. He spoke of one of his projects as an M.P.: “In terms of agriculture, I regularly meet with our federations of agriculture in both Leeds and in Grenville. Yearly, I’ve co-hosted Farmers Day on the Hill, because members like myself, who come from an agricultural community, understand the issues of agriculture and the challenges they face. But many of the Members of Parliament come from urban centres, and don’t know the first thing about farming and the challenges farmers have in producing the food for all of Canada. The slogan is: “Farmers feed cities”, and that’s true, but the members from cities often don’t know the issues, so I’m happy to take those to Ottawa.”
I wondered if there was a danger of complacency, running in a riding that was so strongly Conservative. His answer was definite: “I never take it for granted. In my first federal election, I lost by 55 votes. Every election is different, the issues are always different: it’s unpredictable. I’ve never taken the people of Leeds & Grenville for granted. And after the election, I won’t take them for granted if I am, once again, successful to be able to serve. I can tell you: I will work hard as I have every day during the election and as I will for the remainder of the term.”
Sadly, that term was never completed, and we lost a good friend and neighbour. We will now have to deal with a by-election, possibly around the same time the municipal election will be taking place. As we consider the candidates who will be standing in those, and in the provincial election next month, it would be good to remember Gord Brown, and what a decision to serve the community in politics means for the men and women who take on that role.
Thank you to Gord’s wife, Claudine, and his two sons Chance, and Tristan, for sharing him with us at such a high cost.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.