Hon. Larry W. Smith (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable Senators, today we have experienced a terrible loss within our parliamentary family. Gord Brown, Member of Parliament for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, passed away suddenly this morning. Gord was only 57 years old.
Gord had a cheerful, energetic and optimistic personality with a warm and friendly smile. He was a true team player, whether in politics or in sports, especially his love of hockey. His loss today is shocking and deeply felt amongst our Conservative caucus.
In 2000, Gord Brown ran for a seat in the House of Commons and lost by only 55 votes. Four years later, he won his election, and Gord has served ever since as a strong voice for eastern Ontario in the House of Commons.
This was no surprise, as he came to Parliament Hill with a long history of advocating for the citizens of his community as a town councillor in Gananoque, as president of the local Chamber of Commerce, and as chair of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission.
Gord served in a variety of important roles over the course of 14-odd years in the House of Commons. He served as the opposition whip in the other place, chair of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group for the House of Commons, chair of the special committee for the review of the Anti-terrorism Act and chair of the Conservative caucus of Ontario.
Gord said that he was proudest of his work with one of his constituents to extend Employment Insurance benefits to the parents of critically ill children. He had introduced a private member’s bill calling for more compassionate care benefits in every Parliament following his election in 2004. In 2013, Gord’s private member’s bill on this issue was taken on by the Conservative government, and it has helped an estimated 6,000 families per year ever since. Talk about fortitude.
Gord’s work on this issue is a profound reminder of the ability of each member of Parliament and each senator to provide positive change for his or her fellow Canadians, and today it stands as a tribute to Gord’s perseverance and dedication.
At this most difficult time, on behalf of all honourable senators, I extend heartfelt condolences to Gord’s wife Claudine, his sons Chance and Tristan and all of Gord’s family and friends. I know the thoughts of all honourable senators will be with them in the days ahead.
Gord Brown will be truly missed and will be fondly remembered by all those who were lucky enough to know him.
If I could make a personal comment, I got to know Gord in the last three years. What a great guy, and someone you could really relate to. I guess if there’s any message for all of us, it’s a time when we can reflect on our own lives and really make sure that we think of the things that are important to us, and really, what’s important is family and friends. In this time, I really feel so bad for Claudine and his family, because there’s a young family there that will not have a father.
For all of us it gives us a chance for real reflection and, hopefully, to take care of ourselves because we have a great family in here, and we’re all doing it for one reason: to make Canada a better place.