Mr. Speaker, today the official opposition, the Conservative caucus, and indeed the whole House are in mourning. I am truly saddened to inform the House of the sudden passing of our dear friend and colleague, the member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, Gord Brown, earlier this morning.
Before I begin, I want to convey our appreciation to the members of the Parliamentary Protective Service, who were the first on the scene and went above and beyond, doing everything they could to try to save Gord's life this morning. Mr. Speaker, please give them our most sincere thanks for all their efforts to save our friend.
To say that we are all shocked and saddened by his sudden passing would be an understatement.
We are all heartbroken at this unexpected loss.
While this is a loss most deeply felt by those of us on this side of the House who worked, campaigned, and fought alongside him for years, I know that Gord always held the respect of all members in the House, and his loss will be felt by everyone who had the honour of sitting with him, working with him, or debating with him here.
Gord and I were elected at the same time. We are the class of 2004, but like so many of us, his involvement in politics began far earlier, as a student and as a teenager. He was the quintessential happy warrior, starting out as a volunteer for our party, and a grassroots Conservative through and through. He was involved in so many aspects of the party, going back literally decades. He got his start in the youth association of the PC party. He worked on leadership campaigns, at the municipal level, and at the provincial level as well.
Everyone in Conservative politics in Ontario knew Gord Brown and respected him. He was a dedicated representative for his constituents in Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes. Gord earned their trust again and again through consecutive elections.
In this Parliament, he held the role of chief opposition whip, an important responsibility in the early days of this Parliament. He was an eternal optimist who was always quick with a compliment or a supportive word. He was whip of our caucus right away after the last election, and I had the honour of serving with him as House leader.
As some may know, the House leader and the whip share the same suite of offices up on the fourth floor. I remember the day his staff bought him a bullwhip to commemorate his appointment to that position. He got such a kick out of that. I remember for the first few days of that session, I could often hear the crack of that bullwhip, and I was always worried he was going to hurt himself.
While he was whip, he made it a priority to get to know every member of our team, not just as a colleague but as a person too, because he recognized that the challenges this life can place on members can be very difficult, and he wanted to make sure that our caucus supported each other, not just on a professional level but on a human level as well.
He carried out that very difficult role with his characteristic professionalism and used his political know-how to get things done.
Much will be said about Gord's contributions to his community as a councillor, a member of the chamber of commerce, and so much more.
Today we are thinking about his family, about his wife, Claudine, and his two sons, Tristan and Chance. We grieve with them.
Last week we had an event that we really wanted Gord to be at. He turned down the initial invitation, so I asked my office to follow up to make sure that he knew how important it was that he be there. He called back and said, “Listen, I can't go. I made a commitment to the only person more important to me than this team.” That was Claudine. He had made arrangements to have a date night with his wife and was not going to break that for anyone. We are glad he kept it.
Many in this House have served with him in many different capacities and on several different committees over the past 15 years. However, those who got to know him the most probably did so on the ice. He was the captain of our Conservative hockey team. Mr. Speaker, I know you even had the pleasure of playing with him. He had as much passion for that as he did for his professional work, because it really gave him an opportunity to get to know his colleagues on a more personal level and just enjoy some time together outside of the precinct.
I do not have the words to properly express how terribly this has struck our entire Conservative family.
I want to thank members of every party, and the people who have served with us in past Parliaments, for all the well wishes we have received.
Today, our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones during this difficult time.
Gord brought his tremendous passion to everything he did. Most recently, he did tremendous work, fighting for those who suffered from thalidomide in their life. He approached that file with sincerity, knowing there was a real human cost to the people afflicted with that. He was moved by their suffering, and he was moved to do something about it. It was inspiring for every member of our team to see him really throw himself into that project.
We know not the time or the place. We trust in God's limitless mercy and ever-lasting love. We trust that his memory will be a blessing to all of us here. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.