MP's sudden death a reminder to put health, family first, friends say

The sudden death of MP Gord Brown highlights the stressful nature of working in the House of Commons, and why it's important to prioritize health and family, the late politician's colleagues say.

'The job is important, but so, too, is your health'

Flowers and a hockey jersey were placed on Gord Brown's empty seat in the House of Commons following his sudden death Wednesday. (@fsorbara/Twitter)

The sudden death of MP Gord Brown highlights the stressful nature of working in the House of Commons, and why it's important to prioritize health and family, the late politician's colleagues say. 

Brown, 57, died Wednesday in his Parliament Hill office of an apparent heart attack. He had been the MP for Leeds–Grenville–Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes since 2004, and is being remember as a passionate representative, a good friend and a devoted family man. 

Former foreign affairs minister John Baird, who left the political life in 2015, met Brown when they were both young Tories and credits his friend with giving him the push he needed to jump from provincial to federal politics.  

Baird said he spoke to Brown the day before he died. They talked on the phone and were making plans to get together. 

"It's so unfair and such a shock," Baird said in an interview with CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning

He said Brown's death is a reminder to MPs to not burn the candle at both ends for too long. 

"You put so much time, physical and emotional energy into the job, sometimes you forget to take care of yourself. I went years without getting a medical checkup. It's a reminder that the job is important, but so, too, is your health."

Making compromises

Scott Reid is the Conservative MP for Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston, which adjoins the riding Brown represented. The two sat next to each other in the House of Commons and had been friends since the 2000 federal election.
MP Gordon Brown speaks to the media in his Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes riding. (Gordbrownmp.ca)

Reid agreed the job of an MP can take a toll on people, but said Brown had figured out how to put himself and his family first, and make sure he wasn't burning himself out. 

Reid said the last few years of Brown's life, alongside his wife Claudine Curtois, were his friend's happiest.

Brown understood the compromises you need to make for your family, and on many occasions turned down invitations to events to instead be with his wife and two young sons, Reid said. 

"It's a very, very valuable lesson," he said. "If there's one lesson that the other 337 of us in the House of Commons can take, it is, when you get these compromises, at least some of the time, choose the way that Gord chose."

'Ultimate local representative'

Constituents saw Brown as a champion for his community. He had deep roots in Gananoque and was seen as one of their own. 

Gananoque Mayor Erika Demchuk told CBC Brown did exceptional work for the people in his riding. 

"He is just here for what anybody wanted him to do. If you have a question, if you need some help wading though the paperwork with the government, you call his office and Gord is always there," she said. 

Reid said people in other towns in the riding, such as Brockville and Kemptville, would have felt that dedication as well. 

"He was the ultimate local representative," Reid said "There's a very important role there, and Gord did that better than almost anyone I can think of."

Eastern Ontario MP Gord Brown died suddenly yesterday morning. We talk about his legacy with his former seat mate Scott Reid and former minister and colleague John Baird. 9:00