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Herb Gray: Like the ‘Rock of Gibraltar’

The Story

Firmly rooted for 40 years in the House, Liberal MP Herb Gray is notorious for his stability as a politician. "The Liberal Party's version of the Rock of Gibraltar," says Don Boudria, Assistant Liberal House Leader, about Gray in this 1990 CBC-TV clip. The House is truly like Gray's home, and his style so perfected there that he was nicknamed for it. "Gray Fog" was what members of Parliament called him for deflecting any challenge in an incredibly drab manner. But Gray portrayed his private life as anything but drab. Out of a slew of odd hobbies, none was more unlikely than his obsession with "hard rock." From the Grateful Dead to Bruce Springsteen, Gray said rock music was "a good way to get the creative juices going."

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Dec. 19, 1990
Guest: Herb Gray
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Julie Van Dusen
Duration: 2:21

Did You know?

• Herb Gray was born on May 25, 1931 in Windsor -- the town in which he held his first seat. He was first elected to Parliament in 1962.
• After just seven years in politics, Gray was appointed to Cabinet. He was the first Jewish politician to hold this job.
• Gray was Opposition House leader from 1984 to 1990, and was the temporary Leader of the Opposition from February to December 1990 -- the period between the resignation of Liberal leader John Turner and the election to Parliament of new leader Jean Chrétien.

• A 1990 Ottawa Citizen editorial called Gray "brutally boring" - a quality said to have been the reason for being inexplicably booted from Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's Cabinet in 1974.
• Gray was also an accomplished pianist.
• When asked to comment on his children's interest in hip-hop music, he replied: "I am familiar with that music, but it's not really my style."

• During his time in politics Gray amassed a collection of editorial cartoons which typically mocked him. His friends said they matched his self-depreciating sense of humour. He also loved crime novels, the Royal Canadian Air Farce and going to Dairy Queen almost every night.
• Gray was deputy prime minister when he retired in September 2002. Upon his retirement the National Post reported that sources close to Gray said "he did not want to leave public office and had not been consulted in advance by [Prime Minister] Mr. Chrétien."


• Days before Gray retired, Chrétien called him to 24 Sussex Drive to say he'd been "relieved of his duties."
• In January 2002, Gray was bestowed the "Right Honourable" title. In 2003, he was one of only six "eminent Canadians" to hold it. These Canadians continue to hold the title after death.


• Few Canadians, other than officials such as prime ministers, governors general and chief justices who are automatically bestowed it, hold the "Right Honourable."
• Gray went on to become the chair of the International Joint Commission, which looks after air and water quality.
• Grey fell ill in 1996 with esophagus cancer and in 2002 had open-heart surgery.


• Only Wilfrid Laurier and John Graham Haggart outlasted him in the House of Commons. When Gray resigned after almost 40 years in 2002, he was the longest-serving member of Parliament still alive. Laurier, who died in 1919, served for 44 years; Haggart served for 41 years from 1872 to 1913.
• Herb Gray died on Apr. 21, 2014, at the age of 82.




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