It was a surprise, but not a bolt out of the blue surprise to have our long-serving MP Scott Brison announce he will give up his seat in Kings-Hants when the next election is called. After seven elections and almost 22 years in office, he has nothing to prove.
Back in 1997 I got to know Scott because my father was his first campaign manager. A certain gossip rag out of Halifax began spreading innuendo about Scott’s sexual orientation. Dad didn’t care and 17,401 of the new MP’s constituents didn’t give a fig either.
Of course, Scott was a Tory in those days. He didn’t hesitate to give up his seat to Tory leader Joe Clark for some months in 2000, or to cross to the Liberal side in 2003 when he no longer felt at home under the Conservative umbrella after losing to Peter MacKay.
My favourite story about Scott occurred in 2006 when I asked him to pose nude! (Mind you he wasn’t the only politician I asked to take their clothes off). There was a lot media attention as he was running for the Liberal leadership at the time.
Our theatre collective, Women of Wolfville, produced its second nude calendar that year. What Men Are Made Of featured males doing non-traditional things, like dusting, knitting, and serving breakfast.
Scott was a hoot when I told him the theme, he said “Oh, you mean like thinking." I thought it would be appropriate to have him looking in the fridge like he was deciding what to make for supper. After all, his first entrepreneurial success was renting fridges to his fellow university students.
For the photo shoot we borrowed a kitchen on Main Street where there was a spiffy navy blue refrigerator. The door to the fridge hid any private parts. Due to the full frontal chill, I snapped his portrait fast. Scott joked that it was the first time he’d undressed in front of a woman in quite some time.
Later with that inimitable sense of humour, Scott called the shoot “naked ambition for a good cause.” He was happy to contribute to a charity fighting cancer as his family, like many Canadian families, had been struck by the disease.
Scott never forgot when he came from – the village of Cheverie. Speaking about his childhood several years ago, he noted that only a third of many elementary classes in rural Hants County graduated from high school.
“I was lucky my parents read to me,” he said. “Investing in education and literacy is important because the gypsum plant and Windsor textile jobs aren’t there anymore.”
In the House of Commons, Scott articulated the reality of deep rural poverty. He spoke about the fact that Canada is the only G8 country with no national school meals program in schools with full-day classes.
Over the years I listened to Scott make any number of positive announcements, but my favourite interview was two years ago when he spoke about fatherhood.
Scott and his husband, Maxime St-Pierre, caused a buzz when they married in 2007 and again when they became the proud parents of Claire and Rose Brison-St-Pierre. Becoming a parent, he told me, was as if a switch went on.
“I was never that interested in babies, but now I go crazy watching kids. You see so much change in them. They develop so quickly.”
Soon those sweet girls won’t be travelling quite so much. They’ll be able to play on the trail near the family home in Cheverie that has been mapped out with animal characters.
“We’ve been reading to them since the day they were born. We read all the time,” Scott said.
Work/life balance while raising children, he said, “is a challenge that’s not unique to us. I worry about single parents earning minimum wage and working two jobs. How do they balance work and financial pressure? If you talk about a struggle, those are the people…”
“We’re a lucky family,” he said. “We have jobs and a secure income. A lot of people don’t.”
For Scott, “every day is Father’s Day and every day is Rose and Claire day. They’re the gift. I think all the time how much joy they bring us, how much they transformed our lives and we love them.”
Not that he won’t be busy, Scott will soon be able to devote more time to his family and that’s a good thing. I, for one, thank him for his example and his service.