Guest Commentary

Gord Brown, In Memoriam

Losing & Winning

(Editor’s note: Five-term Conservative MP Gordon Brown of Leeds-Grenville, Ont. last May 2 died of a heart attack in his Parliament Hill office after playing pick-up hockey. He was 57. An avid sportsman, Brown was a member of the 1988 national marathon kayak team. In a February 15, 2011 interview with Blacklock’s managing editor Tom Korski, Brown spoke of his love of sports. Following is a transcript of his remarks)

In Gananoque, the thing to do in winter was play hockey, and in summer join the canoe club. I would spend three to four hours a day training, either on the water or in the gym. There was always competition within the club to get in the four-boat or be the club entry for the single race. It was very competitive even within our own club. That experience makes you even better.

There was a group of four of us who, from the time we were 15, trained together and won the Canadian championship in our age group – 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1980. We had a reunion to retire the boat last year.

In my early 20s, as a student at Carleton University in Ottawa, I’d put my kayak in the Rideau Canal and paddle all the way up to Parliament Hill. I was always competitive. It’s about setting goals, to get faster. You train every day, eat right, make sure you’re in good condition.

I credit that experience and discipline with the success I had in politics. The things you learn in competitive sport are the same attributes you need as a Member of Parliament. I’ve found MPs generally are high achievers.

In kayaking, you don’t win every race. Check the facts: many MPs I know, especially Conservatives from Ontario, lost an election before we were elected. I can just name them off. Just about everybody west of the Québec border lost before they won. The experience of competing and losing gives you an understanding of what it takes to win.

I can tell from talking to someone whether they’re driven or not – very quickly, just by attitude. That’s something I learned from my days in competitive sport that translated into my political career. I learned how to win; I don’t say that in a conceited way. I’m driven as a politician. I got that from my competitive athletic days.

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