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Politician, 1967-
(Member of Parliament from 1997-present)

Scott Brison is a Canadian politician. He has been the subject of a great deal of media interest within the past year after a "public breakup" (of sorts) with the relatively young Conservative Party of Canada and his switch to the Liberals. He was recently re-elected in the recent Canadian federal election, and has been appointed Minister of Public Works and Government Services.

Background

Scott Brison was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia, on May 10th, 1967. His parents owned a general store but he was introduced to the world of business while a child after his father became a stockbroker. Brison realized his political affiliation early, and joined the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada when he was only 11 years old. He earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Nova Scotia's Dalhousie University in 1989. By this point he had started and run two of his own businesses, one of which rented small refrigerators to university students. He eventually turned to stockbroking, and was also a member of upper management in several large businesses.

Parlimentary History

Brison ran for parliament in his Nova Scotia riding of Kings-Hants in 1997 and was elected -- but he resigned his seat in 2000. PC leader Joe Clark had not won a seat in this election, and traditionally, when a party leader doesn't win a seat an elected member steps aside and allows the leader to win their seat in a by-election. A space eventually opened up for Clark in Calgary-Southwest and Brison regained his original seat. During his time in the Progressive Conservative caucus he served as the party's finance critic and was responsible for debating then-finance minister (and current prime minister) Paul Martin in the House of Commons.

After Clark's retirement as leader of the party, Brison ran for the Progressive Conservative leadership but was edged out on the second ballot. He threw his support behind another candidate who was beaten by Peter MacKay, the eventual winner. MacKay had promised not to dive into a merger deal with the further-right wing Canadian Alliance party (various members of the Alliance had long been interested in merging the two parties so as to avoid splitting the right wing vote), as many members of the PC caucus wanted to preserve their party. MacKay negotiated a merger deal with Alliance leader Stephen Harper in October 2003. Both parties voted in favour of the merger, and it passed with at least 90% of the vote in both cases.

The concept of the merger had never sat well with several Progressive Conservatives. Clark refused to join the new party and sat as an independent until his retirement. Brison had also been public with his skepticism of the merge, citing the Canadian Alliance's attitudes towards social issues (he's a fiscal conservative, not a social conservative) as the cause of his concern. He specifically mentioned remarks made by certain Alliance MPs about homosexuality and Harper's "tepid" response to them. Two days after the disolution of the Progressive Conservative Party and Canadian Alliance and the creation of the Conservative Party of Canada, Brison chose to leave the newly-created party and join the Liberal Party of Canada.

Crossing the Floor

Upon Brison's switch to the Liberal party, he was designated Canada's parliamentary secretary to the prime minister on Canada-U.S. relations and appointed to the Queen's Privy Council for Canada. His defection garnered a lot of media attention, as it was directly tied to the merger (which was a huge media event in itself). It amplified the concerns of several prominent members of the Progressive Conservative Party -- while some chose to sit as members of parliament without party affiliations, Brison's case was different because he chose another party.

Brison's defection to the Liberal party was officially announced during a press conference with then-prime minister designate Paul Martin. He reiterated his concerns about the social values of the new Conservative party and said that he decided to switch to the Liberal party so he could remain in a moderate, centrist party that was also bent on fiscal responsibility. To stay in the Conservative party, he said, would have meant that he would have had to try to build a centrist environment, whereas his defection meant he could enter an already centrist environment.

Controversy

The defection was welcomed by members of the Liberal party -- many of them publicly said the Conservatives' loss was their gain -- but, as one might expect, criticized by Conservatives. Peter MacKay denounced Brison's decision and accused him of switching parties to advance his political career. Another former Progressive Conservative, Elsie Wayne (with whom Brison had reportedly had his share of arguments about same-sex marriage; he supports it, she doesn't), said she was disappointed with his decision to switch parties and said he would have helped the country more as a member of the Conservative caucus. NDP leader Jack Layton also used Brison's defection to the Liberal party as fuel for his criticisms of the Liberal and Conservative parties. Layton said the gap between the parties was shrinking, and Brison's switch seemed to fortify Layton's argument. There has also been controversy regarding Brison's recent fundraising; he raised money through donations from Tory supporters but switched to the Liberals soon after.

Re-election

Brison ran as a Liberal for the first time in the 2004 Canadian Federal Election. His constituents returned him to office despite the fact that the area had been largely a Tory riding, indicating that he must be a darn good MP. During his victory speech, Brison took aim at the Conservative party's social policies and praised the people of his riding, who he said "believe in family values but don't think family values should be used as codewords for prejudice and bigotry." He also lauded Paul Martin for his vision of a strong, united Canada and criticized Stephen Harper and a few other Conservative MPs (all of whom were former members of the Alliance) for their social views. This was especially important because, for the first time, a blackout on election results was not in effect. Voters on the west coast saw Brison's speech live before the polls closed in their area. It would be hard to tell what kind of effect this could have had on the election results, if any, but it's still an interesting tidbit. In any case, he'll be sitting as part of the upcoming Liberal minority government and could feasibly end up in the cabinet.

The Ministry of Public Works

Brison was appointed to the federal cabinet on July 20, 2004, as Minister of Public Works. There's a small amount of controversy within the Liberal party about this; apparently a few long-time members are irked that a recent recruit was able to snag such a high position after only seven months in the party. This will most likely pass. The move is also historic, as Brison has become Canada's first openly gay cabinet minister.

Non-political information

Scott Brison came out and told his voters that he's gay in 2002. He's managed to avoid making it a political issue, and insists that he's "not a gay politician but a politician who happens to be gay."

The man also has a sense of humour unlike any I've seen in any other politician. While doing an "interview" for CBC's This Hour Has 22 Minutes shortly after switching parties (just after his press conference, actually), the "interviewer" told him that he was "thinking of coming out" and telling his friends and family he's a Liberal. While I can think of at least a few politicians who would have refused to bite, Brison didn't miss a beat and suggested he make sure he tell his parents before he started going to Liberal bars.

According to his official website, Brison is also an athlete, enjoys tennis and has completed three New York City marathons.


Resource:
Scott Brison -- the Liberal Party of Canada http://www.brison.ca 1 July 2004
Scott Brison http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Brison 1 July 2004

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