HALIFAX – It was an emotional day at the Nova Scotia legislature Thursday as NDP MLA Gordie Gosse said his goodbyes.
Earlier in the day, the party announced that Gosse and Frank Corbett, who was not at the House, were stepping down from provincial politics.
WATCH: Gordie Gosse’s full goodbye speech during Thursday’s House of Assembly
Gosse, the MLA for Sydney-Whitney Pier who was elected in 2003, was diagnosed with throat cancer last April and has since undergone treatment.
He said he is looking forward to spending more time with family and focusing on his health.
WATCH: Extended interview with Gordie Gosse about his decision to step down
Gosse said he had radiation damage as a result of his cancer treatment and, at one point, his white blood cell count was so low that he could have died.
“I missed five days of radiation and they doubled up on me. I would have radiation in the morning and radiation in the evening,” he said.
“In all of that radiation, it deteriorated my jaw. About three weeks ago, I had to have an operation and they removed pieces of my jaw.”
“I was in my apartment here in Halifax. I pulled a piece of my jawbone out of chin. I kept hollering at my wife ‘God, what’s this here?’ and it’s a piece of bone that had come out of my chin.”
Gosse said he will miss Halifax, the staff at the legislature and even said he would miss the media.
He is hopeful time will help with his recovery and said he is looking forward to relaxing, doing salmon fishing and going birding with his wife.
“It will be about life and enjoying life.”
“In life, a day when you don’t laugh is truly a sad day and I’ve had lots of laughs here.”
Before leaving, he added he hopes his bill requiring boys to get HPV vaccinations will pass into law.
McNeil, MacDonald wish Gosse, Corbett well
Premier Stephen McNeil said he and Gosse arrived at the legislature at the same time and adds he will be missed.
WATCH: Extended interviews with the premier and the interim leader of the NSP about Gosse and Corbett’s departure
“I very much appreciated his good nature and he was just one of the guys, when you had a chance to meet with him, the stuff that went on on the floor would very quickly … you would forget about it,” McNeil said.
“Gordie would be the kind of guy that you felt like you knew all your life.”
“Frank certainly added a lot of colourful colour to this place with his comments oftentimes,” McNeil said.
“I want to wish both of them the very best and good health as they move forward.”
NDP interim leader Maureen MacDonald said the caucus is losing two experienced members.
“I will feel that loss,” she said.
MacDonald made an emotional speech in the House Thursday morning and was seen reaching for tissues and blowing her nose during the goodbye speeches for Gosse and Corbett.
“These are not only two very valued colleagues. These are two very good friends,” she said.
“Frank Corbett and I came to this place together in 1998. We’ve shared many of the joys and sorrows that go with political life. It’s very hard to say goodbye to such a good colleague and a great friend.”
MacDonald called Gosse “the salt of the earth”.
“The battle he has recently fought with cancer has been just inspiring,” she said. “He’s an amazing individual. I will miss him enormously but I wish him well, particularly with respect to his health challenges.”
In a news release, Corbett said he decided it was time “to start a new chapter of my life where I put my family ahead of politics.” The MLA for Cape Breton Centre was elected in 1998.
What happens next
Premier McNeil said an analysis will be done about by-elections for the three vacant seats in the House: Gosse, Corbett and the one left empty by the death of Allan Rowe last month.
“No one was expecting these seats to be vacant today. We’ll make sure there is enough of a window so people who want to participate in all the parties can participate, not only in the election but the nomination meeting,” he said.
McNeil said there is six months to call an election and then another six months to set the date of the by-election.
He adds it is likely the seats will be filled before the fall sitting.
“I’d certainly like to have those seats filled. But we need to figure out what the timeline is and how it works.”
– With files from Mayya Assouad and Rebecca Joseph