Scott Brison has a life he didn’t think would be possible.
He is a cabinet minister. He is married. He is a father. And he is an openly gay man.
It’s a reality he credits to Pierre Elliott Trudeau and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“If Pierre Trudeau had not done what he did at that time, I would not be doing what I’m doing today,” said Brison.
“I’m part of a generation where I can be open and honest about who I am and serve the people of Canada.”
As a teenager growing up in rural Nova Scotia, Brison said he fought against the reality he might be gay. He wanted a career in politics. He wanted a family. Back in the early 1980s, those dreams seemed impossible given his sexual orientation.
“I had to rejig my expectations for life,” he said.
All that changed when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was entrenched in the constitution in 1982, which Brison calls one of the most “amazing acts of political leadership” in our time.
“To be born as part of this generation is just an incredible good fortune, and to have lived life during a time where there’s been so much change and progress that I’ve benefited from that,” said Brison.
Brison has gone on to have both a storied political career and fulfilling personal life. He recently sat down with The West Block’s Eric Sorensen at Mad Radish to talk about it over a salad, featuring sustainable salmon from his Nova Scotia riding of Kings-Hants.
While he’s long been a fixture of Liberal politics, Brison started his political career winning as a Progressive Conservative in Kings-Hants in 1997. He briefly resigned the seat, so then-PC leader Joe Clark could enter the House of Commons in 2000. Brison re-took the seat that same year.
A few years later, around the same time he officially came out as gay, Brison had a political coming out of sorts. The Progressive Conservative Party was uniting with the Canadian Alliance, which had different views on same-sex marriage and other social issues. It prompted Brison to cross the floor to the Liberals in December 2003.
“I chose to follow my values as opposed to follow my party, like one follows a hockey team or something like that,” Brison said.
Just days after crossing the floor, he was appointed parliamentary secretary to the prime minister. Then in 2004, he was appointed Minister of Public Works by then-prime minister Paul Martin, making him Canada’s first openly gay cabinet minister.
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He’s stuck with the Liberals through highs and lows. He ran for the leadership in 2006, a race eventually won by Stéphane Dion. He ended up back in the Opposition benches in that election. And then to third-party status in the 2011 election. Now he is back in cabinet as President of the Treasury Board.
And while he was making his mark on Parliament Hill, Brison was also fulfilling his personal goals. He’s the proud father of two four-year-old daughters he shares with his husband, Maxime St. Pierre.
“When we’re at home in rural Nova Scotia, we feel very much part of a community that absolutely loves Max and me and our daughters,” Brison said.
“They’re going to grow up with an awful lot of love and support.”
-Watch the full interview above and extended interview below.