‘He’s had a genius for friendship’: former N.S. NDP MLA Gordie Gosse dies at 64

Gordie Gosse, former MLA for Sydney-Whitney Pier and Speaker of the House, has died. Marieke Walsh/Global News

Former Nova Scotia NDP MLA and Speaker of the House Gordie Gosse has died.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill confirmed the passing of his friend and former colleague on Thursday.

Gosse was elected to the legislature as the MLA for Cape Breton Nova – later Sydney-Whitney Pier – in 2003. He was Speaker of the House from 2011 until 2013.

“He was really a riot, he would often say things that nobody would expect him to say and his rulings would often have people pretty near falling out of their chairs,” Burrill said. “Gordie had a terrific sense of humour and that was part of the approach that he brought to his presence as the Speaker.”

Gosse resigned as an MLA in 2015.

READ MORE: ‘It will be about life and enjoying life’: Gosse, Corbett step down

He went public with his diagnosis of throat cancer in April 2014.

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“When Gordie first took sick, I was a minister in Sydney,” Burrill said. “Every conversation in Sydney was, ‘have you heard how Gordie is, what’s the latest about Gordie, awful sorry to hear that Gordie’s going through this,’ and so on.”

“He has loved the people of his community, has devoted himself to them, and they have also loved him back.”

After his cancer diagnosis, Gosse became an advocate for ensuring universal provincial coverage of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. The vaccine can prevent the type of cancer Gosse was diagnosed with. It was developed as a means to prevent the spread of HPV, which can cause cervical cancer. Nova Scotia and many other provinces offered the vaccine to girls but not boys.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia doctors join call for HPV vaccination program for boys

Gosse’s final private member’s bill in the house led the governing Liberals to provide coverage for all students in Grade 7. Burrill says many were moved by that.

“That in the midst of a very serious chapter of his own life he was trying to think about how this experience that he was going through, how this could be used in a way that could be helpful and useful to other people,” he said.

In a social media statement Thursday, Nova Scotia Opposition Leader Tim Houston said Gosse “gave his all to representing the people of Sydney-Whitney Pier.”

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“During his time in the Legislature, he never lost sight of the fact he was there to try and make life better for those in his community,” Houston stated.

Premier Stephen McNeil reacted to Gosse’s passing while on a trade mission to Asia, stating his “passionate advocacy for HPV vaccination for boys in Nova Scotia will leave a lasting impact.”

Burrill says Gosse will be remembered for his ability to connect with people.

“He’s had a genius for friendship,” he said. “He’s just had a great, enormous, genuine big-heartedness that has responded to people, and so we find now that the word of Gordie’s passing has spread around that many, many people will be very, very sad.”


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