Oral Questions (Right Hon. Herb Gray)

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to rise in the House today to also say a few words in tribute to Herb Gray.

I had the great honour of knowing and working with Herb Gray before I was in politics, in the political sense, at all. Herb Gray, as deputy prime minister, played a key role that many members here may not know in saving the Kyoto protocol when George Bush first became president of the United States.

In the fall of 2000, the negotiations in The Hague broke down. The U.S. elections were still hanging in the balance and no one knew who would be the U.S. administration. As those negotiations broke down, they were resumed in the summer of 2001.

The minister of environment of the day, David Anderson, had fallen and was unable to attend due to a serious injury. It was a sign of the priority of the issue and that which the government of the day regarded the issue that no less than the deputy prime minister went to The Hague to negotiate on behalf of Canada.

For Herb Gray’s efforts, and they were extraordinary, the organization with which I worked at the time, the Sierra Club Canada, gave him our highest award for someone in public life who served the environment. The award, by the way, Mr. Speaker, is in the name of your predecessor, John Fraser. It was the John Fraser Award for Environmental Achievement.

We had a splendid dinner honouring Herb Gray. He delivered a witty and sage address. After he left Parliament in 2002 and went on to become the Canadian Commissioner to the International Joint Commission, which is another environmental post, I often went to visit him in his offices to discuss the Great Lakes.

He never failed to take me to this wall and say “I had so many honours for my work in public life, but I want you to notice this, Elizabeth, I have only got two of my awards that I brought with me to this office”: the citation “Right Honourable Herb Gray”, such a rare citation to anyone who has not served as a Prime Minister of Canada, and the original print from Robert Bateman with the award, the John Fraser Award for Environmental Achievement to Herb Gray. He said, “I am prouder of this and for what I did on climate change than almost anything else in public life, because my grandchildren thanked me for it.”

I will miss Herb Gray. He served his country but, in case any members did not know, he also served this planet.