For a brief period of time, between Stephen Harper and, well, Stephen Harper, there was a Leader of the Opposition that served for only three months. His name was Grant Hill and today, I look at his life and career.
Born on Sept. 20, 1943, in Montreal, he would be raised in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
In 1961, he would graduate from Viscount Bennett High School in Calgary and in 1968, had earned his medical degree from the University of Alberta. Interning at the Holy Cross Hospital of Calgary, he would open a surgical practice in 1970 and serve as the chief of staff at the High River Hospital from 1986 to 1990.
In 1990, spurred on by the growing movement for change in the west, Hill would join the Reform Party.
For 30 years, he would practice medicine before taking the leap into the House of Commons.
In 1993, Hill was elected as a Reform Party Member of Parliament thanks to a lot of support for him in his home area of Okotoks. Bruce Stephenson, who owned a western wear shop would state quote:
“I’ll vote for Grant Hill, he’s capable and has character.”
Asked why he ran for federal office and left his medical career, Hill stated that he did so because he was frustrated with long waiting lines for medical treatment.
He would say quote:
“I will never be quiet again. I will never ever be as quiet as I was before. Grumbling silently in the operating room or waiting room is not where you are able to do things.”
After a poll came out that had doctors as the most respected profession and politicians as the least respected, Hill would say quote:
“Obviously I wouldn’t be doing this if it were just for popularity, because I know full well how I have thought of politicians all of these years. I didn’t think they were doing things for the good of their country or the good of other people, but more for their own good.”
Hill would become known for his collection of antique cars and for his work in promoting car shows.
In 1996, Hill, thanks to his background as a doctor, would support measures to curb smoking by instituting a total ban on cigarette advertising, from television and radio to billboards and street kiosks. He would state quote:
“I will be advising my party that we fast-track it.”
When there was talk of plain packaging on cigarettes put forward by Liberal Health Minister Diane Marleau, Hill would state quote:
“Our system is literally crumbling around the minister’s ears. Her reaction to that, plain packaging for cigarettes, she’s lost her marbles.”
He would also attract controversary in the spring of 1996 when he claimed, as a medical doctor, that homosexuality was an unhealthy lifestyle.
He would state quote:
The comments were made during a debate over banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Hill would state that gay-rights legislation would open the door to pedophilia and increases incidents of HIV and AIDS.
Hill would say quote:
“I do not believe in discrimination of any kind, but I do believe in scientific honesty.”
Hill would state that he never said that homosexuals spread disease during the debate, stating quote:
“Those words were never in my speech.”
A transcript of the House of Commons debate showed that he had said homosexuality would quote:
“Produce and allow a promotion of an unhealthy lifestyle, a behaviour that is unhealthy.”
He would add in the transcript that homosexuality relates to quote:
“HIV, gay bowel syndrome, increasing parasitic infections, lowered life expectancy and an increase in hepatitis in Canada.”
Preston Manning would state of the matter that Hill quote:
“Made a medical comment on medical conditions associated with the homosexual lifestyle. That’s not central to the Reform position but he stated it as his medical opinion.”
This was quickly criticized by many doctors, including his fellow Reform Member of Parliament Dr. Keith Martin who said homosexuality quote:
“Had absolutely nothing to do with medicine. It’s a completely different issue. Our mouths have been running faster than our brains.”
Hill would also be investigated by the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons over the statement.
The Canadian Medical Association would state that Hill’s remarks quote:
“Erroneously suggest that homosexuality is an unhealthy lifestyle. In our view there is no scientific evidence to back such a claim.”
Hill would respond to this stating quote:
“The Canadian Medical Association is standing on very politically safe ground. This is a politically charged issue. I stand my ground.”
In the 1997 federal election, Hill took 68 per cent of the vote in his riding.
Having put his medical career on hold for the most part to serve in Parliament, Grant would have a chance to use his skills again in December of 1998.
On Dec. 11, Shaughnessy Cohen, a Liberal MP, suffered a massive brain hemorrhage after question period in the House of Commons, collapsing at her desk. Hill immediately ran across the floor of the House of Commons to attend to her. For 10 minutes, he breathed for her until paramedics arrived and succeeding in restarting her heart. Unfortunately, Cohen died hours later.
Hill would say that it was quote:
“One of the biggest disappointments of my political career.”
Liberal MP Paddy Torsney would say quote:
“She had a great sense of humour. She would think it was ironic that Grant was there to help save her.”
During his time in Parliament, Hill would receive regular calls from other politicians on both sides of the House of Commons to help them with some illness. He would treat sore throats, pains and, commonly, high blood pressure.
In 2000, when the Reform Party became the Canadian Alliance, Hill joined the new party and followed Stockwell Day as the new leader. He would say quote:
“In other parties, when the leader says something, that’s the end of the discussion. But in our party, if Stockwell Day has an opinion, he’s just one of many voices. It is okay to disagree.”
Prior to the 2000 Federal Election, Hill made the decision to run for a third term, despite saying years earlier that he would retire after his second term was finished.
Hill would say quote:
“I truly did intend to do two terms and come home to do medicine. I don’t think anyone should be a career politician.”
He chose to do another term after the merger, and the party asked him to stay on for another term. For the new party, Hill was someone they wanted considering he was fluent in both French and English, and he was well-liked in Ottawa.
In 2002, Hill would attempt to run the leadership of the Canadian Alliance Party. Hill would attack former leader Stockwell Day, stating that he was dishonest and wasn’t fit to lead the party, while accusing Day of hypocrisy for criticizing him and Stephen Harper.
Hill would have the endorsement of four Alliance MPs, and Alberta Premier Ralph Klein stated that he had his support as well. Gerry St. Germain would say of Hill quote:
“Having seen Dr. Hill perform as deputy leader, putting country above personality, I have been impressed by his consistency in trying to unite small-c Conservatives and it is in that spirit, having witnessed his integrity, dedication, commitment and loyalty that I support Dr. Hill.”
Hill would state after the leadership race that if he won, he would have left politics anyways.
Hill would say quote:
Hill would not poll well in the leadership contest, with only eight per cent of Canadian Alliance voters stating they would vote for him.
He ended up finishing fourth with 3.65 per cent of votes, and 45,000 votes behind winner Stephen Harper.
Hill would say to his supporters quote:
“I’m move by the dream. The dream is for a better Canada. I still cling to that dream. You’re never wrong when you stand for what’s right and that makes everyone a winner tonight.”
Despite finishing dead last, Hill shot to the top of the party on Jan. 9, 2004, when he was made the Leader of the Opposition as the Canadian Alliance became the Conservative Party of Canada.
Hill would say upon moving into his office quote:
“It’s pretty digs I must say.”
Knowing he would only be serving for seven weeks, he still brought in pictures of his wife Sue and their seven children, as well as pictures of two of his treasured cars, a red 1968 Ferrari and a vintage McLaren M6B.
Hill would vow to keep new Prime Minister Paul Martin on the hot seat.
“He tries to be all things to all people and to whitewash the fact that he was involved in the last 10 years.”
He would serve as Leader of the Opposition until March 19, 2004. He was preceded by Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper and was succeeded by Conservative Party of Canada leader Stephen Harper.
A few months after his time as the Leader of the Opposition, Hill chose not to run in the 2004 election with his last day in Parliament being June 28, 2004.
Following his time in Parliament, he would go back to his medical practice in Okotoks, Alberta. The process to do so meant he had to go through three months of retraining and refresher courses, while at the same time serving as the Leader of the Opposition.
“Twice in the leader of the opposition’s office, I opened my briefcase, got my stethoscope and put it around my neck. My staff would look at me and say Grant what are you doing? There it was in my briefcase, and I would hang it on my neck. It was just a habit; I was a doctor again.”
During this time, he would sometimes work on Parliament Hill in the morning, and then in surgery in the afternoon.
He would relate one funny story stating quote:
“I examined a guy in Ottawa, did a full, thorough examination with everything that entails. Then that night he saw me on the national news and said to his wife, the Leader of the Opposition did my examination. I guess that is a little unusual.”
He would say quote about his return to being a doctor:
In 2006, prior to the federal election, Hill and former Ontario MP Pat O’Brien would form Defend Marriage Canada, asking for a divisive debate on whether or not same sex marriage should be legal in Canada, while asking Canadians to defend traditional marriage by e-mailing Prime Minister Paul Martin. Hill would state again that homosexuals spread disease and that it was a choice to be gay, and they could choose to stop the behaviour.
He would say quote:
“My position is based on science, on social science, my experience as a doctor and all the data and literature that I review in a scientific way. Every single piece of data says that marriage between a man and a woman is the best environment to raise children.”
Information from Macleans, Calgary Herald, Wikipedia, Ottawa Citizen, Vancouver Sun, Victoria Times Colonist, Red Deer Advocate, Vancouver Province, Edmonton Journal, Langley Advance,