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Lawrence O'Brien, a Labrador MP who left his hospital bed last year to help his leader, died Thursday after a six-year fight with cancer. He was 53.

Born in the Labrador community of L'Anse au Loup, Mr. O'Brien was first elected to Parliament during a by-election in 1996 and was re-elected three times.

In October, an ailing Mr. O'Brien flew with a nurse from a remote hospital in northern Quebec for a vote that could have doomed Prime Minister Paul Martin's tenuous minority government. Before his death, the Liberals had 134 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons.

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But he ended up not having to vote when a last-minute deal with the opposition averted a challenge on amendments to the Throne Speech.

In a statement, Mr. Martin lauded Mr. O'Brien for "always striving to make a positive difference in people's lives" and expressed his sympathies to the MP's family.

"To the visitor, Labrador is a vast, impressive land - but to Lawrence it was a tight-knit community, a community about which he cared very deeply. He was so closely identified with his home and with the people he served. He was so dedicated to listening to them, to acting for them, to making their lives better."

The first Labrador MP to be born in the sparsely populated region, the former teacher was a staunch defender of his birthplace.

In 2003, he pushed for an amendment to the Constitution that allowed for Newfoundland to become officially known as Newfoundland and Labrador.

"Even though the Constitution until now did not recognize our name, we knew who we were," Mr. O'Brien said at the time.

Last year, he and three other Liberal MPs from Newfoundland were said to be considering quitting the caucus over Ottawa's refusal to open a limited cod fishery.

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Mr. O'Brien was also a proponent of a larger seal hunt off Newfoundland and fought to keep NATO training flights in Labrador.

He served as a member of the Commons fisheries and oceans committee from his first election until January 2003.

From 1999 to 2001, he was parliamentary secretary to the fisheries minister. He was also a member of the standing committee on national defence and veterans affairs.

He leaves his wife, Alice, and their two children.

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