Shock and grief could be felt across southern Alberta and Ottawa last week with the sudden passing of MP Jim Hillyer.
Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner’s recently elected MP was only 41 years old.
It’s news which has saddened everyone, if the tributes coming from all parties are any indication. It’s sad when a person you work alongside passes away suddenly, no matter where you sit in the House of Commons.
While Question Period and attack ads might suggest that politicians are at each other’s throat across the floor, Canadian MPs are colleagues. Take the friendship between CPC MP Lisa Raitt and former NDP MP Megan Leslie, for example.
It’s easy to be cynical about politicians. After all, as a collective, their track record is spotty.
But at the core of everyone who runs for office – no matter which party they belong to – is a desire to do right for the people they represent, to make their region, their country and the world a better place.
Hillyer was no exception.
He had served in government during his time as MP in Lethbridge (2011-2015), and had just started as Official Opposition. He spoke in the House of Commons, he served on committees, and said it was important for him to be in Ottawa for the federal budget this week, even after recovering from a recent illness and operation.
And, with the economic downturn underway and thousands upon thousands of jobs lost – to lose a voice in Ottawa at this point in time is a major blow. One of the last times Hillyer spoke in the House of Commons was in regard to job losses in his riding, and voicing his support for the Energy East pipeline as a way to get Canadians back to work.
Hillyer was not without controversy. During the 2011 election, when he won the seat to represent Lethbridge, he became known as the ‘Man Who Wasn’t There’, for not participating in forums – a label that followed him as he ran to win a seat in the newly formed Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner riding in 2015.
However, Hillyer shook this off and was elected by a landslide, winning 69 per cent of the vote – a rousing vote of confidence.
The new riding was willing to give him a chance to represent their concerns on the national stage.
As the Conservatives switched into the role of Official Opposition, Hillyer noted in an interview with the Medicine Hat News that his focus for 2016 included tackling unemployment for the region, property rights and election reform.
To Hillyer’s friends, family and colleagues, it’s a loss of a husband, father and friend.
To constituents, it’s a loss of a voice for the region, and a question of what could have been.