Leaders pay tribute to Alberta Conservative MP Jim Hillyer after his death

A day that normally would have seen parliamentarians pulling out their sharpest partisan darts was instead replaced Wednesday by a rare coming-together of MPs after the sudden death of Alberta Conservative MP Jim Hillyer.

OTTAWA — A day that normally would have seen parliamentarians pulling out their sharpest partisan darts was instead replaced Wednesday by a rare coming-together of MPs after the sudden death of Alberta Conservative MP Jim Hillyer.

The 41-year-old died in his office after returning to Ottawa this week following surgery to treat an infection in his leg.

He came back for the Liberal budget on Tuesday, but what should have been the first day of debate on it was instead deferred to honour Hillyer’s life and work.

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose wiped away tears as she rose, referring to Hillyer as a colleague and friend with a goofy sense of humour who used his determination to champion causes including cancer advocacy and justice system reform.

“When you talked to Jim, it was like talking to a neighbour. It was clear he loved his life, he loved his wife, he loved his community and he loved his job.”

She described him as a dedicated husband and father and a man of strong faith and conviction.

A bouquet of red roses sat on his desk in the chamber Wednesday as leaders rose to pay tribute.

Among those who admitted to not knowing him well was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who Hillyer once called “Pierre Trudeau’s pompous parliamentary prince.”

Trudeau said Wednesday there was a lesson to be learned from Hillyer’s death — that MPs should spend more time getting to know one another.

“If today’s tragic experience, which we all share, having lost a member of the family, is to have any positive outcome, let is be that we do take a little more time in the occasions afforded to us, hockey rinks or soccer fields, after work in the watering holes around Ottawa, that we do take a little time to get to know each other a little more because we are bound together, all of us in service to this great country,” he said.

Hillyer broke his leg in a skiing accident in 2013 and took three weeks off for surgery and rehabilitation. But he was plagued with infections that required subsequent surgeries. He often walked with a cane and some were surprised to see him back on the Hill this week after his latest hospital stay.

“He always fought and overcame those struggles,” said fellow Conservative MP James Bezan, who said Hillyer had been in good spirits upon his return.

“We always have to keep in the back of our mind our days are numbered and we don’t know when our number is up,” Bezan added.

The death cast a pall over the Commons proceedings and leaders agreed to adjourn the sitting as soon as leaders’ tributes were done.

Hillyer was first elected to the House of Commons in 2011 for the Lethbridge riding in a campaign where he avoided interviews and was nicknamed “the man who wasn’t there.” But he won the seat easily and was re-elected in a landslide last fall in the new riding of Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner.

Hillyer was a cancer survivor and had a bone marrow transplant in 2003.

He leaves a wife and four children.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair said the parliamentary family was also mourning.

“Jim leaves behind a loving family, a legacy of hard working public service and a profound commitment to his faith,” Mulcair said.

“These are qualities that will define his memory in this place.”

Just Posted

Downtown Red Deer was packed with people who lined the streets to watch the Westerner Days parade on Wednesday. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Westerner Days parade cancelled, full details on modified event coming June 28

The 2021 edition of Westerner Days will look much different than any… Continue reading

City council wants to hear from the public at a May 25 hearing about whether the temporary homeless shelter should be allowed to remain in the downtown for another year. (Advocate file photo).
City of Red Deer staff to recommend another extension to allow operations at current temporary shelter site

Following some more research city administration has received no other new locations… Continue reading

A scene from the short Western ‘Cheaters, Robbers and Outlaws,’ written and directed by Jason Steele, with support from Telus Storyhive. (Contributed image)
Red Deerians make ‘Cheaters, Robbers and Outlaws’ short Western film

Writer and director Jason Steele received a $20,000 Storyhive grant from Telus

Residents in several neighbourhoods reported little to no water pressure Tuesday night. (File photo by Advocate staff)
City hall to reopen for payments and customer service

Red Deer City Hall will reopen on June 21 for utility and… Continue reading

Char Rausch was selected as this year’s recipient of the Bob Stollings Award, which goes to an employee who has displayed outstanding civic performance in alignment with The City’s Cornerstone Values – Respect, Integrity, Service and Excellence. (Photo courtesy City of Red Deer)
Char Rausch wins City of Red Deer Bob Stollings Award

The City of Red Deer is honouring employees differently this year. With… Continue reading

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price stops Vegas Golden Knights' William Karlsson as he is covered by Canadiens' Joel Edmundson during first period of Game 3 of the NHL Stanley Cup semifinal Friday, June 18, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Andreson’s timely scoring, Price’s goaltending give Habs 2-1 series lead over Vegas

Canadiens 3 Golden Knights 2 (OT) (Montreal leads series 2-1) MONTREAL —… Continue reading

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) is defended by Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) as he looks for an opening during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinal series Friday, June 18, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Curry, Harris help 76ers stay alive, hold off Hawks 104-99

76ers 104 Hawks 99 (Series tied 3-3) ATLANTA — Seth Curry hit… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise of a two-dose fall is… Continue reading

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, speaks during a press conference in Ottawa, Thursday, May 13, 2021. Mendicino has announced a new policy to help settle 500 refugees and their families in a news conference today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year: Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced plans to expedite applications and increase the… Continue reading

Louis Oosthuizen, of South Africa, plays his shot from the third tee during the second round of the U.S. Open Golf Championship, Friday, June 18, 2021, at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Bland leads at Torrey and shows the US Open is truly open

SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Open prides itself on being the most… Continue reading

The Prime Minister's car waits outside the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg Tuesday, May 19, 2009. The head of the Public Health Agency of Canada is showing no sign he'll release unredacted documents about the firing of two scientists at Canada's highest security laboratory — despite the prospect of being publicly shamed in the House of Commons for his refusal to turn them over. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
PHAC head maintains he’s bound by law not to release docs on fired scientists

OTTAWA — The head of the Public Health Agency of Canada is… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant in Canada

OTTAWA — The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly… Continue reading

Various vaping nicotine e-liquids or "juice" are shown in a lab at Portland State University in in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, April 16, 2019. The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products… Continue reading

Most Read