BLUE RIDING, RED NATION: MP LOOKING TO COLLABORATE
Jim Eglinski is no longer staying in hotel rooms in Ottawa.
Yellowhead’s Conservative Member of Parliament—re-elected October 19—just signed off on a nice apartment near Parliament Hill.
“It’s about a 10 minute walk from the office,” he said. “It’s good, a nice location.”
The more permanent digs are a sign that the 66-year-old’s seat is secure now that the 42nd federal election is over. Not that there was much of a doubt—the retired RCMP officer and commercial pilot walked away with 72 per cent of the vote in Yellowhead, a decisive victory against runner-up Ryan Maguhn (Liberal), who secured just 14 per cent of the tally.
But although he was happy Yellowhead went blue, Eglinski himself was blue that the majority of Canada went red. Eglinski admitted the mood was a little sombre at the Galloway Museum in Edson on election night, where he and his supporters had rented a room to watch the results come in.
“I think we were shocked to see the numbers come in from Eastern Canada early on,” he said. “We were quite worried…I watched a lot of guys I worked with in the last year—very important ministers—being beat out in their ridings, and it hurt,” he said. “But my numbers came in strong so we had our happy moments.”
Eglinski’s numbers were stronger than he anticipated (they certainly made this reporter’s crystal ball look a little cloudy), as his strategy of attending every large group function he could get to appeared to pay off. He and his team hit fall fairs, award nights, community dinners and car shows. They went to 4H functions and horse sales, dropped in on general stores and visited every hamlet in the riding.
“We committed ourselves to as many functions as we could, every day of the summer…and it paid off,” Eglinski said. “People appreciated that.”
Not that all the conversations were warm and fuzzy. Eglinski said he got a sense of discontentment from constituents regarding the national Conservative party, even if voters supported him locally.
“I knew we were going to have a problem,” he said. “A lot of people were unhappy with some of the national decisions being made … even some of the older Conservatives were a little questionable about the leadership.”
The Conservatives are currently in the process of selecting an interim leader. Eglinski said some names are starting to come forward; members and party officials are being solicited via digital video presentations.
“We’ve got some good candidates,” he said.
Until parliament was dissolved for the election, Eglinski sat on two committees: immigration and social services. However, he won’t get assigned a new portfolio until the House resumes and national caucus meets, on November 4 and 5, respectively.
Until then, Eglinski is concentrating on following up on his constituents’ needs—grant money which wasn’t awarded, for example—and meeting with the Alberta caucus. He hopes to make progress on the pine beetle issue, and he hopes to bridge some gaps with Alberta’s provincial NDP. Their recently announced deficit budget, certainly, will offer a glimpse at what the Liberal’s national one could look like.
“It’s good in one sense it’s going to stimulate job growth,” he said, “but I just think ‘who’s going to pay for that?’”
More than anything, Eglinski is waiting to see who he’ll be working with: be it his leader, his fellow committee members or ministers of the ruling party.
“As soon as we get to know the ministers responsible … we can all work together and build some relationships. That’s going to be very important over the next little while.”