In their shock and grief, Canada's federal leaders came together to talk about family.
Not just the grieving family of Conservative MP Jim Hillyer, who was found dead in his office Wednesday morning, leaving behind four children — London, Taylor, Nation and Asia — and a wife, Livi.
Alberta Conservative MP Jim Hillyer leaves the Centre Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on May 19, 2011. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP)
Not just the Conservative Party family, gutted to learn a member of their team passed mere hours after he sat beside them in the House of Commons, just as he had since 2011.
But each reeling party leader who rose in the House of Commons to pay tribute to Hillyer, MP for the Alberta riding of Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, spoke of a parliamentary family that is also hurting.
Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose, visibly emotional but always composed, was first to pay tribute to her friend.
Hillyer, she said, wanted to be an MP his whole life.
"When you talked to Jim it was like talking to a neighbour," she said. "It was clear that he loved his life, he loved his wife, he loved his community, and he loved his job."
She described him as an honest and humble guy with a goofy sense of humour. As an example, she pointed to comments the proud southern Albertan recently made to a reporter when asked about the rise of Donald Trump.
"He said, well, 'Where I come from is redneck — and we're not that redneck,'" Ambrose said, sparking laughter and applause.
But he was also a fighter who beat leukemia, a hockey player and volunteer, and a violinist — something she conceded did not fit her view of him.
"He loved his life, he loved his wife, he loved his community, and he loved his job."
— Interim Tory Leader Rona Ambrose
He cared about strengthening Canada's justice system and helping victims, she said.
"Some of you may have not had a chance to get to know Jim because you're new to the House but that's okay," Ambrose said, breaking down a little. "Your thoughts and prayers mean just as much to his family, so I thank you for your support on their behalf."
Ambrose said she hoped, in time, that the pain could be replaced by the memories.
"This Parliament is better for having had Jim serve it and we're better to have known him."
Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose wipes a tear as she reads a statement about the late Conservative MP Jim Hillyer in the House of Commons in Ottawa on March 23, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked Ambrose for sharing some aspects of Hillyer that came as a surprise.
"This is a moment where we should all reflect on the fact that we don't know each other as well as we should in this House," he said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reads a statement about the late Conservative MP Jim Hillyer in the House of Commons in Ottawa on March 23, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)
Trudeau, too, said all MPs lost "a member of the family," regardless of which side of the Commons they sit.
And if anything positive is to come from such a tragedy, Trudeau said, let it be that MPs take more time — be it at the hockey rink or Ottawa's watering holes — to learn a little more about each other.
"Because we are bound together, all of us, in service to this great country," he said, sparking applause.
Hillyer, he said, will be remembered for his hard work and conviction. His children can take pride in knowing their dad served Canada well.
"We are bound together, all of us, in service to this great country."
— Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
"If this House and this country is made strong by the broad range of people and voices that serve it, then this morning we have certainly been diminished by Jim's passing," he said. "Rest in peace, Jim."
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, who earlier commented it was one of those days where members come together, said "our parliamentary family is in mourning."
Hillyer believed politics could be about making the world a better place and that people matter, the NDP leader said. He noted that the MP was given an indigenous name by the Blackfoot Cultural Society for his work with First Nations issues — Api Stamiik, or White Buffalo Bull.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair reads a statement about the late Conservative MP Jim Hillyer in the House of Commons in Ottawa on March 23, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)
"His voice will be sadly missed," Mulcair said.
Rhéal Fortin, interim leader of the Bloc Quebecois, said Hillyer's passing reminds members of how "deeply human" the work they do is.
"There are human beings who gather here to debate different ideas but always with respect around an essential value which is that of democracy," he said.
And Green Party Leader Elizabeth May used her turn in the House to say she was deeply affected by Ambrose's words as they all adjust to the shock of losing a colleague.
She said the fact that Hillyer insisted on being present for budget day, weeks after undergoing surgery to treat a leg infection, reflected his strong sense of duty.
"We are bound together today recognizing the inevitable, the fragility of life, the certainty of death, and for many of us, hope for a world to come and faith," she said.
All that anyone can hope for, May said, is a life well-lived in that precious "blink of time" allotted.
"And in this, our friend, Jim Hillyer excelled," she said.
As they spoke, a bouquet of red roses sat on Hillyer's empty desk.
It's not clear who put them there.
Hillyer was 41.
Flowers sit on the desk of the member of Parliament Jim Hillyer in the House of Commons on March 23, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)
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