Doug Shipley says he will practise the politics of co-operation in Ottawa.
The new Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte Conservative MP, who will be sworn in Friday afternoon, says a Liberal minority government is an opportunity for federal parties to get along and work for a common goal.
“People, I’m hearing, they are wanting politics to be done a little differently and perhaps a minority government will help bring that along too,” said Shipley, 53. “I think people want to see politicians who are trying to actually work together for the betterment of the country.”
“I know right now we have a very divided country. There are no ifs, ands or buts about that.”
The dearth of Liberal MPs in western Canada, a Conservative stronghold, and smaller numbers of Liberal MPs in Quebec, but strength in Ontario, illustrates the divide.
As the Official Opposition, Shipley says the Conservatives will be holding the government’s feet to the fire because Canadians are having trouble making ends meet. He heard that going door-to-door during the election campaign.
“Families and seniors are finding it tough now to make decisions on what to pay for, how to pay for it and when to pay for it,” said Shipley, who served nine years as a Barrie city councillor. “We’re struggling and we keep raising taxes and we keep spending money. It’s going to get harder and harder. We need to make life a little bit easier for all, for everyone.”
Shipley also heard on the campaign trail that climate change and Canada’s debt were important matters to people, but he was surprised that issues didn’t always influence votes.
That came across late one beautiful summer morning when he was campaigning near Shanty Bay and met a man working around his garage.
“I walked up his driveway and he said hello, I said hello and he was very amicable until I handed him my brochure, which said Conservative,” Shipley said. “He immediately wanted nothing to do with me.
“He gave me back the brochure and got almost hostile. I stopped and went back and was very pleasant with this gentleman, and I asked him, I said ‘what is it about me that all of a sudden upset you?’”
And he said, “well, my grandfather always voted Liberal, my parents always voted Liberal and I vote Liberal.”
Shipley told the man he respected that, and they had a conversation.
“We talked for about 20 minutes, and at the end of the conversation he actually shook my hand and apologized,” Shipley said. “I still don’t think he voted for me, but at least he realized we can actually agree to disagree, and I’m hoping maybe that’s what can happen now with this minority government too.
“It’s become too polarized. I think people have had enough of that. I think they want us to actually work together and do what’s right for the country.”
Shipley noted he ran a positive campaign leading up to the Oct. 21 federal election and mailed 150,000 pieces of literature that said nothing negative about the other candidates and parties. He hopes to do the same thing in the nation’s capital.
“I can take that message to Ottawa and keep it positive,” he said. “I don’t think we need to be combative and angry. We can disagree, but we can do it with respect and with dignity, and move forward.
“I will tell you right now, there is no appetite for an immediate election, so I don’t think anybody is going to be out there, trying to bring down the government right away.”
As a Conservative MP, Shipley says there will be challenges dealing with a Liberal government with a sometimes-competing agenda.
How will the priorities of his Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte constituents become important to this government?
“It’s going to be harder, obviously, than if we were in power,” Shipley said. “But knowing how I can build bridges, I will walk across the floor to introduce myself to perhaps a minister and say ‘hello, I’m Doug Shipley’ and get to know them.
“So when and if we do need something, you have that relationship. It’s not going to be easy, I don’t have blinders on.”
Running for MP wasn’t a lifelong dream or ambition for Shipley; certain things just fell into place.
So he has no intention of changing who he is in Ottawa as a Member of Parliament.
“It is a serious title, but it doesn’t mean I have to change as a person. I’m not going to change who I am,” he said. “That’s why I think people voted me in. I think people appreciate that I’m, I think, a pretty down-to-earth guy. I am who I am.”
Shipley will be sworn in as Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte MP at 4 p.m. today (Nov. 22). His wife Lisa and sons Wyatt, 18, and Luke, 14, will attend.
His Barrie office will officially open on Monday, Nov. 25; it’s located at 48 Alliance Blvd., Suite 104.