Hilary Abbott, who has decided to try for the federal New Democratic Party nomination in the new Cowichan-Malahat-Langford riding, is no newcomer to politics. "I’m an avid follower of politics and come from a family of politicians: cabinet ministers with St. Laurent and Trudeau, going back to that era," he said. "So I grew up with lots of politicking, but this is the West Coast and the days of strong Liberal leaders is in the history books so I think the time is right. Jean Crowder provided an opening and I’d like to maintain that proud tradition of NDP members of parliament."
Abbott said that Crowder is leaving big shoes to fill, and party voters will be looking for several qualities in her replacement.
"I think a combination of experience and community-mindedness, an ability to work hard and ethically," he said. "I’m just getting to know the party so there are things I’m just starting to get up to speed with as fast as possible."
What does his family think? "They are of mixed opinions but supportive overall. For anybody that wants to get engaged in politics, at the federal level or any level, there is going to be some lively debate around the table. And that’s probably a good thing because nobody’s going to the convention this week but they’ll be watching and challenging me so I get prepared."
This particular riding isn’t the riding we’ve been used to here and Abbott agreed there will be challenges for whoever gets elected.
"Not that Jean’s present riding isn’t big, but it seems like it’s more homogeneous. Now, it seems like we’ve been given a very different, busy, young people’s community. People who are active and engaged in their work and young families not as politically active and probably very, I would think, supportive of the Harper Conservative government. It’s going to be a challenge to get the message out and get them to consider the NDP as an option."
Travel is going to be an issue in the new riding but Abbott is ready, formerly a busy businessman as owner of Hilary’s Cheese.
"I’m not opposed to work. If anything, I’m a bit of a workaholic. It’s a big riding and I’m sure we’re going to count on a lot of volunteers to help us," he said.
"The challenge first is to win the nomination nod and that’s not an easy feat. There are a lot of fine people running. While I may be a known commodity to a certain circle of people, I’ve got to get to know the NDP family a little better."