Alistair MacGregor has been Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder’s right hand in Duncan for the past eight years.
She has been his boss, his mentor and his inspiration as he took the lead role helping local residents whenever she was serving in Ottawa.
Now he will take her torch.
Crowder’s 35-year-old constituency assistant was selected to be the NDP candidate for the new Cowichan-Malahat-Langford riding in late January, outlasting five others to claim the role in a vote that occurred simultaneously in Duncan and Langford.
He feels working with Crowder has him well-prepared for the job.
“Her best words of advice were ‘remember who you represent.’ I am taking that to heart,” he said during an interview the day after the vote. “I know everything an MP does. I learned from the best.”
Like Crowder, MacGregor was raised an army brat. Like Crowder, he is from Cowichan, calling the Duncan area home for the past 24 years. Like Crowder, he feels it is job one to be there working for every resident of the community.
“There were days I would come out of that (constituency) office absolutely wrecked because the government didn’t seem to care,” he said.
MacGregor has a degree from the University of Victoria in political science and a masters from Royal Roads in professional communication. His political ambitions awoke early.
“It started day one from working in the MP office. That’s when I caught the bug.”
His candidacy was the first confirmed for a new riding, merging those parts of Nanaimo-Cowichan south of Ladysmith with the north end of Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca.
When the riding split was announced, he had originally thought he would pursue a seat in whatever seat the well-respected Crowder decided not to pursue.
But when she ultimately decided to retire at the end of this term after being elected four times to Parliament Hill, he figured the riding that included his hometown would be the best choice.
A national daycare plan is high on MacGregor’s priority list, as is a national housing strategy. He wants to build a plan that can help the country effectively make a slow transition from an oil-based economy. And he said economic strength and stability is paramount.
“If people and families don’t have economic security, the other issues don’t matter.”
He said a lot of younger people share the values of the NDP but are not necessarily active for the party at the ballot box. Part of his mission is making them understand their vote can make a difference.
“I don’t really think the NDP needs to change its values. I want to change the nature of the conversation,” he said. “I want to ask people if they are really happy with itty-bitty tax cuts that really don’t benefit you.”
He credits his selection to 11 months of direct contact with the voters, where he demonstrated his work ethic and his level of care. It’s a philosophy he plans to bring to a wider stage as we approach a federal election scheduled to be held on or before Oct. 19.
“Being elected, you’ve got to earn it,” he said. “Actions speak louder than words. They always will.”