| Mar 01, 2007


Feature Article - March 1, 2007

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Feature Article - March 1, 2007

Who's afraid of Randy Hillier?

Editorial by Jeff Green

When a candidate comes forward to run for the candidacy of a political party in a rural riding, it might attract minor attention in some of the local papers, but it is usually a less than riveting story. Most of us are content to let the local riding association sweat out their choice for a candidate, and only a couple of weeks before the election do we begin to pay attention to who the candidate is and what they stand for.

So, it’s more than a bit unusual when a candidacy se-lection race in what in provincial terms is an obscure rural riding, Lanark Frontenac Lennox and Addington, engenders not only comments from senior ministers of the governing party but editorial comment in daily newspapers in Toronto and Ottawa .

But then, Randy Hillier is no ordinary candidate.

Injunction _served

As the founding president of the Lanark and Ontario Landowners Associations, Hillier has received media at-tention by organising large scale tractor convoys to Parliament Hill and Queen’s Park. The slogan “Back off government, get off my land” has exemplied the self styled “rural revolution” that the Landowners advocate in rela-tion to a host of government regulations that they see as contrary to the interests of rural Ontario . The Lanark Landowners Association (now the Ontario Landowners Association) has borrowed tactics from such unlikely sources as the peace, the anti-nuclear and the civil rights movements. They have been modern advocates of non-violent direct action, physically blocking government ofcials who they argue are persecuting law abiding landowners.

The difference between the Landowners and ‘60s peace protesters, is that the Landowners tend to stand in the way of Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) or Minis-try of the Environment (MoE) bureaucrats, as opposed to the police or the army. They also carry themselves with considerable bravado. Randy Hillier does not wear owers in his hair.

But he makes for a good interview, and the media likes that about him. During an interview with the News last week, Hillier said “Trudeau said that government does not belong in the bedrooms of the nation, and I say that should be extended to the kitchens and the garages of the nation.

”Early in January, Randy Hillier resigned as president of the Ontario Landowners Association, and in early February he declared his intention to seek the Conservative nomination for next fall’s provincial election.

But how can an ardent critic of government intervention become a member of government? Even though Randy Hillier has been associated with federal Conservative MP Scott Reid, and some blue provincial Tories such as Frank Klees, he holds several Ontario ministries, most notably the MNR and the MoE, in utter contempt.Quite apart from which party is in power, these minis-tries are arms of government. The Nutrient Management Act, which has been ridiculed by the Landowners Association, was an initiative of the former Ontario Conservatives, and the water regulations that Hillier has also mocked were also initiated by the former Ontario Conservative government. Yet, Randy Hillier now seeks to represent that very party, not only in this riding, but throughout rural Ontario . In his newly minted website, Hillier says “though [I seek] to represent the people of LFL&A, it is abundantly clear that [my] constituency is broad based and encompasses all of rural Ontario .

”This is an important issue for the Conservative Party. On one hand they would love to have the support of the Ontario Landowners in some of the rural ridings they need to win in order to close the electoral gap with the Liberals. On the other hand, Hillier is a wild card. He could cost the Conservatives more votes than he gains for them, even in Rural Ontario.

He comes into politics with a clearly stated set of convictions, all centred around rural people’s rights to the enjoyment and use of their property. This is all well and good, until such time as his convictions come into conict with party policy.

When asked what would happen if he came into conict with the agenda of party leader John Tory, Hillier said “that really is a theoretical question,” saying that he “thinks John Tory is a good leader and I will follow him”.

The probability exists, however, that Hillier’s property rights convictions and his opposition to environmental policies that are popular in urban Ontario will put him into conict with the party.

Whatever feelings people might have about Randy Hillier, his issues are current in rural Ontario , much more so than in the city. The Toronto media, led by the CBC, for whom Randy Hillier has expressed particular disdain, don’t like him in the least, and the Liberal Party is sure to try and paint the Conservative party as a redneck party if he is a candidate under their banner.

But the Toronto media doesn’t understand Randy Hillier’s appeal in rural Ontario . This appeal is based on the fact that under Hillier, the Ontario Landowners Association has made it their business to stand up for a variety of people, from organic egg farmers and raw milk producers, to sawmill operators and cattle farmers, to land-owners whose properties have been staked by mining interests, when no one else has done so. He also represents rural Ontarians who are convinced that politicians in Ontario have quietly come to the conclusion that rural Ontario is expendable, that sooner or later we will all fade away or come to our senses and move to the city.

The more hated Hillier is by the urban media and politicians, the more popular he may become in rural Ontario . People like the fact that he refuses to be subservient to urban politicians, even to urban conservative politicians.

So, who’s afraid of Randy Hillier? Maybe it’s the Ontario Conservative Party. JG

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