| Mar 12, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - March 12, 2009 Hillier: a Party Leader?By Jeff Green

There must have been people back in North Bay in 1989 who said “Our Mike Harris can’t become leader of the Tories. He’s too rough, too loud, too rural”.

They were wrong.

So, even though the dust has not yet settled after John Tory lost a by-election and his hold on the provincial party leadership one week ago, Randy Hillier’s name has been repeatedly mentioned, along with purported front runners Tim Hudack and Christine Elliott, as a likely contender for his job.

Even as he was giving his goodbye speech, John Tory warned the party against a turn to the right, such as choosing a leader like Randy Hillier. "It's important that the party remain in the mainstream of Ontario politics and ... there will be lots of people who will be advocating that point of view and perhaps some who won't," said Tory.

Randy Hillier has never aspired to be a mainstream politician, but in an interview with the News from his office at Queen’s Park earlier this week, he used the kind of language that politicians use when they are planning to run for something but don’t want to make the announcement just yet.

“It’s too early yet,” he said when asked if he had decided to run for the job. “I’ve been discussing it, yes, people are encouraging me to run, but this is all coming about pretty quickly. I did not expect John to lose last Thursday. I’ll see when the rules of the leadership race get put together. There is a big cost to running, not just in effort, but there is financial cost as well.”

But he couldn’t help but point out, “There are a bunch of websites out there encouraging me to run, including one called Draftrandy.com. Have you seen that one?”

At Draftrancy.com there is a large picture of Randy, wearing his Tory blue suspenders. The site links to the membership page of the Ontario PC website. Each party member will have a vote in the leadership contest, which is slated for late June.

For Hillier even to be considered as a leadership candidate is remarkable, considering he first came to public attention as president of the Lanark Landowners a few years ago. The Landowners organized tractor conveys, closing Highways 401 and 417 on a few occasions. They also dumped manure at a government office on one occasion and once emailed a photo of a dead deer with the name “Leona” written underneath it to Liberal cabinet Minister Leona Dombrowsky.

Randy Hillier has been tempered by his role as MPP, but not that much. He recently advocated splitting the provincial government in two, and establishing a provincial senate with a senator from each county to give rural Ontario a chance to check the power of the urban interests that he argues dominate Queen’s Park.

There is “a widening of the gulf between the two communities, [rural and urban] with every new law and regulation passed by an urban-dominated Queen's Park ill-suited to the needs and wishes of rural Ontario,” he said under the heading “Two houses are better than one” that is posted on his website.

He is also a vocal critic of the Green Energy Act that has been introduced by the McGuinty Liberals.

“One thing I enjoy about these leadership contests is that is allows ideas to be bashed about,” he told the News.

Look for Randy Hillier to do some bashing about later this spring as the leadership contest heats up. 

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