Jeff Green | Apr 16, 2009
Back to HomeEditorial - April 16, 2009 What is Randy really up to?Editorial by Jeff Green
In the context of a historic downturn in the manufacturing sector in Ontario, which will have profound implications over the next decade at least, Randy Hillier is running for the leadership of the official opposition - the premier in-waiting - on an odd platform. His major policy pronouncements have been about bringing back the spring bear hunt, abolishing the Ontario Human Rights Commission, curtailing the power of unions, and eliminating the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation.
On the face of it, Randy is out of touch with the times. A dominant issue of the day is not the spring bear hunt; the human rights commission does not affect many of the 10 million people who live in the province; and property assessment, though certainly an issue, is not on the top of the political agenda these days.
The province is responsible for education, healthcare, and energy; that is where taxes go and that is where we are all impacted by policy decisions every day of our lives.
So, why the spring bear hunt, why the human rights commission?
The fact is that Randy is not really running to be leader of the Conservative party. He is running to promote an agenda and to establish himself as the leader of a faction in the Conservative party, and if that faction is not properly cultivated by whoever becomes the leader, Randy will jump ship and start up his own party.
A libertarian, rural-focused party would have a strong appeal in certain ridings in rural eastern, central and western Ontario. But this appeal does not extend to the urban south or the remote north.
The Conservatives will never win power without these ridings, and even if a libertarian party headed by Randy Hillier couldn’t win a riding, it could split the Conservative vote and give the ridings to the Liberals.
Our own riding is a prime example. As a Conservative, Randy Hillier beat the Liberals by 900 votes last time around. If he pulled up stakes and ran as the leader of a true blue, small-town conservative party, against the existing Conservative party and the Liberals, the Liberals would win rather easily.
So, what Randy is doing in this campaign is staking out some political territory. He will be campaigning in farming country, and he will be championing individual freedom.
The human rights commission is, for Randy, a left-leaning bureaucracy with “a political agenda” that he would replace with the justice system, which he claims has more rigorous checks on institutional power.
The fact that the court system is mired in backlogs as it is does not matter. Neither does the fact that setting up a new, truly impartial property assessment system in each municipality may be an expensive and, ultimately, unsuccessful alternative to MPAC.
These policy positions mark what Randy Hillier is trying to stand for; they are the extension of the Rural Revolution, and they will appeal to the membership of the various Ontario Landowners groups, which are key to Randy's success. The Landowners’ commitment to what Randy stands for is what motivates them to go out and sell party memberships, and the candidate who sells the most memberships will win.
Members will vote in June, by marking a ballot with their first, second, and third choices. If Randy Hillier gets 10 -15 per cent of first ballot voters, who then support Tim Hudack on the second ballot, allowing Hudack to win, Hillier would have gained something.
That, combined with the implicit threat that he could walk from the party and perhaps take his supporters with him, would make him someone that Mr. Hudack would have to listen to.
It might not mean that abolishing either the human rights commission or MPAC will end up in the Tory platform, but perhaps bringing back the spring bear hunt will.