Sunday, September 20, 2009

Randy Hillier: Kingmaker in Cattle Country?

Hillier picks a horse in Wildrose Alliance race

Fresh out of helping Tim Hudak become the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party, Randy Hillier has apparently decided to try his hand at kingmaking in another province.

Hillier has endorced Mark Dyrholm for the leadership of the Wildrose Alliance.

The Wildrose Alliance has been steadily picking up steam as the polish continues to wear off the governing Progressive Conservative party of Alberta. Four hundred people showed up to witness a debate in Calgary this week, as the party continues to collect supporters like Tom Flanagan, Phil Klein, and possibly another MLA in Guy Boutilier.

The Western Standard's Hugh MacIntyre reports that Hillier has sent emails endorsing Mark Dyrholm for the leadership of the party.

It may not seem intuitive to suggest that Randy Hillier may be able to exert some pull in this race. However, many observers of the Ontario PC leadership campaign credited Hillier for making the Ontario Human Rights Commission an issue Tim Hudak could capitalize on.

The Alberta Human Rights Commission is, likewise, an issue of some controversy among Albertan conservative circles. The Alberta Tories have provoked displasure among conservatives by conributing further material support for the activities of the AHRC, including the services of government-employed lawyers.

Dyrholm's principal opponent in the leadership contest, Danielle Smith, has taken a stance on the matter that seems very similar to the position that Christine Elliott took, favouring reform over abolition.

She has, however, offered far greater detail regarding what her reforms would entail, calling for an end to the censorship powers detailed in section three of the Alberta Human Rights Act.

"Now it's been perverted so that the human rights commission is delving into an area they shouldn't," said Smith. "They need to be reined in and get back to their original mandate."

Smith is also critical of Bill 44 -- the human rights legislation that would allow parents to withdraw their children from classrooms where religion or sexuality are being taught.

"The Minister [Lindsay Blackett] started out trying to make the human rights commission less powerful and ended up making it more powerful," Smith explained. "You'd think Alberta would be a leader in things like free speech, citizen participation in decision-making and democratic reform. But recent developments like Bill 44 suggest just the opposite."

Mark Dyrholm's position on Alberta's Human Rights Tribunal seems a little more ambiguous. He criticises section three, but doesn't seem to offer any particular prescription for how the HRC issue should be handled.

This, naturally, should make many Albertans wonder if Hillier has been in touch with Dyrholm on the subject and knows something about his position that the rest of Alberta doesn't.

To pretend that Randy Hillier's endorsement is going to decide the Wildrose Alliance leadership race is likely excessive. But it could certainly become a factor.

Just as Hillier helped Tim Hudak win the Ontario PC leadership by virtue of second-choice preference, Hillier could well help Mark Dyrholm win the Wildrose Alliance leadership on the strength of the Human Rights Commission controversy.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

Brian Dell - "Canadian Teabaggers"

MJ Murphy - "WAP Leadership Wannabe Endorsed By Rural Separatist"

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