Monday, May 09, 2011

Tim Hudak Flip-Flopping on Human Rights Commissions?

Tim Hudak to play Mr Fix-it with human rights commissions

When the Ontario Progressive Conservative party was choosing its leader in 2009, a quiet battle was waged over the future of Ontario's Human Rights Commission.

Randy Hillier had promised to scrap the tribunals altogether. Fellow contender Christine Elliott offered a more sobered program of reform.

Hillier wound up supporting Hudak after he promised to support his position on the matter. But now it seems that Hudak has changed his mind.

Speaking in Ottawa, Hudak promised reforms that would reduce the backlog of cases before the human rights tribunal and reduce the number of frivolous complaints. He would also institute rules of procedure closer to those of an actual court of law.

For many of those who accept that human rights commissions have a legitimate role to play in Canada, this is a welcome development. However, many of those who were enthused by Hudak embracing Hillier's policy promise are now feeling betrayed; among them is, unsurprisingly, Sun TV's Ezra Levant.

Interestingly enough, Hillier himself doesn't seem to feel betrayed.

On one hand, there seems to be a real air of pragmatism under Hudak's seeming shift. With an election expected to be held in autumn 2011, the McGuinty Liberals can be expected to campaign hard on this issue, fear-mongering the entire way.

On the other hand, Hillier gathered a great deal of support on the back of his promise to shut down the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal for good. Those who backed Hillier -- then Hudak -- on the strength of that promise may feel that Hudak is turning his back on them.

Moreover, considering some of the ridiculous rulings to come out of Human Rights Tribunals across Canada -- the Guy Earle case is just one recent example -- support for abolishing these institutions outright is almost certain to grow. Hudak may be preemptively acting to cut himself off from those supporters.

In the long run, Ezra Levant may not be the only one angry about Tim Hudak's change of heart.

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