He won by a narrow margin of less than 1000 votes. But Hillier had the help of a controversial group called the Ontario Landowners Association, whose mandate is "...to preserve and protect the rights of property owners and to enshrine property rights within the Constitution of Canada and the laws of the Province of Ontario."
I had written before of an experience I'd had with the OLA. We had taken our grandson on an overnight to Peterborough to visit the zoo. When leaving our hotel we noticed that a rather large group of protesters had lined the drive. I was first drawn by their signs "This Land is Our Land", and assuming that they were First Nations, I told my husband to honk the horn in support. But then after a closer look, I realized that they were all Caucasian.
Later in the day I saw that the group had moved across the road, so I asked the desk clerk who they were and why they were protesting at the hotel. She explained that there was a young hockey team from a Native community staying there, in town for a tournament. They were trying to send them a message: 'keep off our land'!
How ridiculous. The kids just wanted to play hockey, not get caught up in a land dispute, real or imagined. As the OLA's president; Hillier led the charge. He stepped down as President to run in the election, but remains true to the cause.
The Property Rights Movement
The Ontario Landowners Association is part of a larger movement espoused by libertarians, conservatives and patriot groups like the Tea Party.
They claim to be fighting for land owners' rights to do what they want with their property, without government interference. But according to Libertarian and Republican Donovan D. Rypkema, that is rarely the case. As a real estate developer he has had opportunity to deal with many from the movement and found the opposite to be true (1).
He cites as an example demonstrations made by one PR group over the prospective opening of a nudist bar in their neighborhood. The protesters were not opposed on moral grounds, but the fear that it would drive the value of their property down.
The bar owner had to relinquish his right to do what he wanted with his property, because of how it would impact those around him.
What if your neighbour wanted to turn his home into a junkyard? A sex toy shop? A half-way house for sex offenders? Fortunately, you have the right to seek protection through government interference.
Rypkema also points out that rural property values can increase with the building and maintenance of roads and highways. In urban centres, the proximity of schools, public transit, parks, etc. all factor into the value of your real estate and all require government interference.
Hillier knows this but always contends that his Property Rights people would call them if they needed them.
So What is the Movement Really About?
Many people have tried to define their goals, suggesting everything from mineral rights to taking the law into their own hands when it comes to intruders.
Randy Hillier once gave a peek into their agenda when he emailed photos of a dead deer with bullet holes in its belly to Ontario Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky, stating “The attached pictures are the direct consequence of government injustice, and when individuals no longer fear the tyranny of legislated abuse and intimidation. In keeping with tradition, all nuisance animals are consecutively named, enclosed are pictures of ‘Leona'".
How frightening for her. It almost looked like a death threat even if it was only meant as a sick joke.
But why target her? She wasn't the Natural Resources Minister. It was because she was female so he could get the best bang for his buck. Mysogyny 101.
However, back to the Property Rights Movement and its agenda.
Did Ontario really need such an organization fighting for farmers? There is already the Ontario Farmers’ Union handling their affairs in a sane and intelligent manner, looking at the broader picture of government and agronomics.
As Helen Forsey wrote in This Magazine:
The LLA*, however, either misses this larger analysis or deliberately rejects it. In private conversations and even in the occasional flight of rhetoric, members will say they’re against big corporations, but their public complaints and protests consistently target government, not corporate power.
Like the authorities they despise, the LLA* lets the big fish get away. Worse, members don’t seem to realize that the property- based solutions they propose actually represent a welcome gift to those very corporations. Deregulation and enhanced private property rights are strategies that could have—and quite possibly did—come straight out of right-wing think tanks or political party war rooms. In any case, such schemes are an integral part of the overall corporate agenda of privatization and the undermining of government. The rural revolution’s current groundswell of vocal support for these policy directions is a major achievement that the suits must be celebrating.(2)
Stephen Harper's Reform Party called for property rights to be added to the constitution, and in fact, Harper himself attended an Ottawa rally of the OLA, in April of 2004, where he ' addressed the crowd, endorsing property rights.' (3)
But the day '... when a handful of men met in the office of Scott Reid, Conservative MP for Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington' proved a windfall for the local Conservatives, their think tanks and the corporate sector. (Reid's family owns the Giant Tiger discount store chain)
Soon Reid was touting property rights in Parliament and with Reid by his side, Hillier joined the ranks of provincial politicians.
What I found interesting about Randy Hillier, when he started his group, was that his writings were not as much to do with rural issues, but his new found libertarian ones.
He fought for the repeal of public smoking laws, helmets for motorcycles and bicycles, seatbelt laws and corporal punishment ban for children. All things that could have been issues brought forward by the Fraser Institute.
There are several things I like about Randy Hillier, including his passion and willingness to stand up for what he believes in. Unfortunately, that passion has been exploited by those with an agenda.
So if you're voting for Hillier to have your voice heard in the Legislature, be careful what you wish for. It might not be your voice at all.
Racism by Any Other Name Still Stinks
As seen with the protest in Peterborough, that targetted an aboriginal hockey team; Hillier is also on a mission to challenge Native land claims. After breaking with the OLA over an executive decision, he has joined CADANCE (“Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality), a militia group claiming to be protecting the streets of Caledonia from "lawless natives".
This was in response to the conflict with the Six Nations’ reclamation of Douglas Creek Estates (Kanonhstaton) in February of 2006. The conflict did turn violent, but the Natives did not throw the first stone, nor the only one.
It's interesting that Hillier condemned police brutality during the G-20 but is pushing for police to brutalize protesters wanting a few land considerations of their own. They have since changed their message to promoting "peaceful Native protests", which is in itself a racist mandate, suggesting that Natives can't be peaceful without their guidance.
And CANACE suggests that they only want the same rights as our First Nations.
What rights would they be?
The right to have your daughters, mothers and sisters disappear with little more concern than if you'd lost your car keys?
The right to have someone come onto your land anytime they wanted with a bulldozer and blueprints for unwanted development?
The right to live in slums without clean clean drinking water?
The right to belong to a group most likely to be incarcerated?
The right to a high infant mortality rate?
Again I say: Be careful what you wish for. You might just get it.
*Lanark Landowner's Association - sister group pf OLA
1. Property Rights, Land Use Planning and the Competitive Community ULI Idaho, October 30, 2006; Donovan D. Rypkema
2. Betting the Farm by Helen Forsey, This Magazine, July-Aug, 2005