Wednesday, 26 August 2015 12:12

Southern Albertans may want to ask these questions of Conservative candidate

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While I’m normally reluctant to stick my nose into politics in a riding where I don’t reside, having had the dubious experience of having Jim Hillyer as my Member of Parliament here in Lethbridge for the last four years, there are a few questions people in the new Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner constituency might want to ask before they go to the polls.
First, why did LaVar Payne, the outgoing MP for much of the new riding, tell a TV interviewer on July 22, 2014, that, “I have no problem saying that I won’t be endorsing Jim (Hillyer) just because of the fact that I know he hasn’t served his own riding and I don’t want that to happen here … I’ve had people from Lethbridge, Cardston and Warner area talk to me about the whole thing, so I certainly won’t be endorsing Jim.”
It certainly wasn’t because Mr. Payne had lost the nomination; it was his decision to retire that prompted Mr. Hillyer to jump from Lethbridge to Medicine Hat-Warner-Cardston.
Second, considering the above, what assurance do voters living much east of Highway 4, the Lethbridge-Coutts highway, have that Mr. Hillyer will pay attention to their issues? I ask this in light of Mr. Hillyer’s mailout to voters in the south end of the old Lethbridge riding in late July or early August of 2014 which reads: “…with most of the population in the city of Medicine Hat, we need to do whatever it takes to make sure our area is not ignored.”
Having drawn these battle lines between Medicine Hat and his particular part of the rest of southern Alberta, the document goes on to reiterate: “Jim is from the area; he was raised here and this is where he is raising his family. He understands our concerns because they are his concerns, too. He shares our values…”
Most of this would just be politics as usual if Mr. Hillyer had served even that part of his constituency as a sitting MP. His busloads of instant delegates outnumbered the delegates of the other potential nominees and he won the race just as he had under similar circumstances in Lethbridge four years before.
According to Mr. Payne, that didn’t happen. People from the very part of the riding that got the mailout promising to represent them against the foreign ways and values of the big city of Medicine Hat were going to the MP from a neighbouring riding when Mr. Hillyer failed to represent their concerns and it wasn’t only them. Speaking to members of the business community in Lethbridge about their experiences with Mr. Hillyer, a common theme emerges: again and again, they said Hillyer refused to talk with them about their issues and concerns.
Keep in mind these were business owners who were a natural part of his core support.
“The man who wasn’t there” appears to have decided that if not showing up to campaign forums and events worked to get him elected, it was an equally viable strategy for dealing with pesky constituents once he was elected.
When Mr. Hillyer faced a strong challenge to his nomination in Lethbridge this time around, he packed up his carpet bag and sought greener pastures.
Maybe people might want to ask Mr. Hillyer about this if he shows up to any campaign forums this time around.
Ken Sears, Lethbridge

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