by BETTER FARMING STAFF
Ontario Landowner’s Association founding president Randy Hillier has split from the organization.
He says he is no longer a member of the OLA, the group that is widely credited for launching his career as a Progressive Conservative MPP in the Provincial Legislature.
Hillier disagrees with what he calls the “misguided” approach of the OLA’s leadership, using Crown patents to try to establish private property rights.
Better Farming staff called Hillier’s office in Perth, in Lanark County, repeatedly this week. He returned a call on Friday afternoon.
Hillier says he hasn’t been overwhelmed with telephone calls on this issue. He says he handles roughly 50 calls a day at his MPP office on a variety of subjects “and the calls haven’t changed much” this week.
Following the OLA’s path can be costly, Hillier warns. “You are going to find yourself whistling through a lot of money and losing. I don’t want to be associated in assisting in injuring people."
Hillier says he gets calls from members across the province asking for advice on Crown patent matters. Callers “erringly assume that what the landowners do I would be supportive of. That is not correct,” Hillier says.
“I wanted the general membership, the people that I have known for many years, people who have worked and supported me, to know what my position was on these Crown patents.
“I do not subscribe to the storyline of the OLA executive.”
Hillier says the OLA membership is split on the use of the Crown patent defense. “Quite a number of people in the Landowners have been telling the executive for two years” that they are on the wrong path pursuing Crown patents as a legal defense.
“These contrary positions were not afforded much light of day with the executive,” Hillier says.
He says the OLA executive is “misconstruing a legal instrument for transferring land . . . to believe these Crown patents are superior to the Constitution of the country and superior to the legislative authorities granted in the Constitution.”
Hillier cites two cases where defendants used Crown patents as a defense against charges brought about by government authorities. One is the case of Beamsville archery range owner Bob Mackie, convicted of failing to comply with a restoration order issued by the Niagara Escarpment Commission. According to a document Hillier posted on the Rural Revolution website earlier this week, published by the Ontario Bar Association by Newmarket solicitor Zella Phillips in June of 2011, Mackie’s defence at trial “echoed the position of the OLA, that provincial legislation is not applicable to property that has been patented by the Crown.”
Phillips wrote that “the defence failed and Mr. Mackie was convicted.”
Hillier says that court decision is under appeal. He expects that Mackie will lose again.
Hillier also cites a Peat Farmers of Ontario case. Hillier says members extracting peat moss were convicted in February of interfering with wetlands. Members had also used the Crown patent defense, Hillier says.
Earlier this week, OLA president Tom Black told Better Farming that Hillier “wants to step away from it . . . he doesn’t want it to affect his political career. He can’t justify it in his own mind.”
Hillier says, “What I don’t want is somebody else doing something that is injurious to people and having it ascribed to me.”
Hillier says he did not plan to attend a Landowners Association meeting in Lindsay this weekend. He broke his ankle seven weeks ago and the cast was removed on Friday.
“I never broke my ankle before,” Hillier says, and he didn’t realize how painful it would be. He says he is back on crutches until the atrophied muscles recover. BF