Hillyer lives in the constituency and his hopes are to secure the nomination for his party in advance of the 2015 federal election. New federal boundary changes were announced last year and Hillyer’s intentions were to run in the Medicine Hat riding but he noted he didn’t want to run against Medicine Hat MP LaVar Payne, who recently announced he would not be seeing re-election. Hillyer originally declared to remain as the Lethbridge incumbent.
“It was a bit of a surprise that Mr. Payne in Medicine Hat was not going to run. When the boundaries were first announced and finalized — we found that the communities south of Lethbridge were no longer going to be in the Lethbridge riding but in the Medicine Hat riding and that’s where I happen to live. I wanted to run there but LaVar was the MP for Medicine Hat and also lived there. We don’t want to run against each other,” said Hillyer.
That’s the difficult thing about the boundary changes, Hillyer said, no matter where he runs he’s leaving someone out.
“But in the same token whatever side of the line I run I still feel comfortable that I’m running at home. But ultimately it’s where I live and where I’m raising my family.”
Hillyer, who grew up in Sterling and lives with his family in Raymond, said he is fully committed to representing the interests of the current Lethbridge riding until the next federal election in October 2015. He was first elected as MP in 2011. Hillyer noted it’s difficult to leave the work that he’s been doing in the Lethbridge riding.
“The nomination race has been going really well and it’s never fun to let your supporters and volunteers know that you have to make a change in direction but most of the people are still very supportive of me. They feel like they want to have someone like me in parliament,” said Hillyer.
According to Hillyer, one of the things he’s said to supporters over the years is sometimes government puts too much emphasis on current issues but don’t know what the issues are going to be five or 10 years down the road. “Part of our decision-making should be about principles, and about the people. Sometimes we’re talking — it should be about issues and not about people. I’m not sure if that’s always true. You need to make sure you have the right people in place because you have to make decisions based on what you don’t know. If someone was to ask me a year ago, even six days ago, if I thought I was going to be running in the Medicine Hat riding I would have said, of course not but when that unforeseen happened, a quick decision had to be made,” explained Hillyer.
That being said, Hillyer said, Alberta’s been around since 1905 and people have been here even before then.
“It hasn’t really changed in over 100 years that people care about raising their families in a safe moral community where they can make decisions together but also make decisions for themselves and for their families. To be able to make enough money to make a good living without being too stressed out and to be able to make decisions about that money. I think those are going to continue to be the things that are on their minds,” said Hillyer.
Since elected, Hillyer said, he’s polled his riding a few times a year asking constituents what they think the federal government’s priorities should be.
“Consistently, they’ve listed things like health care, the economy and education as their top priorities. Not just their top priorities but what they think the government’s top priorities should be. That hasn’t changed in the last three years and I don’t think it’s going to change any time soon,” he added.
According to a media release, the realignment of federal boundaries across Canada finalized last year resulted in all boundary lines shifting, thus forcing party nomination elections across the country. In Hillyer’s case his home location of Raymond will no longer be within the Lethbridge riding but rather in the new Medicine Hat riding, the media release stated.
The Lethbridge riding currently includes the City of Lethbridge, counties of Lethbridge, Cardston and Warner (and all of the towns within those counties) and Waterton Park. The Medicine Hat riding currently includes the City of Medicine Hat, Brooks and the counties of Newell, Forty Mile and Cypress.
Under the new configuration, the Lethbridge riding will include only the City of Lethbridge and Lethbridge County boundaries, including towns within those boundaries. All of the south portion will be a part of the Medicine Hat riding. Waterton Park will be a part of the reconfigured Macleod riding. The Medicine Hat riding will lose Brooks and the County of Newell and gain the counties of Cardston and Warner and the Blood Reserve.
“Obviously, the election boundaries changing is going to change the lay of the land a little bit. We’re going to have more MPs but ultimately I don’t think where we draw that line is going to change things radically because the federal decisions do apply to the entire country. But, at the same time, I feel strongly even though I can only represent one side of that new line, that I’ll still have strong relationships with people on both sides of the line. Both on a personal and on an official basis. In fact, every month the mayors and reeves of southern Alberta meet together and they meet across federal ridings. They don’t worry about what federal riding they’re in. I’ll still be attending those meetings when I can,” said Hillyer.
“I think it’s going to be building relationships more than cutting them.”