We have watched the political career of MPP Randy Hillier from his days of farm protest with the Lanark Landowners Association to his present assignment as provincial Progressive Conservative critic for Rural Affairs. He is colourful and surprisingly articulate, considering his radical start on the job of defending rural Ontario landowers.
There is, then, a bit of irony in his new role, that he was compelled to comment on the phrase “rural yahoo.” An article and his letter to the Toronto Star appear on page 22 of this publication. Basically, a learned scholar, Professor Nelson Wiseman, speculated about the Ontario PC party’s future and indicated with some certainty, that the party suffers from being attractive to “rural yahoos.”
Hillier’s argument in defence of the many rural politicians that have reached the federal and provincial scene is that they hardly qualify as “yahoos.” He also argues that when blanket accusations are made, debate is reduced to name-calling which is not helpful to anyone.
There is no question that all of us have a comfort zone. For the professor, it is academia, and for Hillier it is the countryside. If debate is to blossom into something meaningful, it seems to us that we might all be better for learning about other ways of life.
The historic role of rural Ontario continues to be diminished as agriculture slides into further irrelevance. Economically and politically there are few votes in agriculture. In terms of the countryside there are very few dwellers that are hands-on farming anymore. That, perhaps, is where the professor is misguided in his remarks.
In truth, rural areas have their fair share of educated, well-read citizens who do not deserve to be labeled as yahoos, simply because they don’t live in a large city.