A Lethbridge man who posted a video on YouTube showing a campaigning Conservative too busy to answer questions, says he is frustrated he can't speak to the candidate who will most likely represent his riding in Ottawa.
Rod Leland's video of Jim Hillyer, posted on YouTube, has received more than 2,300 hits.
"As a constituent I think it is fair to have access to your candidates and I think it is somewhat undemocratic to avoid them," said Leland, a photographer and blogger. "I just wanted an answer to a question that is important to me as a voter."
Hillyer is a rookie Tory trying to fill the shoes of popular former MP Rick Casson, who held the riding for five consecutive terms, first going to Ottawa as a Reformer in 1997.
Described as a consultant, educator and family man on his website, Hillyer wasn't very well known in the riding when the campaign started and decided to stop going to all candidates forums after attending one at the local university.
His campaign team issued a statement earlier this month explaining that Hillyer's time would be better spent "out in the various communities, knocking on doors and speaking with people on a more personal level" than "partisan bickering."
The Lethbridge Herald has dubbed him "The Man Who Wasn't There."
'Not doing interviews today'
Leland had tried to reach Hillyer through his campaign office to ask two questions for his blog about the candidates' stance on net neutrality and usage based internet billing.
On Wednesday Leland wrote on the social networking site Twitter that he was going "#hillyerhunting" and with the help of his followers, tracked Hillyer down door knocking in a Lethbridge neighbourhood.
On the street, Leland approached Hillyer, who said he it wasn't a good time to answer questions.
"We are not doing interviews today," Hillyer says in the video.
He tells Leland to contact his campaign office and put his name on the list, adding that he will "be talking to each person personally."
"We are in the middle of the campaign. All campaigns, they gather their support and encourage them to go vote. That's what the main purpose of a campaign is," Hillyer said.
Leland recorded the exchange with his cellphone so he would have a transcript of the answers to post on his blog. He said he isn't sure Hillyer was aware that he was recording, but would have stopped if asked.
Ethan Gorner, Hillyer's campaign manager, said Friday that Hillyer is out door knocking and visiting businesses and doesn't have time for "campaign stunts."
"It's a typical media stunt. [Leland] is part of a group of NDP-supporting students that … have been trying to embarrass Jim and bring attention to their issues," said Gorner.
"[Leland] can say he is not one of them, but he sure runs in those crowds."
The 24-year-old photographer claims he is non-partisan and has never volunteered or contributed to a political campaign.
Earlier on the same day the video was taken, dozens of people upset about Hillyer missing debates gathered outside his campaign office and asked him questions through a loudspeaker. Leland said he wasn't at the event.
Broad support for Tory party
Despite Hillyer's campaign hiccups, the Conservative party still has broad support in the riding, said Peter McCormick, a Lethbridge political science professor. Casson took 67 per cent of the vote in 2008.
"[Hillyer] hasn't run a very good campaign, a lot of people are unhappy with him, but this is after all rural Southern Alberta, this is Lethbridge," he said. "I think the Conservatives will carry the riding by what would count in the rest of country as a comfortable margin, but in Alberta would be described as pretty close."
Leland's video won't likely be seen by many riding residents, said the political science professor.
"I don't think most voters here go on YouTube very often," he said.
Despite local media attention about the video, Hillyer and his campaign office haven't contacted Leland about it.