Jay Hill retired from politics in 2010 after serving 17 years in Ottawa as a member of Parliament. However, concern for his grandchildren’s future brought Hill out of retirement to lead the new Maverick Party.
Hill got his start in politics in B.C. with an upstart grassroots movement called the Reform Party in 1988. Scandals, large government spending and fear for the future of his children drove him into politics.
“I started worrying that my children wouldn’t have much of a future, unless we did something to reign in the ever-expanding debt.”
Winning his first seat in 1993, Hill began a career in politics that would witness a referendum on Quebec independence. He also became friends with another rookie MP, Stephen Harper.
“For the early part of my parliament, he and I had offices in what we used to call the attic of Confederation building just off of Parliament Hill, right side by side.”
In his nearly two decades in Ottawa, Hill saw a government that he was proud of. Under Harper, he served in a number of roles, including government house leader and party whip. Hill credits his team for his success.
“In most cases, with very little supervision they did it [their job]. They did it very well and didn’t get me into trouble.”
Retirement is usually when people slow down, enjoy time with their families and travel. Hill, however, has been observing Canada and began to have similar feelings to those he had as a younger man.
“The same motivation as I had in my 30s now in my late 60s, is driving me to do something for my three young grandchildren,” he says.
“I’m increasingly concerned about their future.”
As Hill faced these concerns and contemplated his next move, he spoke to his longtime friend and former radio personality, Dave Rutherford. Rutherford has seen the struggle of a patriot considering separation and believes that change can happen.
“Jay loves Canada and he just wants it to work,” says Rutherford.
“In fact, there are ways to reshape Confederation to make it more equal and more fair to the west,” explains Rutherford.
Hill has come out of retirement now to be the interim leader of the small Maverick Party in a bid to change things for Western Canada. The party, which used to be the Wexit Party, found its name in the concept of people making a difference.
“There have been mavericks worldwide in all professions, all walks of life, all income brackets, people that have looked at the situation and said you know: ‘I can make a difference,’” explains Hill.
The Maverick Party will run candidates in the west only and run a simple campaign that seeks constitutional reform first.
“God help us that we would actually suggest that a constitution designed for four or five provinces back in the 1800s is unsuitable for 10 in the 2000s.” says Hill. “Let’s modernize it for the 21st century.”
The Maverick Party will also campaign on a “twin track” approach that will seek constitutional reform to better represent the West or seek a referendum on Western independence – whichever comes first.
Hill knows that separation is a tough subject for many but one that needs to be evaluated all the same.
“Virtually all my life up until about a year ago I’ve been a very committed, passionate, patriotic Canadian. But I am sick and tired of the west being abused in this relationship with the remainder of Canada.”
When Hill was elected leader of the Maverick Party there was a perception of credibility that now accompanied this new party.
According to Duane Bratt a professor of political science at Mount Royal University, this newfound credibility was a really big deal.
“He [Hill] was a cabinet minister under Harper. That gives a lot more status to the movement than the guys that they had running [Wexit] before.”
Hill started his political career among the Reform Party’s platform of western alienation, and Bratt says this new party is a rebranding of these ideals.
“So the Western Canada concept emerges under Pierre Trudeau”, says Bratt.
“The Maverick Party, the Wexit movement, all of that emerges in the aftermath of Justin Trudeau winning. So, we get this when the Liberals are in office.”
This frustration with Liberal government rule in the west, while predictable, is a reality that does not seem to leave the West.
The new party has a tough road ahead of them to win seats and influence the national debate. Hill has faced a lot of backlash by former colleagues for coming out of retirement to lead the Maverick Party.
“I would say to them, please take a long hard look at what opportunities you feel are going to be available for you if this nation, your home, keeps going the way it is because that’s what’s motivating me,” says Hill.
“And it’s what should be motivating you to make a change because things are not going well.”