LETHBRIDGE: Some questions are emerging this week over the quality of the local Conservative candidate's academic background.
The claims stem from a self-described "non-partisan" student group at the University of Lethbridge - and Jim Hillyer's own party.
"There were a number of members in the Conservative party who were fairly upset about what they saw as misleading information in Jim Hillyer's campaign to gain the Conservative candidacy for the Lethbridge riding," says Alex Masse, spokesperson for the "Lethbridge Students for Academic Integrity." "So a couple of Conservatives brought this information up privately with some of the members of our group and asked if we would be interested in looking into it further."
What Masse's group found is that while Hillyer's assertion that he earned a Master of Arts degree in Political Economy is true in the literal sense, that degree isn't recognized by basic academic standards of accreditation.
Country 95 News phoned the unaccredited school in question, a George Wythe University in Cedar City, Utah, and confirmed that Hillyer did indeed finish his MA at that particular school, mainly through long distance correspondence. Gary Arnell, the vice president of administration, says the school has yet to receive accreditation for any program it offers. With an enrollment of 140 students, the faith-based institution employs three full-time faculty, not all of whom have accredited degrees. Arnell says Hillyer enrolled in the school's PhD program in 2006, but has yet to complete his studies.
Masse says this new information brings Hillyer's background and qualifications into a new light.
"There will be a lot of people who feel that after working so hard to earn a legitimate degree from a real institution that it's almost insulting to have a candidate claim these credentials without having done the work at a real university," says Masse.
Hillyer's camp spoke to Country 95 News Wednesday and defended their candidate's integrity.
"He was always upfront about all the universities that he went to and where he got his degrees from," said Ethan Gorner, Hillyer's campaign manager. "Certainly, that was all part of the vetting process of the candidate."
Photo by Marion Warnica, Country 95 News: Ethan Gorner, Conservative campaign manager for the Lethbridge riding, fields questions for Jim Hillyer outside his campaign office Wednesday.