We’ve been covering Randy Hillier at the News ever since he was the leader of the Lanark Landowners. It’s fair to say he has always been an energetic, but divisive figure. His history with the Progressive Conservative Party, which we have covered from the outside looking in, has clearly also been a fraught one.
Back in 2007, he essentially forced his way into the party by winning the nomination as a candidate, bringing many of his Lanark and Ontario Landowner Association supporters with him.
Over the years he has given and rescinded his support for a succession of party leaders, and even ran for the job himself back in 2010. Early last year, he played a role in the removal of Patrick Brown as leader, and then he backed Christine Elliott in the contest for a replacement. When Doug Ford was chosen instead, and then went on to win the election, Randy Hillier expressed his strong support.
When I interviewed him just before the election last June, Hillier said “I can phone Doug Ford up any time and he’ll take my call. He wants to know what people think. We haven’t had a leader like that before”.
Doug Ford does not seem to be taking Randy Hillier’s calls anymore.
Again, looking at the situation from the outside, it seems that our MPP, who was elected under the PC banner, has been turfed from the government benches, at least temporarily, in order to send a message to the rest of the caucus. The Toronto press and the CBC claim that Hillier has run afoul with Doug Ford’s chief of staff. By shunting Hillier to the penalty box, everyone else in the Conservative caucus, and their staff and riding association members, will know what the consequences of defiance are.
His record of bucking to the party leadership, going back almost to the beginning of his political career, makes Hillier an easy target within the party.
We all know that politics is about power, and from time to time parties move to ‘keep the troops in line’.
The problem in this case is that the pretext for turfing Randy Hillier was thin, very thin. Even the people who accused him of saying “yada yada yada” to them didn’t seem to care that much. They said afterwards that they are concerned about the funding regime for autistic children, not Randy Hillier. And Doug Ford himself and his Minister of Children and Youth Services Lisa McLeod have made more defamatory comments to protestors in recent weeks.
It is strange that this, of all the things Randy Hillier has said and done over his political career, is the reason that the leadership of the Conservative Party has acted against him.
The Progressive Conservative Party has approved Randy Hillier as their candidate on four separate occasions. Under their banner, he has won each of those times. Now that, the party is in power, they are pushing our riding to the sidelines along with our MPP. We are just collateral damage in their move against Hillier.
This riding, much to the consternation of some of us, always elects the same party. Anyone carrying the Conservative banner will win the riding, just about every time we go to the polls.
By removing our member from their caucus, without justifiable cause, the party is telling all of those died in wool Conservatives in Frontenac and Lanark County that they don’t really count in Toronto.