For a time in the winter, Randy Hillier, the outspoken MPP for Lanark Frontenac Kingston, made headlines across the province when he was suspended and then permanently removed from the ruling Progressive Conservative Party caucus.
He says that he can trace when things began to turn sour between him and the “leadership of the party”, Doug Ford and his closest advisers within the Premier’s office.
It was over a year ago, during the election campaign. Hillier had become convinced that the Liberal Party were losing support, but that their supporters were not sure where to take their vote, partly because of unease over Doug Ford’s political history and lack of experience in provincial politics.
“I told the people who were running the campaign that we needed to convince people to vote for Doug Ford. I told them that I had been part of three losing campaigns and we needed to make sure we did not lose again.”
Not getting the response he was looking for, Hillier took matters into his own hands and posted a home-made video that featured himself, a Dodge Truck and the Ford brand name.
“It got a hundred thousand views and there was nothing in it that contradicted our election message, but the central campaign did not like that I had taken it upon myself the make it and post it.”
Later in the summer, after the party had been elected, he had an interaction with then Chief of Staff to Doug Ford, Dean French, at a party BBQ.
“He told me straight off that he wanted me out of caucus,” Hillier recalls.
Hillier was suspended from caucus this winter for saying “yada, yada, yada” to an NDP MPP after question period, something that he calls “standard fair at Queen’s Park that was twisted into being a pretext to remove me from caucus.”
His riding association has expressed its support for him, even after his suspension had become an expulsion, and over the last few months he has been revelling in his role as an Independent MPP, and has felt free to criticise aspects of government policy on his Twitter feed and elsewhere. He does not feel that the riding has or will lose out because he is not on the government benches.
“When I was in opposition the riding never lacked for support, that hasn’t changed ... I’ve got a good relationship with cabinet and my former colleagues; the relationships are strong.”
He will not rule out running for the Conservative Party in the next election, and remains a member of the party, but says “under the current leadership” he will not seek the nomination.
“I would like to see the leadership in the PC Party be different down the road to the extent that I would want to join. I will not associate myself with people who lack ethics and integrity.”
He added that he is not certain that Premier Ford will still be leading the PC party by the time the next election comes around.
“It is unprecedented for a government to fall so low in only one year after winning a majority. Everyone learns from their experience but will they learn well, or will they just double down. The premier came out and said that he thinks people don’t care about nepotism. I think he is wrong about that.”
Hillier has not had an easy relationship with former leaders of the Conservative Party as well. He was suspended from caucus under Tim Hudak, and was one of the strongest voices against Patrick Brown, raising questions about his ability to function within a party.
He said, however that he recognises that in order to work within a party, MPP’s need to refrain from commenting in some cases.
“Although I accept that your independence is curtailed when you are in a party and a caucus, there are limits. When you are elected you need to represent your constituents’ interests and political parties have to understand that. And if you want the party system to work well, there has to be some level of tension, some ability to challenge the policies that the leadership comes up with. You are not being disloyal just by challenging decisions that are being made.”
He supports some of the initiatives that have been undertaken by the Ford government, particularly the efforts that are underway to achieve healthcare reform.
“I have been to meetings in my riding where people from various parts of the healthcare sector have been working to come up with proposals that will work better for their patients, trying to fix a broken system,” he said.
But others, such as the changes in funding for autism, he said he cannot abide by.
“You’ve got to set your priorities, and one of the priorities I have always believed in is that you should spend money for those who are so disadvantaged that they cannot fend for themselves. But to provide $35 million to Maple Leaf Foods to built a plant and a week later limit eligibility for autism funding for so many families, is difficult to support.”
As an Independent MPP, he said that he is still able to help his constituents navigate the government bureaucracy.
“Often, it is a matter of calling the right people within a ministry and making the right argument. I had a case last week, when an individual who produces mobility devices had a long-standing problem getting paid by the Ministry of Health. We were able to sort that out.”
This summer Randy Hillier is taking a few days off to spend time with his 6 young grandchildren, but will be out in the riding for the rest of the summer meeting with constituents. He will also be monitoring government announcements and taking to Twitter to express his unbridled opinions, just as he did when he was an opposition MPP.
New Leaf Link (aka NeLL) runs programming for developmentally disabled adults out of the gym at the Harrowsmith Free Methodist Church 3 days a week, year-round. NeLL is able to accomplish this without government funding, due to the dedication of the parents, volunteers, instructors that are committed to the project.
One of those instructors is Marty Tucker, from the Sydenham Academy of Martial Arts. Since last fall, Marty has been teaching Karate to NeLL participants. Last Thursday, April 4th, the New Leaf Link students, along with Marty and some of his academy students, demonstrated the skills they have learned to an audience of family members, the media, South Frontenac Councillor Ross Sutherland and MPP Randy Hillier.
Some of the NeLL students were nervous, but they all came through in the end, with Marty’s encouragement. The day culminated in the presentation of Yellow Belts to the students, marking their progress in the martial art.
“The Karate component in our courses, along with the arts, music, and nutrition, adds so much to our group,” said NeLL founder and Executive Director Dr. Karin Steiner.
The students also presented MPP Hillier with three pieces of art that they have created with their art instructor Gabriel Deerman from Salmon River Studios in Tamworth.
“I have three offices,” said Hillier, “in Perth, Smiths Falls, and at Queen’s Park. I will put one of these up in each office.”
For information about New Leaf Link, go to Newleaflink.ca
South Frontenac Mayor Ron Vandewal has written to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Steve Clark, about the township’s frustration over not having a member sitting on the government benches even though the Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston riding voted for the winning party in the most recent election.
“South Frontenac has waited patiently for an opportunity to have a Member of the Provincial Parliament sitting in government and following the provincial election, we had hopes that our years of educating, communicating and lobbying on behalf of South Frontenac’s unique needs would lead to improved opportunities for South Frontenac.
“With the recent decision to remove Mr. Hillier from caucus, the township is now at a loss as to how to regain our footing and best move forward the concerns and needs we have diligently been pursuing. Vandewal wrote to Clark.
Vandewal, noting that Clark represents a neighbouring riding, Leeds Grenville – Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, then asked his advice on how the township may “best advance” its concerns and needs, before requesting a meeting at the Minister’s convenience.
South Frontenac Council has long complained that they have little success when seeking grants for infrastructure projects, due in part to the positive financial position that the township enjoys and, apparently, because it has not had a representative at Queen’s Park pushing its interests.
The most daunting project the township is facing is the reconstruction of Road 38, its busiest arterial road, which has not seen major work in over 20 years. The section of Road 38 that runs through Central Frontenac, was rebuilt in 2006, thanks in part to a $4 million federal-provincial grant that was secured earlier that year.
Co-incidentally or not, the MPP representing Frontenac at that time was Leona Dombrowsky, a cabinet minister in the McGuinty government. At a ceremony marking the $4 million grant, Dombrowsky pointed to the persistence of the township’s lobbying efforts.
“I’ve been hearing about Hwy. 38 and its reconstruction needs since before I was first elected,” said Minister Dombrowsky at the time.
It looks like Randy Hillier will not be donning green suspenders after all.
Green Party leader Mike Shreiner is denying a report in the Huffiington Post that he made the offer last week in a late night meeting at Queen’s Park.
“I will admit that we have developed a bit of a friendship over the last couple of weeks since we have been sitting together at the back of the legislature together. But talk of any political alliance is very much premature,” said Shreiner.
Shreiner leads a one person caucus as the first Green Party member ever to be elected to Queen’s Park, and Kingston-Frontenac-Lanark MPP Randy Hillier is now sitting as an “Independent Conservative” effectively a one-person party of his own.
The two MPP’s share some perspective on government policy, but differ radically on environmental policies, which is a deal breaker when it comes to offering Hillier leadership role in the Green Party.
“I think that environmental concerns are used, often by faceless bureaucrats, to stop hard working landowners from making legitimate use of their land,” said Hillier.
And even though Hillier’s opposition wind energy projects and carbon taxes would seem to put him at odds with the party, it was the black rat snake and the five lined skink that ultimately led to the cessation of talks between Hillier and Shreiner.
“I said that if we could agree to a more reasonable policy regarding endangered species and the role of the Conservation Authorities, I could see coming on board, but Mr. Shreiner could not make that concession, even though he admitted that he is not a fan of snakes and had never even seen a skink,” said Hillier.
The ever shifting fortunes of Ontario Conservative Party are making the news again, and local MPP Randy Hillier has taken on the role of attacker in chief against former party leader Patrick Brown. Hillier was one of the first MPP’s to insist that Brown step down back in January when allegations about his sex life were about to be revealed on a CTV news report.
Then, over the last few days, after Brown submitted his nomination papers to run for his old job, Hillier has been the most vocal sitting Conservative MPP seeking to discredit and even invalidate Brown’s candidacy.
On Sunday, Hillier released a statement condemning Brown, and asserting that he is not fit to run for party leader.
It reads, in part, “Patrick Brown is unfit to be in the Progressive Conservative Caucus, he is unfit to be leader and he is unfit to be premier.”
The statement goes on to assert that Brown “wilfully and dishonestly lied to the people of Ontario” on national TV, that he “must explain and answer” for the sale of fraudulent party memberships. Although the statement does not directly accuse Brown of direct financial impropriety, it does ask about the whereabouts of $200,000 in membership fees.
A subsequent statement by Hillier, which came after a report in the Globe and Mail raised further questions about Brown’s financial dealings with a PC candidate, went even further.
In that statement, Hillier said that Brown “is unfit to sit in the legislature”.
At the end of his first statement, Hillier said that he “is aware and has evidence of further ethical breaches, dishonest behaviours and will be making them public at a later date.”
At the end of his second statement, he said that he “has every confidence that he [Brown] will be answering to these charges in front of a judge.”
Hillier also said he will be filing the evidence that has been collected with the relevant “law and compliance enforcement agencies”
On Tuesday, as the Ontario Legislature re-opened after the long Christmas break, Hillier was front and centre, repeating what he said in his statements for the benefit of the assembled Toronto and provincial media.
Later in the afternoon, he went even further, filing a complaint with the Ontario Integrity Commissioner, charging Brown with final infractions. He cited four: Payments on Patrick Brown’s $2.3 Million House Incongruent with Declared Income; Failure to Disclose Other Income as Required by Law; unreported gifts of lavish international travel, including trips to India, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, and Fiji; and unreported income allegedly related to nomination acclamations.
It is unclear, at this time, whether all or most of these allegations will be supported by verifiable facts, but they have certainly thrust Hillier into the fray as a the voice of opposition to Patrick Brown.
Hillier has thrown his support to leadership candidate Christine Elliott, whom he hosted at an event in Smiths Falls on Sunday.
There is certainly a desire among many in the party establishment to see the leadership contest nomination committee reject Patrick Brown as a candidate, and Hillier’s actions of the last few days are intended to support that position. Since it was in Brown’s name that most of the current membership of the party was signed up, he could actually win back the leadership, causing turmoil.
There are also people within the party who not only support Brown, but also believe that all of the attacks on him have been orchestrated by his enemies withing the party
Goldie Ghamari, the PC candidate in the riding of Carleton, came out in support of Patrick Brown’s candidacy over the weekend, tweeting on February 16 that “Patrick Brown is officially a Candidate [for party leader]. My family and I couldn't be happier ...”
Ghamari appeared with Brown at an event on the next day. Earlier Ghamari retweeted a post that questioned the “behind-the-scenes connivance” within the party “over the last few weeks” that led to the ousting of Patrick Brown.
Ghamari, readers will remember, accused Hillier of harassment and physical intimidation based on an interaction between the two of them that took place at a party convention back in 2016, an event that is being investigated by the party.
The scenarios for how this will play out are difficult to reconcile
If Patrick Brown becomes party leader again, what happens to Randy Hillier? It’s hard to imagine Hillier on the Brown ‘team’ after what Hillier has done this week. Would he run as an independent, with the Conservatives being forced to find a new candidate?
What if Brown is not allowed to run for leader, what do Goldie Ghamari and all the Brown loyalists do?
Randy Hillier has clearly taken a calculated risk. By choosing to be the blunt instrument that will bring Patrick Brown down, he will clearly lose if Brown survives. But even if Brown is defeated and finally departs the scene, Hillier will undoubtedly pay a price, sooner or laterds. Randy Hilllier has been a renegade and a grandstanding figure ever since his Lanark Landowner Days, with the tractor convoys to Ottawa and Toronto, red suspenders and all.
But this is different. This is no longer Rural Randy making a point. He is doing the dirty work for the wing of the right and centre wings of the party, and the one who does the dirty work, sooner or later, often pays the price.
Allegations of sexual harassment against former Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown, and of sexual assault against Brown’s friend, former party President Rick Dykstra exposed a wide rift in the party over the last few days. That rift separates the old guard in the party, including most of its sitting MPP’s, and the younger, more urban membership, many of whom were recruited by and allied with Brown and the team he assembled in a bid to win power over the Liberal Party under Kathleen Wynne.
One of the starkest representations of that rift came from allegations of physical intimidation against Lanark Frontenac Lennox and Addington MPP Randy Hillier that stems from an incident that took place in Ottawa back in March of 2016.
Under new electoral boundaries, Hillier will be running in the new riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston. Goldie Ghamari is the PC candidate in the adjacent riding of Carleton, also a new riding. Late on Sunday night (January 27) just after Party President Rick Dykstra resigned, Ghamari put out the following two tweets:
“Two years ago, a sitting [Progressive Conservative] MPP harassed me, intimidated me, & used his body to bully & scare me out of getting involved in politics. I gave him an opportunity to apologise and recognise that his actions were wrong. He chose to deny it ever happened.” and “My story breaks tomorrow. I urge this person to step forward, acknowledge their actions, and apologise for what they did to me. When I complained about their behaviour, I was told this is ‘not surprising’ given this person's history.”
It did not take long for Randy Hillier to come forward and acknowledge that he was the MPP that Ghamari was referring to. He immediately sent her an email, which she also posted on her twitter feed.
It reads, in part “I was outside for a smoke at the Ottawa Convention Centre in 2016. We briefly exchanged pleasantries and small talk and then parted ways. It was only when you brought your claims forward two years ago that I learned of who you were at the time. I never denied the interaction, but I will confirm there was never any physical contact nor do I recall any unkind words exchanged. I’m truly very sorry if you felt intimidated while we shared a smoke ...”
In the article that Goldie Ghamari was referring to in her tweets, which came out in the Ottawa Citizen on Monday, she describes a different kind of encounter.
She said that it took place in the evening of March 16, 2016. She went outside to get some fresh air and check her messages when he walked up, slung an arm around her shoulders and pulled her in close.
“He was smoking, his cigarette was in his left hand, and it was clear that he was drunk. It was just very obvious from the way he was walking and I could smell the alcohol on his breath, his fingers were digging into my shoulder and his cigarette was still in his hand as well.”
Again, according to her account, as reported in the Ottawa Citizen, Hillier then asked her if she was “Goldie from Nepean who is running against Lisa”.
At the time, due to riding redistribution, Lisa MacLeod had yet to decide if she was going to run in the new Carleton riding or in the Nepean riding, both of which contained parts of her soon to be eliminated riding, and Goldie Ghamari was known to be considering challenging for the nomination in Carleton, the more rural and thus more safe Conservative seat.
In 2016, Ghamari was a member of the riding executive from Nepean, but since there were many Nepean PC’s who wanted to attend this particular convention, she had been invited to represent a weaker PC riding, Kingston and the Islands. Her name tag also used her given name Golsa, even though she goes by Goldie.
Her name tag, “Golsa from Kingston and the Islands” was not what Hillier expected.
“He seemed sort of shocked and he grabbed my name tag, and looked at it and then he was like, ‘Huh,’ and then he just walked away.” she said, adding that “the exchanges was brief, but frightening.”
She told the Citizen that she subsequently approached a senior party office, gave her account of what had happened, and asked for a written apology from Hillier.
The party official then talked to Hillier, who said he had indeed spoken to Ghamari that day, but the encounter happened in the afternoon, not the evening, and he never touched her.
The party officials then contacted the Convention Centre to see if the encounter was caught on any video footage. The results were mixed. There is video of Ghamari and Hillier exiting the building at around the same time, in the evening, and of Ghamari re-entering the building a few minutes later, lending credence to Ghamari’s claim about the time of the encounter. But the video is limited and there is no there is no footage of them together, and there were no eye witnesses available.
There are two incompatible accounts of what had happened, Hillier says it was a non-physical friendly moment in the afternoon, and Ghamari says it was a physical, visceral and intimidating encounter in the evening.
At this point the investigation had run its course as far as the party was concerned.
The official wo dealt with the matter, Nic Pappalardo, told the Citizen in an email this past Sunday (April 28) that “I suggested to her that under the circumstances, the ball was in her court and that she was free to launch a formal complaint under any applicable law or standard in the appropriate forum and that we would fully cooperate. Given her legal background, I had no doubt she understood her options. That was our last exchange on the subject.”
On November 2, 2016, Goldie Ghamari was chosen as the PC candidate for the riding of Carleton, winning a contest with one other candidate.
There was considerable controversy around her selection, as two potential candidates were not ratified by the riding association executive, which, Ghamari’s critics claim, had been stacked with her loyalists.
One of the potential candidates reportedly made a “racial comment” regarding Ghamari.
Last summer, 8 months after Ghamari was nominated, MPP Lisa MacLeod made some headlines questioning the suitability of Ghamari as a candidate in Carleton.
In an email to supporters that was leaked to the press, MPP MacLeod wrote,“For 22 years John Baird and I have kept Carleton deep Tory Blue and now that is at risk. I chose a tougher, urban seat and I do not regret the choice, but I am gutted by what comes next in Carleton as I not only believe the current candidate will not win but worse, if she does win, she will not be a suitable representative for my constituents who I remain loyal to.”
MacLeod acknowleged that she wrote the email, according to the National Post.
MPP’s Lisa MacLeod and Randy Hillier were among the first members of the Conservative caucus to call for Patrick Brown to resign last week, doing so even before the story broke on CTV news.
On Saturday (January 27), MacLeod came forward to say she had approached the party executive about rumours she had heard in the fall of 2017 about Patrick Brown’s history, concerned it might become a problem, but had been ignored.
The next day, (Sunday, January 28) Ghamari tweeted about her 2016 encounter with Hillier, making it public for the first time, and the Citizen article came out the next day.
On Monday evening (January 29) the Ontario Conservative Party announced that they will be hiring an outside investigator to take a fresh look at what happened on March 16/2016 between two of its own candidates for the upcoming election, Goldie Ghamari and Randy Hillier.
As a result, Hillier would not speak to the matter when his office was contacted on Tuesday (January 30), but Dave Shostal in Hillier’s Perth constituency office said “Randy stands by what he told the press on Monday when he spoke to reporters.”
In one of those exchanges, Hillier said that the fact this incident is coming forward at this time is anything but a coincidence.
“The record is clear that Ms. Ghamari was a candidate that was selected by Patrick Brown. There was some level of dispute and consternation with her nomination. We know with what has transpired recently in the party that there were those people who were supportive of Brown and people who were less supportive. And it’s clear Ms. Ghamari and I were on different sides of this divide.” he told the Ottawa Citizen.
For her part, Ghamari told the Citizen that her timing has more to do with the broader historical moment than partly politics. She did not want to put the encounter at the level of “any sort of inappropriate sexual behaviour ... but I think in the sense of how women are generally treated in certain industries and certain professions, it’s something that unfortunately is far too common ... I’m glad that it’s coming out, in all different areas, because I think it’s important for everyone to be treated respectfully. I think it’s important for everyone to be treated as equals. And I think everyone should have a fair chance to do whatever they want to do based on their merits and their capabilities.”
Both Lisa MacLeod and Randy Hillier are former candidates for the PC party leadership.
According to Dave Shostal, the fact that interim leader Vic Fedeli, announced on Tuesday that he will not be seeking the leadership, “does open things up for some potential candidates. I have read the same media reports as everyone else, which say that Lisa is considering running. I can say that Randy is also thinking about it,” he said.
Randy Hillier finished fourth on the first ballot in the 2009 leadership contest that chose Tim Hudak as leader. He threw his support to Hudak before the second ballot.
Lisa MacLeod ran in the contest that chose Patrick Brown. She eventually stepped out of the race, and threw her support to Vic Fedeli.
It’s often been said that on St. Patrick’s Day, everybody’s Irish. It’s much the same on Robbie Burns Day, everybody’s Scottish.
Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington MP Scott Reid has Scottish roots. His MPP counterpart, Randy Hillier does not but that doesn’t stop him from donning the kilt, downing a wee deoch-an-doris, and carving up the haggis.
For a few years now, Reid and Hillier have been celebrating the Scottish holiday in Perth and Verona, and last Sunday was no exception.
As piper Steve Brooke led the procession, Hillier carried the beloved sausage while Reid followed with a book of Robbie Burns’ words.
And this year, Hillier finally wore a kilt, the Maple Leaf Tartan, to the event.
“I don’t want this to go to his (Hillier’s) head,” said Reid. “But last night in Perth, a lady told me ‘I like your knees but I like his better.’”
Reid said he was pleased how everyone, including Hillier, has embraced the Scottish celebration.
“To me, this is what Canada is all about — tolerance, inclusiveness,” Reid said. “It’s a very Canadian thing.”
As Hillier prepared to carve into the haggis, Reid gave a brief history lesson on the Scottish poet, referencing Burns’ Address To The Toothache and Written By Somebody On The Window Of an Inn at Stirling on seeing the Royal Palace in ruin.
“Scott and I enjoy doing this,” Hillier said. “I guess that’s why we do it every year.”
Hillier then acknowledged local council members Ron Vandewal, Pat Barr, John McDougall and Brent Cameron.
As to his Scottish garb, Hillier had this to say.
“I’m not Scottish,” he said. “But I do enjoy haggis and a bit of scotch.
“I noticed yesterday that I had a much bigger sporran (a purse of sorts worn at the front of a kilt) than Scott but today he has a bigger one on.”
Then, after Reid had deftly avoided any mention of politics, Hillier couldn’t resist pointing out that there is an election looming in Ontario.
“This is an important year,” Hillier said. “In June, you’ll have a chance to accept the status quo that hasn’t let Ontario become everything it can be or go down a different path.
“Ontario has had some very Toronto-centric policies lately and we need to show how important rural Ontario is.”
Hillier then told a story about how, last September, he was invited to ceremonies commemorating the 225th anniversary of the very first Ontario Legislature in 1792.
“MPPs from the very first legislature were invited and Frontenac was one of them,” Hillier said. “And the very first act passed by that the first legislature was an act to end slavery in Ontario.
“Those first representatives took action and hopefully we can return to that.”
The gathering ended with the singing of Auld Lang Syne.
The last time we all went to the polls was for the Federal election way back in the fall of 2015, when the 10 year old Steven Harper led Conservative government was tossed out in favour of the Liberals under Justin Trudeau. This year the 14.5 year run of the Ontario Liberals, during which time Dalton McGuinty was elected 3 times and current Premier Kathleen Wynne one time, will be on the line on June 7th. Riding redistribution, which came into effect federally in that 2015 election, will be mirrored at Queen’s Park after this coming election. Lanark Frontenac Lennox and Addington Conservative MPP Randy Hillier will be contesting the new Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston riding against Amanda Pulker-Mok of the Liberals, Anita Payne of the Green Party, a still un-named NDP candidate, and perhaps other independent or small party candidates who may come out of the woodwork in the run up to the election.
Our readers in Addington Highlands will be part of the new provincial riding of Hastings, Lennox and Addington (HL&A). Former Conservative Federal Member of Parliament Daryl Kramp, who lost the Federal election in the HL&A riding to Mike Bossio in 2015, was chosen last August as the Conservative candidate in the new provincial riding, and has been campaigning ever since. The other parties have not selected candidates as of yet.
While the local election will not heat up until the writ period, which starts in early May, on a provincial level the contest has been under way for at least a year, perhaps longer.
The thinking as recently as 3 months ago was that the Liberals were headed to certain defeat to the Conservatives, but the polls have tightened since then. We will be watching the provincial election over the next few months, reporting as the candidates surface for the various parties, and trying to get a sense of how riding redistribution will affect the local race.
In the 2015 Federal election, The Lanark Frontenac Kingston riding went to Scott Reid, the long serving Conservative Party incumbent from the former Lanark Frontenac Lennox and Addington riding. While Reid’s margin of victory decreased from earlier elections, that could have been more a reflection of dipping Conservative Party fortunes nationally than the impact of riding redistribution. In Frontenac-Hastings, the riding swung from the Conservative to the Liberals, leading to a surprise victory for Mike Bossio over Daryl Kramp.
We will look at the candidates as they are announced and will provide coverage of the local election in May and early June, when we will publish profiles of the candidates and will hold all candidates meetings at two locations.
The municipal election will be the subject of our attention at the Frontenac News over the summer and into the early fall. There will certainly be a good number of current council members who will be running again, and a smaller number who will be stepping away from municipal politics at the end of the year. The first thing to watch for after May 1st, when the nomination period opens, is whether any current members of council decide to take a run at the incumbent mayors in Frontenac County. If any do it will open up the council vote and create a more competitive race overall. And if the previous election is any indication, running for council as an incumbent can be anything but a sure thing. In Central Frontenac the last time around, only two of the 7 incumbents who sought re-election kept their place. An incumbent lost in each ward, as did the sitting Mayor, Janet Gutowski. The other townships were not as volatile, but there were hard fought races in many wards, and in the mayoralty races. We will also be closely watching Addington Highlands. If Reeve Henry Hogg does indeed step down, the race for Reeve will be pretty wide open, and it will be interesting to see if any of the current members of council decide to step up to the plate.
We began our early coverage of the election this week by polling incumbent heads of council (reeves and mayors) as to their intentions. We will continue to report on the intentions of current members of council and others who are ready to declare their candidacy as they come forward over the winter and early spring. After May first we will report on nominations as they are submitted in the townships, and our coverage will swing into higher gear after nominations close on July 27th. In the run up to the election we are planning to hold all candidates meetings in each ward where our paper is delivered, as we have done in the past, and we will profile the candidates in September and early October. We will also look at the issues that will be contested in the election, from development pressures in South Frontenac, to the septic inspection issue in Central Frontenac, to the fallout from the rebuild of the township office and the onset of the One Small Town initiative in North Frontenac. The underlying issue of taxation and service levels in all townships is another concern will will address in our coverage.
Randy Hillier has said and done a lot since he stopped working as an electrician for the federal government, donned red suspenders and formed the Lanark Landowners Association (LLA). With the LLA he learned how to get attention, whether by driving tractors through the streets of Toronto or Ottawa, by ridiculing absurd regulations about sizing farm fresh eggs, and flouting deer hunting laws in Lanark County for local farmers.
The LLA liked being politically incorrect, and Randy Hillier knew his audience well, and there were times when he said things that may have acceptable to some audiences but were frankly intolerant, unacceptable to the general public.
Then there was the Dombrowsky email. As President of the LLA, Hillier emailed a photo of a dead deer with a group of hunters. Under the photo the caption read – Leona. He sent the email to MPP Leona Dombrowsky. Dombrowsky sat on the email, then released it months later on the eve of an LLA protest in Toronto. Hillier never apologised for sending the email. He only said that it appeared Ms. Dombrowsky did not share his sense of humour.
This all took place over ten years ago, and Hillier has since left the LLA and their affiliate the Ontario Landowners Association, joined the Ontario Conservative Party, won a nomination battle had has won election as MPP three times. He ran for the leadership of the Party against Tim Hudak among others and lost, and has served as critic for a number of portfolios. He still rails against the system, but does so more and more effectively. Time has changed him as well. When his daughter faced a severe domestic abuse situation which led ultimately to his own house being set on fire, he shared that experience at Queen’s Park advocating for tougher laws against sexual violence. He has been a thorn in the side of Ontario Hydro, pushing his constituents interests against unfair and illogical billing practices. If indeed the Conservative Party takes power in the next election he will be expecting a cabinet posting, and good luck to a party leader who tries to bypasses him. We may yet see see how a politician who has made a career of opposing things can be a positive force for change.
It was surprising then, after all this time, that last Friday night he retweeted a photo of NDP leader Andrea Horwath wearing a hijab and no shoes while sitting with an imam in a mosque in her riding after the mosque had been vandalised. The tweet had been posted along with the following comment: “meet Ontario NDP leader @AndreaHorwath bare foot and dehumanized with head gear, as she submits to the will of a Muslim male”. In his re-tweet Hillier added his own comment: “That’s quite the image looks like she swallowed Cheri’s message hook line and sinker.” The reference to Cheri is likely about NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo who stood up for Muslim rights at an anti-Donald Trump rally in October.
What exactly was Randy Hillier thinking? How does attacking the MPP from Hamiton for doing her job support the interests of the citizens of Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington by? Tapping into anti-muslim sentiment serves no public purpose. Is he saying that Andrea Horwath should have refused to meet the imam because of the Hijab?
To make matters worse he made a second error in judgment, an equally foolish one, claiming that retweeting something is not the same thing as endorsing it.
Things were going from bad to worse.
Then, just as the story was starting to get traction on a provincial level, he tweeted out the following on Saturday evening: “without reservation I regret my tweets of Friday Night, being offensive is not in my nature and I’m sorry. Posts have been deleted.”
There you have it. A textbook apology. He admitted that he had been offensive, expressed regret and said he was sorry. No ifs, ands or buts.
In the current political reality, a good apology is an impressive thing.
Those old red suspenders, after a day in the sun, were back in the closet.