| Nov 30, 2016

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.

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