Jeff Green | Feb 21, 2018
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.