| Feb 27, 2019

Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP Randy Hillier was not named to Doug Ford’s cabinet, and his bid for the Speaker’s chair was unsuccessful, but he continues to make headlines nonetheless, this time by quoting Jerry Seinfeld.

Premier Doug Ford suspended Hillier from the Conservative Party caucus last Wednesday, (February 20) over a comment Hillier made at the end of Question Period that day. The visitor galleries were full up with parents of autistic children, and the NDP members of the house in particular were taking up their cause. The parents are angry about the direction the government is taking regarding funding for autism services, and fearful that the reforms to the system will be detrimental to their autistic children.

NDP MPP Monique Taylor (Hamilton Mountain) who is the Child and Family Services Critic for the NDP, has held meetings with some of the parents and has been one of the most persistent voices on the issue, in and outside of the legislature.

As the MPP’s were leaving the chamberafter Question Period, Hillier said, “Yada yada yada” a phrase that was made famous in an episode of the 1990’s sitcom ‘Seinfeld’.

The Merriam Webster definition for ‘yada yada’ is as follows: “boring or empty … often used interjectionally especially in recounting words regarded as too dull or predictable to be worth repeating.” Hillier’s third yada presumably upping the level of dull and predictable, by a third.

Some of the parents, who were in the visitors gallery overlooking the chamber, claim that Hillier’s “yada yada yada” comment was directed at them.

Shortly after, Premier Doug Ford suspended Hillier from the Conservative caucus, and issued the following statement: “Effective immediately, Randy Hillier has been suspended indefinitely from the Ontario PC Caucus following his disrespectful comments to parents of children with autism. I want to listen to every parent, and every family member who wants to share their stories and their asks. But Mr. Hillier’s comments crossed the line and that is unacceptable.”

Later that afternoon, Hillier said that his yada yada’s were not directed at the parents of autistic children, but only at Monique Taylor.

In a statement, Hillier acknowledged the “emotional challenges and hardships of the many families of autistic children who were present”. He said that the NDP caucus has been politicising the issue and that he finds “the exploitation of those families by members of the NDP caucus disheartening.”

The statement says the following about his own actions.

“At the end of Question Period as members were leaving their seats, Monique Taylor continued to politicise these hardships so I caught the eye of Ms. Taylor and simply said to her “yada, yada, yada.”

“In my twelve years in office I do not recall a member heckling a spectator in the gallery and all banter is always between members on the floor of the House.

“I apologise to the parents present who may have felt that my comments were directed at them: they were not, and never would be.”

At the time Hillier said that he would have a conversation with his colleagues within the Conservative Party to clear up the matter, but as of Tuesday, (February 26), there has been no change in Hillier’s status within the house, he is effectively an independent MPP, although he is still a member of the Conservative Party.

He has received support from some unusual sources however. In a post to Twitter, CBC correspondent Mike Crawley reported that reporters for the Toronto Star who witnessed the exchange, agreed with Hillier’s account of what happened, that his comments were addressed entirely at Taylor and not the families.

And in an editorial published on Sunday, the Star went further, using Hillier as a weapon in a critique of the Ford governments autism funding changes.

The editorial points to Hillier’s and Ford’s different viewpoints on who the yada yada’s were intended for, and then goes further.

“Either way, it’s far less disrespectful than what Ford himself said in 2014 when he was a Toronto city councillor. Ford said then that an Etobicoke home for teenagers with autism had ‘ruined the community,’ and followed that up by telling a father who complained about him to ‘go to hell’.

“Yada yada yada is also not as troubling as Children, Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod’s decision to threaten the Ontario Association for Behaviour Analysis with ‘four long years’ they didn’t publicly support her government’s autism overhaul.

“But Ford rushed to defend MacLeod as an ‘absolute all-star’ and ejected Hillier — pending a PC caucus meeting on Tuesday to decide his future.”

The editorial then speculates that Hillier is being punished by Ford.

“Could that be because MacLeod is doing his bidding and Hillier, an outspoken backbencher, is not?” the editorial says.

The irony around the fact that the Toronto Star is supporting Hillier, although only because he is on the outs with Doug Ford and the Conservative Party, was fodder for comment on Hillier’s twitter feed.

“Just what Randy needs: support from the Toronto Star,” was one of the comments.

(This article was written on Tuesday, February 26. A call in to Randy Hillier’s office for comment was made on Tuesday morning. Dave Shostal, from the office, called back in the afternoon. He said that Randy is not commenting publicly beyond what he said in the statement he released last week, but that he would put the Frontenac News on the list of those who had called him should he wish to comment at some point in the future. Shostal said that to his knowledge there had been no change in Hillier’s status within the Conservative caucus resulting from the weekly caucus meeting that took place earlier in the day.)





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