Jeff Green | Mar 20, 2019
In a strongly-worded letter to his “constituents and the people of Ontario”, Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP, Randy Hillier, made a series of accusations against the 9 month-old Doug Ford government on Monday.
The letter came about in response to the announcement on Friday that Hillier has been permanently ousted from the Conservative Party Caucus at Queen’s Park.
In his trademark style, Hillier came out swinging, and the main focus of his attention were two members of Premier Doug Ford’s inner circle. One is Ford’s Chief of Staff, Dean French, and the other is Chris Froggatt, who chaired Ford’s transition committee. In September, Froggatt became a founding partner in a firm called Loyalist Public Affairs, which describes itself as a “boutique government relations and strategic communications firm based in Ottawa and Toronto.”
In his letter, Hillier talks about how the Ford government seems to have quickly lost its way.
“The PC Caucus was blessed with the election of many new and fresh faces in the June General Election. However, it has become clear that the backroom operatives took advantage of many of the newly elected members who, not being as well informed of parliamentary practices, rights, privileges, or conventions, were taken advantage of by Dean French and Chris Froggatt.
“Like many people, I had high hopes and expectations with the election of a PC government after 15 years of Liberal mismanagement, scandals, and harmful policies. I could not stand by and tolerate operatives engaging in similar and more egregious acts.”
He said that the very first time he met Dean French, at the Ford family BBQ last August, French indicated that he wanted Hillier out of the party caucus.
Hillier then cited ten reasons why he was expelled. Some of them refer to issues that he raised last week, before his expulsion became permanent, insisting on the right to debate public policy within caucus, not cheerleading enough in the house or on social media. But he also made an allegation that piqued the interest of the Toronto media establishment and prompted a quick response from the Premier’s office.
“For raising concerns of possible illegal and unregistered lobbying by close friends and advisors employed by Premier Ford”
In response, Simon Jefferies, Communications Director for the Ford government, released a written response refuting all ten of Hillier’s allegations point by point, calling them “absurd and categorically false.” He called the allegation of “possible illegal and unregistered lobbying “an outright lie”.
The matter was raised in the legislature on Monday, and Minister of Municipal Affairs, Steve Clark, who represents the Leeds Grenville riding which neighbours Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, said that the illegal lobbying allegations were false.
Opposition parties asked for the matter to be looked into further, and the NDP urged Hillier to bring the matter to the attention of the Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner for vetting.
For his part, Hillier reiterated his commitment to serving the interests of his constituents at Queen’s Park as an independent MPP:
“I want to assure all of my constituents, regardless of political affiliation, that my removal from the PC Party Caucus will neither prevent nor impede my ability to represent each one of you to the best of my ability. I have never put the party line ahead of my constituents, and my removal from caucus will permit me greater freedom to speak publicly on government policy.
“Having conviction is more important than playing politics, that representation of my constituents is more important than being buddies with backroom operatives whose only mission is unrestrained power and control that always leads to corruption. I am now your conservative, independent Member for Lanark, Frontenac, Kingston, and I continue to be proud to represent you.”
As of this riding, it is unclear whether Hillier is still a member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.
Given the tenor of these latest statements, on both sides, it would be a real surprise for him to seek the party nomination, should he decide to run again in 2022, and even more unlikely that the party would let him seek the nomination.