In the last day. Randy Hillier, MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, was expelled from the governing PC Caucus, in a situation that ostensibly began over an allegation that he heckled people in the viewers’ gallery during debate on the changes to Ontario’s autism support plan. Mr. Hillier did not deny the words, but insisted that they were directed across the floor to NDP MPP Monique Taylor. Ms. Taylor disputed that, and it is in this difference of opinion that the current situation was predicated on.
We now know that the issue was much more involved, and that some factions within the Party hierarchy have used the situation as a pretext for a permanent removal from the party’s ranks.
I have my own history with Mr. Hillier, and so must rely on it in order to make sense of the events.
In 2007, Randy Hillier became the Progressive Conservative nominee for the riding after a lengthy nomination battle against two other opponents.
One of those opponents happened to be me.
I can tell you that in my experience in partisan politics, it is quite common – even predictable – that the successful candidate is tempted to be vengeful, to settle scores. Lose a nomination and you are suddenly persona non grata. Friends in other parties have told me that those tendencies are common to their experience as well.
I can also tell you that Randy did not seem to either get that memo, or read it. During our contest, we had many conversations, and agreed that what we both sought to represent was bigger than either one of us. We kept the lines of communication open and agreed to respect the result no matter what. Within a short time, I became – for a brief period – his riding president, and during the leadership contest in which he was a candidate, served as the riding’s returning officer.
Over the years, when we have been in the same room, he and his whole family have shown us kindness. At the death of my father-in-law, and my father, he was one of the first to reach out and ask if anything was needed.
If there was any circumstance where a politician could have chosen to be petty and vindictive, surely it would have been toward someone who stood to deny them election to a party nomination, and yet that did not happen.
Sadly, though, this distracts from the real issue – that of autism support for Ontario families.
I understand the legitimate concerns of those who have stated that the changes amount to a reduction in their current level of support. My hope is that the government can find a way of addressing that issue. I also appreciate that more than 22,000 received no support whatsoever to this point – a fact that seems to have been ignored by the opposition in all of this. As much as some people are upset by the change, I am equally upset that so many more families received nothing for so long to help shoulder the burden of care. If the government is to be judged as hardhearted for how the support is now being handled, surely those angry voices are culpable for having no issue with 22,000 deserving Ontario children receiving nothing up to this point. On this issue, more work is needed.
I was not in the Legislature. I did not hear the exchange, nor do I know Ms. Taylor. But I know Randy. I also know the mindset of some who, in their roles as advisors to government, are quickly seized by hubris and begin to forget what their true mission is. The greater damage to our democracy must surely be those who exert so much power and control over our democratic system while never having secured a single vote in a general election. The current problems in Ottawa involve – in part – the behaviour of a Prime Ministerial advisor and a nominally ‘neutral’ head of the nation’s public service who forgot the central tenets of their positions. In short, they let it go to their heads.
I would suggest that Mr. Ford’s government still has an opportunity to correct this problem, and to do the right thing.
On a personal note, in 2007, I contested that nomination for reasons that I still hold strongly today. While I was disappointed to lose to Randy, it was a fair contest where he behaved with the utmost of integrity. Over the years, he has become a colleague and a friend. And so, notwithstanding the past, my intention is to support Mr. Hillier. If the Ontario PC’s seek to nominate a successor, it will not be me.
If the current situation is resolved, the party can reasonably expect my support. If not, then a great deal of consideration will have to take place