BLIZZARD: MPP Hillier's history of haranguing his party's leaders
Christina Blizzard
March 30, 2019
March 30, 2019 6:25 PM EDT
MPP Randy Hillier in his offfice at Queen's Park in Toronto, Ont. on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. (Dave Abel/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network)
Sour grapes, ego, opportunism — those are just some of the reasons why politicians turn on the party that brought them to power.
There are politicians who quit their party over principle. Winston Churchill crossed the floor — twice.
There are those who quit because they’re opportunists. Someone on the other side dangles a juicy cabinet post.
Then there are those who quit because they chafe under the intense discipline partisan politics demands.
And there are those who quit for a combination of all those reasons. That, I suspect, is where Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP Randy Hillier fits — rebel without a cause; party of one.
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After Hillier and the PC party parted ways recently, the MPP said Premier Doug Ford’s office has created a “culture of fear” in the Tory caucus and cited vague examples of inappropriate lobbying by Ford’s friends. He’s asked the integrity commissioner to probe those claims and is now sitting as an Independent.
This is par for his course. Hillier has a track record of making wild accusations against every party leader he’s served under. He accused Patrick Brown of engaging in unproven, “dirty and crooked” politics.
In the fall of 2013, with an election looming, a group of Tory malcontents — with Hillier as an active participant — took a hatchet to then leader Tim Hudak. I don’t know if it’s a suicidal death wish that propels fringe Tory elements to pull such stunts, or if it’s some massive ego that drives them. This particular guerrilla attack was all the more unseemly because Hillier was one of the candidates Hudak had defeated for the leadership. Did he want to make it best two out of three?
This is nothing new for Tories. There’s a broad spectrum of beliefs within the party — from Red Tory to social conservative. And Conservatives aren’t shy about making their views heard. The challenge for any leader is to bring all the warring factions together in a cohesive fashion, especially when you’re in government.
It isn’t easy.
There are always disgruntled types, especially those left out of cabinet.
When Mike Harris was leader, he had several maverick backbenchers — most notably Bill Murdoch, Toni Skarica and the late Chris Stockwell.
Stockwell was outspoken about the creation of the so-called Megacity. One of the most passionate speeches I’ve heard in the Legislature was when Stockwell pleaded for his own government to reconsider changes to education funding for the city of Toronto. Skarica, a former Crown attorney, provided thoughtful criticism of the Harris Tories, which was courageous but ultimately doomed his political career. Murdoch was more of an ornery rabble-rouser who delighted in being a grumpy contrarian.
They created mayhem for Harris within the Tory caucus. Stockwell became one of the finest Speakers I’ve seen. Skarica became a judge.
Other parties have their renegades — just not as many.
The NDP’s late, great Peter Kormos fought with leader Bob Rae. Kormos passionately supported public auto insurance. When the NDP formed government in 1990, Rae backed away from the policy, despite campaigning on it. Kormos was furious. Ironically, he was dumped from cabinet not over his opposition to Rae’s insurance flip-flop, but because he posed — fully clothed — as a Sunshine Boy.
You get the sense from Hillier that the only person he’d be happy with as Tory leader is Randy Hillier. He came to politics as part of the Lanark Landowners Association — a radical rural party that has its roots in battling red tape that frustrates farmers and landowners. He was part of an attempted hostile takeover of the PC Party, supporting members of the Landowners Association when they challenged — and in one case won — nominations against sitting Progressive Conservatives. They were usurpers.
Veteran MPP Norm Sterling, a former cabinet minister, was unseated by Jack MacLaren in the eastern Ontario riding of Carleton Mississippi Mills — aided and abetted by Hillier.
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You have to wonder why Hillier would continue to run for the PCs, a party for which he’s demonstrated so much contempt.
Ironically, he’s one of the few MPPs who could likely hold his seat as an Independent in the next election.
In the meantime, he can enjoy his moment of fame — as lead singer in his own one-man band.