Global News has learned Doug Ford’s cabinet has recommended permanently removing long-time Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario MPP Randy Hiller from caucus.
Multiple sources who attended this week’s PC Party caucus meeting told Global News the matter was discussed behind closed doors on Tuesday. Sources said Hillier, who was first elected in 2007 as the MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, could be permanently removed as early as next week.
Hiller was suspended in late February after controversial comments he made in the legislature. He was originally accused of directing the words “yada yada yada” at parents of children with autism who were in the public gallery to watch debate over changes to the Ontario Autism Program.
Later that day Hillier issued an apology for the remarks stating that they were directed at a member of the opposition and not parents.
A source not authorized to speak publicly said Hillier allegedly clashed with Ford’s chief of staff, Dean French.
“Dean was done with it. He had enough and they are using the ‘yada, yada, yada’ excuse to dump him. No one can question Dean,” the source said.
The source went on to say many MPPs feel trapped in an increasingly controlled and micromanaged administration.
“It’s a warning shot, that’s exactly what it is. We are told by the premier’s office what to do and say and when to say it. It’s literally like big brother,” the source said.
VIDEO: Hillier says he was heckling NDP, not parents of children with autism (Feb. 20)
Another source with the party said the move is concerning.
“Randy Hillier has a long record of standing up and voicing dissenting opinions behind closed doors in caucus and in public discourse,” the source said, adding a new precedent is being set.
“I think the move to remove Randy should send a chill through the ranks of caucus to those MPPs who may think about stepping out of line.”
Simon Jefferies, a spokesperson for Premier Doug Ford, told Global News in a statement that Hiller remains suspended from caucus. He said statements saying otherwise are “categorically false.”
“No further decisions have been made regarding his status within caucus. A decision will be made at an upcoming caucus meeting,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, Hillier said he doesn’t know if his suspension was discussed among the PC caucus or if it’s going to be discussed in the future. He told Global News in a statement Ford has delegated an unnamed person to speak with him about the matter and that the discussions are continuing.
“I expect to make a statement in the coming days, at the conclusion of my discussions with Premier Ford’s delegate,” Hillier wrote.
On Wednesday, an ominous sign that the move to ditch Hillier was imminent. Media were distributed new PC caucus team photo sheets without the Hillier’s picture.
When questioned about the pending departure Government House Leader Todd Smith denied the issue was brought up in caucus saying there more pressing issues to deal with. Sources say further discussion would happen next Tuesday in caucus but that the decision “had already been made by cabinet.”
In November MPP Jim Wilson stepped down after what originally was described by the Premier’s Office as “addiction issues.”
Days later Global News was first to report that Wilson’s resignation was also due to allegations of sexual misconduct with a Queen’s Park staffer. Wilson returned to the legislature in early February and is now sitting as an independent.
Late the same month MPP Amanda Simard announced she too was leaving the PC party to sit as an independent over a disagreement about Francophone affairs.
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