Ottawa Sun: Ousted MPP Randy Hillier isn't about to make apologies

Published in the Ottawa Sun on October 12th, 2013

By Doug Hempstead

Randy Hillier isn't going away, isn't going to shut up and he isn't going to apologize.

Not even to Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak.

Speaking at length for the first time following his September demotion, the Lanark-Frontenac, Lennox and Addington MPP was fired in mid-September as PC labour critic.

Hillier had sent an e-mail to caucus criticizing his own party for seemingly using a private members bill to try to secure donations from construction company EllisDon.

"In caucus, it was stated quite explicitly that following a successful EllisDon fundraiser for Tim (Hudak), our party would continue to benefit financially with the advancement of this legislation."

He claimed he didn't leak the e-mail to the media, but didn't deny the nature of its contents.

"I call it the way I see it," he said. "I say what I know to be honest and accountable. That's my whole life. I'm going to continue to do that. Sometimes that causes a bit of turbulence."

He's taken his lumps from Hudak, agreed to disagree and still refuses to apologize.

Hillier said he has no intention to challenge Hudak for leadership of the party, but also has no plans to run as an independent or cross the floor.

"I've not had an interest (in being party leader) since 2009 and I have no interest now. For me it's about being the best MPP I can be. I can do that by not being the leader. I've seen the life as a leader and I'm not prepared for that."

Asked about the nature of his relationship with Hudak, Hillier paused and then laughed, perhaps struggling to censor himself.

"I've had a disagreement," he said. "You're not always going to find common ground. He's the leader of the party. I respect that. Sometimes people make decisions you don't agree with."

Even if he and Hudak don't always see eye-to-eye, Hillier said the troubled relationship doesn't affect his constituents. His ability to be an effective conduit for their needs is not weakened or cheapened by his status as an unspoken maverick, prone to snipping at his leader.

This despite the fact Hillier was sent to the back-bench for not treating politics as "a team sport." That's how Hudak described it, adding Hillier was showing a "pattern of behaviour" which was troubling to both himself and his caucus colleagues.

Hillier will stay in caucus, but no longer be the party's critic on labour issues.

The support of his constituents is more important to Hillier than the support of his caucus mates. He thinks he's in good standing where it counts.

"I've not taken a poll on it, but I've had a steady stream of support and a steady stream of correspondence. People expect certain things from me. They expect me to stand up and call it the way I see it, and be damned with the turbulence. For me, respect is more important than likability. In politics, people confuse the desire to be liked with the desire to be respected."

For the former leader of the Lanark Landowners -- a group of rural residents whose motto was "Back off government!" -- he said he's still fighting that fight from the inside. The difference is, he used to target legislators and now he targets administrators.

"Implementation: That's where the rubber meets the ground," he added.

Where most Ontarians find politics dull, Hillier said they should be able to describe it as "informative."

"Let me ask you this -- do you watch Queen's Park on TV? Do you find you gain something from watching it?"

He said the provincial government has its priorities backwards -- the legislative process is too hasty and implementation of the legislation takes too long.

"You can wait 10 months for a new health card, but to change legislation sometimes only takes a day," he said.

"Administration of government should be efficient, but legislating public policy should be methodical. It should be slow, if you're going to get it right."