Independent MPP Randy Hillier is hardly worth the time and effort to write or talk about. His newly announced mission to become premier next year is laughable but too many times throughout history, society has written off fools and later lamented the harm and suffering they caused.
Not that long ago, we laughed at Donald J. Trump and his electoral chances. No one is laughing now over Trump’s legacy of a U.S. devalued in the eyes of the world, its society polarized, the Congress paralyzed, and respect for its democratic institutions in tatters.
We shouldn’t be laughing at maverick politician Randy Hillier either as he goes across the country spreading lies about the pandemic and opposing vaccines that are our best hope of bringing it under control.
The only hopeful thing about Hillier’s political career is that the good folks of Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston have the power to replace him when the provincial election takes place seven months from now. Unlike the U.S., up here we still respect the outcome of our elections.
Hillier started out as an ordinary MPP, served on various committees and as critic in several portfolios. Somewhere along the line, however, the job went to his head and he boarded the right-wing populist bandwagon and rode to celebrity status in the eyes of some.
There is no way, of course, that Hillier can become premier but rules and laws, traditions, and common sense have never stood between his self-image and reality. Ever the contrarian with an ego that would choke a horse, he has won four elections and been a member of the Ontario Legislature since 2007 (elected as a Progressive Conservative but turfed out of that caucus and forced to sit as an Independent since March of 2019.)
Under our parliamentary system, Ontario’s premier is the leader of the party that controls the most seats in the legislature. It’s a lengthy and arduous process all 26 premiers to date have had to follow.
Not Randy. To hell with the system. He’s apparently declaring himself head of the Ontario People’s Party and is ready to take over the corner office at Queen’s Park.
He is not a stupid man but he has stupid and dangerous ideas. He began his political career carrying out minor acts of disobedience to promote landowners’ rights and has morphed into a full-fledged combatant for right-wing causes. He feeds hungry crowds with misinformation and angry rhetoric and they stoke his ambition and delusions of grandeur.
Like a rustic Donald Trump with trademark jeans and giant suspenders instead of orange hair and expensive suits, his website boasts venerating public comments like “national hero” and “doing God’s work”. With Trumpian disregard for the truth, he plays on people’s fears, prejudices and weaknesses, and presents himself as the champion of the little guy, the guardian of freedom and civil rights and the arch enemy of tyranny and authoritarianism.
The pandemic has played right into his hands. Lockdowns, school closures, job losses, bankruptcies, close to 30,000 deaths across the country, crippling of our economy and healthcare system, a rise in suicide, addictions and mental health disorders… It is the wet dream for politicians like Randy.
His constant refrain: Efficacy of vaccines is unproven and they can be harmful and cause death and injury. Government lockdowns and mandated, coerced vaccines are illegal and immoral. Both the OPP and RCMP should investigate fatalities and “adverse reaction” to vaccinations.
Randy Hillier is in demand as a speaker at anti-vax rallies across the country with a rallying cry of, “I’m not going to live in a police state.”
Placards among his supporters read “Stop the fake pandemic” and at a Peterborough rally of about 300 people Hillier got into a shouting match with the local police chief while protesters chanted, “get out, get out” at police and dared them to charge the MPP (which they did).
There are always kids and young people in the crowd. Suffice it to say he is a poor role model for how our elected officials should act and how our police officers should be treated in trying to do their job.
Two weeks ago, members of all parties in the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed a motion to censure him over “a string of disreputable conduct” related to his failure to respect public health measures and dissemination of disinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine. The Speaker of the Ontario Legislature has reprimanded him for refusing to observe pandemic regulations.
Premier Doug Ford, who ordered him out of the PC caucus in 2019 for showing disrespect for a group of parents of autistic children, said Hillier’s anti-vax crusade is disgusting and appalling conduct and added, “I think the guy’s lost his mind, in my opinion.”
Ford’s most recent outrage against Hillier occurred when the MPP posted photos and names of people who Hillier said had died due to COVID-19 vaccinations. Families of the deceased angrily denied the allegations and Hillier removed the posts and issued an abject apology.
(If our highly paid public servant is determined to post photos of dead people he would serve a better purpose by choosing some of the 10,000 Ontarians who have died from COVID-19—many of whom, once vaccines became available, either failed or refused to get vaccinated. Some could be Randy Hillier disciples.)
Earlier this month, Toronto police confirmed that a report had been filed regarding a message Hillier posted to Twitter in which he encouraged people to “bring a pot of boiling tar and a case of feathers” to tar and feather fellow MPPs, including the premier, who were returning to the legislature.
Support for him among fellow politicians is as scarce as hens’ teeth. Randy Hillier has been renounced by many of the municipal councils in eastern Ontario—from Kingston to his home base of Perth—for failing to heed pandemic laws and preaching the anti-vax gospel.
One of the ironies of his war against vaccines is that the area of the province he represents at Queen’s Park claims one of the highest rates of immunization in Ontario.
When they vote next June, what’s stopping the voters of Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston from showing Hillier the door and choosing a new MPP they can respect and who will respect them?
The answer to that is: nothing!
Don’t be surprised if he demands a recount and says the election was stolen.
Sally Barnes has enjoyed a distinguished career as a writer, journalist and author. Her work has been recognized in a number of ways, including receiving a Southam Fellowship in Journalism at Massey College at the University of Toronto. A self-confessed political junkie, she has worked in the back-rooms for several Ontario premiers. In addition to a number of other community contributions, Sally Barnes served a term as president of the Ontario Council on the Status of Women. She is a former business colleague of Doppler’s publisher, Hugh Mackenzie, and lives in Kingston, Ontario. You can find her online at sallybarnesauthor.com.
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