TORONTO — A provincial politician has been kicked out of the Progressive Conservative caucus days after he alleged he was being penalized for butting heads with people in the premier's inner circle.
A letter written by the Tory caucus chair and provided to media on Friday said Randy Hillier had been permanently expelled following a review of his behaviour both before and after his suspension from caucus last month.
In the letter, Daryl Kramp said Premier Doug Ford was disappointed that Hillier "continued to escalate the situation in public" and appeared unwilling to be a team player.
When asked whether the decision was a response to Hillier's statements earlier this week that he had been suspended over long-standing tensions with the premier's top advisers, Ford's office pointed to a letter written by the party's president, Brian Patterson.
Patterson's letter, sent last weekend to the constituency association in Hillier's riding, said the politician was being disciplined over a pattern of behaviour.
It cited a number of actions that "demonstrate an apparent lack of commitment to (Hillier's) caucus colleagues," including that he often expresses his dissatisfaction with the government in the media and that he "rarely highlights the government's policies and agenda through social media."
Hillier was also criticized in the document for his low attendance record at caucus meetings and for allowing an independent member of the legislature to ask a question in the House in his absence.
The legislator responded to his expulsion Friday on Twitter.
"I'll never apologize for putting my constituents first. I was informed of the decision while I was meeting with the people that sent me to Queen's Park in the first place," Hillier said, adding he would speak more on the issue soon.
The premier has said the veteran politician was suspended for comments he made as parents of children with autism packed the legislature's galleries last month in protest of the government's recent funding changes.
Some of the parents said that Hillier said "yada yada yada" to them near the end of question period, but Hillier maintains the remarks were directed at the Opposition New Democrats.
Hillier calls qualms 'questionable and childish'
Hillier, who represents the eastern Ontario riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, claimed to reveal the real reason for his suspension in a letter to party members this week.
He said in his letter that he challenged the rationale for his suspension and was presented with a list of what he called "questionable and childish" issues, including complaints that he didn't clap enough in the House and wasn't sufficiently sharing government posts on social media.
"It has become abundantly clear that the motivations involved were far more complicated, resulting in discussions and negotiations regarding my return to caucus becoming stalled," he said in the letter, which was posted online. "The sticking point is both the substantive matters of conscience and local representation, and the trivial clapping, retweeting and cheerleading."
The premier said earlier this week that he would talk to Hillier about the matter but declined to elaborate further.
Party members in Hillier's riding had launched a petition calling for him to be reinstated in caucus.
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