An MPP says he was kicked out of the Progressive Conservative caucus for speaking up about unregistered — and possibly illegal — lobbying by close friends and associates of Premier Doug Ford.
"Like many people, I had high hopes and expectations with the election of a PC government after 15 years of Liberal mismanagement, scandals, and harmful policies," Randy Hillier said in a letter to his constituents Monday.
"I could not stand by and tolerate operatives engaging in similar and more egregious acts."
The MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston did not provide evidence for his claim. A staff member in Hillier's constituency office told HuffPost Canada that he would not be giving interviews on Monday.
In his letter, the MPP says that two members of the premier's inner circle — Dean French, Ford's chief of staff, and Chris Froggatt, who was vice-chair of the campaign and who now runs a government relations firm — "engaged in an underhanded and relentless" effort to have him removed.
"It has become clear that the backroom operatives took advantage of many of the newly elected members who, not being as well informed of parliamentary practices, rights privileges, or conventions, were taken advantage of by Dean French and Chris Froggatt," Hillier wrote.
Hillier says the pair was angry that he:
- refused to get permission before speaking with media,
- refused to appear in a video defending Ford's use of the "notwithstanding clause,"
- met with constituents instead of attending a party convention,
- refused to give standing ovations to cabinet ministers on a regular basis,
- took time off for his brother's funeral without asking permission,
- spoke up about "possible illegal and unregistered lobbying by close friends and advisors employed by Premier Ford."
Ford's office denied Hillier's claims in a statement Monday.
"Everything Randy Hillier outlined in his letter is an outright lie. These fabrications are absurd and categorically false," Ford's spokesman Simon Jefferies said.
"This further shows Randy Hillier never wanted to be a true member of our PC team."
By law, anyone who gets paid to try and influence government policy must be registered as a lobbyist.
Everything Randy Hillier outlined in his letter is an outright lie.Simon Jefferies
Hillier was a PC MPP for 12 years before Ford suspended him from caucus Feb. 20. At the time, the premier's office said it was because Hillier made disrespectful comments while parents of children with autism were visiting Queen's Park.
Hillier disagreed. He said it was because he had clashed with the premier's closest advisors.
Ford told reporters last Wednesday that he wasn't ready to say if Hillier would be kicked out for good. Two days later, PC caucus chair Daryl Kramp informed Hillier he was out permanently.
An NDP MPP says he will forward Hillier's allegations to the Ontario Provincial Police.
Elected officials don't accuse others of illegal activity lightly, Taras Natyshak told reporters, so the accusations should be investigated.
"A lot of people back home are telling me they expected this to happen when Doug Ford was elected," the MPP for Essex said. "The common mantra is 'If you elect a clown, expect a circus,' and that's what we're seeing obviously with the PC government right now."
More from HuffPost Canada:
Hillier is the third MPP to leave the PC government since it was sworn in last June.
Jim Wilson said he was quitting cabinet and caucus in November to seek treatment for addiction. He had been accused of sexual misconduct by a staffer, Global News reported.
About three weeks later, Amanda Simard ditched the Tories to sit as an independent MPP after she voted against a government bill that would eliminate the office of the French language services commissioner.
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