POLITICS
03/26/2019 17:07 EDT | Updated 03/27/2019 09:34 EDT

Doug Ford Controls MPPs With 'Fear And Intimidation,' Randy Hillier Says

The premier’s office is violating democracy by muzzling MPPs, the veteran PC said.

The Canadian Press
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his staff are violating democracy by interfering with elected members, ousted Tory Randy Hillier says.

TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his staff are controlling Progressive Conservative MPPs through a "culture of fear and intimidation," one ousted member told reporters Tuesday.

Randy Hillier, who Ford kicked out of caucus on March 15, said that he thought the PCs' election would give birth to a "dynamic, honest, resurgent Ontario."

Instead, the MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston said, the opposite happened.

"My expectations slowly began to erode. And this erosion increased to become a crisis of confidence," Hillier, who was a PC MPP for 12 years, said.

You can't hog-tie me and gag me and then complain that I'm not a team player.Randy Hillier

He said Ford and his top advisors are violating democracy by muzzling MPPs and interfering with their ability to represent constituents.

"As I stated to Doug Ford on many occasions, you can't hog-tie me and gag me and then complain that I'm not a team player."

MPPs aren't scheduled to speak in debates when they're "out of favour" with the PC leadership, Hillier said. He also said they can't read petitions from their constituents in the legislature or even discuss an idea for a private members' bill without permission from Ford's office.

"You cannot have a representative democracy under such constrained restrictions."

Chris Young/CANADIAN PRESS
Ontario MPP Randy Hillier speaks to journalists in his office at the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Tuesday.

Government House leader Todd Smith confirmed that MPPs have to seek permission to read a petition or table a private members' bill, but he said that is just to keep everybody on the same page.

"Of course that's true," Smith said. "There has to be some kind of a coherent plan here."

Otherwise, Smith dismissed Hillier's claims as a "bunch of baloney."

Chris Young/CANADIAN PRESS
Dean French, centre, chief of staff to Ontario Premier Doug Ford, listens to the premier speak at the Progressive Conservative party convention in Toronto on Nov. 16, 2018.

Hillier also raised concerns about the amount of power Ford's chief of staff, Dean French, has over the government. French plays a greater role in caucus meetings than the premier does, he said.

"He's the most significant presence."

PC MPPs have told reporters anonymously that French rules with "an iron fist."

French was featured prominently in a recent report by Ontario's integrity commissioner, an independent watchdog who oversees lobbying and investigates allegations of MPPs acting with a conflict of interest.

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The commissioner looked into questions about how a close friend of the premier, Ron Taverner, got offered a job heading up the provincial police force.

Ford didn't break the law, Commissioner J. David Wake found, but French acted in a way that would give anyone "serious doubts as to the fairness of the process to the other candidates."

Smith said that French participates in caucus meetings and in meetings of the planning and priorities committee, a committee reserved for the most senior cabinet ministers.

"The chief of staff sometimes chimes in with his opinions on things too," Smith said, "as do bureaucrats that are invited."

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