During the battle against Covid-19 we’ve seen very few examples of poor behaviour when it’s come to our political leaders working together. We’ve seen some in Ottawa involving partisan spats and in Alberta we’ve seen some too. But for the most part, it has been collegial, and our elected officials have put their usual issues aside for the better good.
While that sentiment has started to fade in Ottawa, as we saw last week, one of the interesting leaders by example from legislative bodies has been the Ontario Legislature at Queen’s Park. There we’ve seen government respond, the opposition doing their jobs but all being done with respect and in the best interests of the people. Given how tense things were getting there before Covid-19, it has been quite the feat that the MPPs there have a lot to be proud about. But it looks like that might be coming to an end, but not because of anything any party might do. Nope, it’s a lone Independent MPP who is looking to upturn the apple cart, for reasons that are so bad, yet so on brand for this individual:
Am I the only one who thought that Randy Hillier had been too quiet for too long? It almost felt like someone drugged him and hid him in a root cellar somewhere because things were going all too smoothly in Toronto. Yet as the Ontario Legislature prepares to meet tomorrow to extend the State of Emergency in the province, something that is clearly needed, Hillier has decided to go the Full Randy or maybe better put, repeat the saga that his Federal counterpart Scott Reid put us through a month ago when he threatened to withhold unanimous consent to help that body move fast. Hillier has written a one-page letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford this afternoon, laying out his case, which is a pretty weak one:
Basically Hillier’s gripe is that he claims that the Ford Government has been escaping oversight by the Legislature, which seems pretty opposite to what’s actually happened. From all reports coming out of Queen’s Park, the Ford Government has been collaborating with the Opposition to a greater degree and when they haven’t agreed, you’ve seen those parties fulfill their roles. Also, being in a majority government, even if the House were sitting the government could force things through fast. That’s one of the bugs of our electoral system, but letting the current State of Emergency expire won’t bring any more accountability to the proceedings.
But what it will do, like it would in the House of Commons in Ottawa, is put more people at risk of Covid-19. That goes for the MPPs, but for all the political and legislature staff that would be needed to make the place run. In the end, that’s precisely what Hillier is suggesting happens with his little stunt. It’s irresponsible, unhelpful, and completely unproductive towards the goal that he states he wants to achieve, but it’s completely on brand for Hillier. This is him folks, thinking of himself first and foremost, his ideology above all, and to Hell with the public health consequences.
What makes this worse is that like his federal counterpart Mr. Reid, he sprung this less than 24 hours before the legislature was to return. If he were serious about his concerns, his gripes and wanted to find real solutions in these difficult times, he would have made this be known right after the last extension of the State of Emergency. Surely if he truly felt so deep disturbed about extending it again, he could have said it there and then. He could have said it the day after, going to the Ford Government and raising it then. That letter could have been sent long before this, not at the bloody last minute.
Being that he didn’t shows that this is Hillier being Hillier in probably the most consistent and unhelpful way; he’s trying to make a stink, pull a stunt and draw attention to himself. He’s not raising any serious concerns, moral issues, or legal ones. He’s just trying to flex his rhetorical muscles, at probably the worst time in all of this. That’s exactly the kind of thing that we don’t need in this moment and given that Hillier isn’t in any caucus anymore, there really are no levers on him to stop him here. This is a selfish act on Hillier’s part at the worse time, while people in his riding and community are suffering from Covid-19. The fact is that we are nowhere near the end of this crisis and nowhere close to ending any States of Emergency.
That’s especially true in Hillier’s own riding, which has seen some of the worst of this. We’re seeing stories like these coming from his local media about how hard Covid-19 is for them and their MPP is actually going out of his way to bully his way into ending this needed State of Emergency? Talk about selfish and tone deaf, but again so on-brand for this particular MPP. Making this worse is that when interviewed by TVO about this move, Hillier admitted that because of the Conservative majority government he can’t stop this from happening. So right there, while his community is suffering, Hillier is off on an attempt to puff out his own chest, selfishly seeking glory for himself.
In normal times this would be ugly and beyond the pale, but during a pandemic this move by Hillier is that much worse. I would say that Hillier should be ashamed of this but over his career inside and outside of politics he’s shown no indication that he has any shame to speak of. I’m hoping that Hillier backs down as ungracefully as his federal counterpart Reid did, but I’m less hopeful of that. Looks like tomorrow is going to be a longer day at Queen’s Park that most anticipated, and it won’t be anything that will help Ontarians in the least. It will be quite the opposite, and that’s all on Hillier’s head.