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Ontario MPP Randy Hillier should be reprimanded again, integrity czar says


Hillier is accused of using personal information obtained through ‘non-partisan casework’ to add constituents to ‘No More Lockdowns’ and People’s Party of Canada email lists

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Ontario’s integrity commissioner has recommended an independent member of the provincial legislature who is already banned from Queen’s Park be reprimanded.

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In a pair of reports released Wednesday, Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston MPP Randy Hillier has been found to have violated the province’s Members’ Integrity Act.

The first complaint, made Sept. 29 by Kingston and the Islands MPP Ian Arthur, accused Hillier of using his office for partisan purposes.

“Mr. Arthur advised that his staff had received several complaints from constituents of Mr. Hillier alleging that he had ‘used their personal information obtained by his office through non-partisan casework to sign them up for partisan email lists — specifically, ‘No More Lockdowns’ organization and event information for the People’s Party of Canada,” wrote Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake in his report.

Arthur also presented emails provided by Hillier’s constituents, including one sent last federal election day urging readers to vote PPC, and two earlier emails advertising PPC campaign events.

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One constituent told Wake she started receiving No More Lockdowns and PPC literature shortly after signing up for Hillier’s constituency newsletter.

Out of the 89 emails sent between Aug. 1 and Sept. 30, 2021 that Wake examined, only nine contained no mention of the PPC.

Of the 80 remaining emails, a little over half introduced new PPC candidates, 38 promoted PPC events, and one message sent on election day encouraged recipients to vote PPC and act as scrutineers on behalf of the party.

Hillier denied sharing either database with the PPC.

Further requests for information were put off by Hillier until, in an email dated March 4, he told Wake he would no longer cooperate.

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“He apologized for not being able to meet the requirements which I had conveyed to him and that he was unable to complete my requests,” Wake wrote.

“Without going into the personal reasons put forward in his letter I was left with the clear impression that he was withdrawing from any further participation in each of the investigations I was conducting.”

Emails by the National Post to Hillier’s office for comment went unacknowledged.

In February, the Ontario legislature unanimously adopted a motion barring Hillier after he referred to federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra on Twitter as a ‘terrorist.’

“Mr. Hillier stated that he understood that, at the conclusion of my inquiry, recommendations would be made to which he would not be able to respond unless the Assembly rescinded its censure motion,” Wake wrote, noting Hillier’s email came one day after announcing he wouldn’t be seeking re-election.

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While investigating Arthur’s complaint, Wake noted two other potential breaches — Hillier allowing his daughter to use his office to shoot a video announcing her candidacy with the PPC in last summer’s federal election, and using constituency staff members to produce PPC content.

Chelsea Hillier finished fourth in Elgin-Middlesex-London — a riding notable for being the scene of last summer’s incident where local PPC organizer Shane Marshall was arrested for throwing stones at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a campaign stop.

The second complaint against Hillier was made last October by London West MPP Peggy Sattler regarding social media posts he made using names and photographs of people he falsely claimed suffered serious injury or death after receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.

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Complaints by family members prompted a unanimous motion censuring Hillier, who deleted the post and proffered an apology.

While Wake found Hillier didn’t violate sections of the act concerning improper use of insider information as he found no evidence Hillier used constituent information to further private interests, he concluded using legislature resources for partisan purposes amounted to breaches of parliamentary convention.

While noting that no precedent exists for drawing similar conclusions pertaining to the second complaint, Wake concludes that Hillier’s social media posts about false instances of vaccine injuries amounted to such a breach.

In both cases, he recommended the legislature reprimand Hillier, but acknowledged the low likelihood of it before the spring election — not to mention Hillier’s suspension from the house and his decision to not seek re-election.

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Hillier, who served four terms as MPP, is no stranger to controversy.

He was booted from the Ontario PC caucus in March 2019 one month after being suspended for allegedly mocking parents of autistic children during question period, and on March 8 found himself permanently banned from Twitter.

Hillier branded himself as a vocal critic of his former party’s COVID-19 policy, becoming a high-profile participant in anti-lockdown and anti-mask rallies, most notably freedom convoy occupations in Ottawa earlier this year.

On March 28, Hillier surrendered to police to face nine charges in connection with his involvement in the convoy, including allegations he encouraged his social media followers to continue flooding Ottawa 911 operators with non-emergency calls.

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Other MPPs have found themselves in trouble for using their office for partisan purposes.

Wake’s Hillier reports came just weeks after he cited University-Rosedale MPP Jessica Bell for using Ontario NDP logos to advertise constituency events.

Scarborough-Rouge Park MPP Vijay Thanigasalam broke the rules in December when a COVID-19 virtual town hall included promoting the campaign of a fellow PC candidate in an adjacent riding, Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife in September for using her legislative email to solicit budget feedback on an Ontario NDP website, and notably federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh — who in 2015 was accused by then-Etobicoke Centre MPP Yvan Baker of soliciting donations on his constituency website during his term as MPP for Bramalea-Gore-Malton.

• Email: bpassifiume@postmedia.com | Twitter: @bryanpassifiume

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