Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak has kicked MPP Randy Hillier out of his shadow cabinet after a dispute over a leaked internal letter – the second time in a week Mr. Hudak has disciplined one of his MPPs for defying him. The move also comes shortly before a party convention at which he will face a revolt from disgruntled rank-and-file members.
Last month, a group of Tories in London, Ont., brought forward a plan to change the party’s constitution to allow more frequent leadership reviews, an indictment of Mr. Hudak. Mr. Hillier argued that the proposal should be voted on at the PC policy conference next weekend.
Then, in a May letter to fellow caucus members obtained by the Toronto Star last week, Mr. Hillier alleged that the party was supporting a bill that would help construction firm EllisDon in order to receive campaign donations from the company.
On Friday, Mr. Hudak fired Mr. Hillier as the party’s labour critic.
“Politics is team sport. And if somebody is not looking out for the team, and our goal to turn our province around, I’m going to put them on the bench,” Mr. Hudak told a Queen’s Park news conference. “There has been a pattern of behaviour … that has been distracting Randy from what has been a critical portfolio, and I think it strained the relations with caucus.”
In a statement, Mr. Hillier said Mr. Hudak had called him on Thursday night, demanding he publicly retract his allegations about EllisDon and the legislation. He said Mr. Hudak also accused him of giving the letter to reporters, a violation of caucus confidentiality.
Mr. Hillier, MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, denied leaking the letter and refused to take back his statements.
“I made it clear to Tim that under no circumstances would I retract the comments and concerns that I raised three months ago and that I still stand by to this day,” Mr. Hillier said.
“While I remain disappointed that this was the ultimatum I was forced to choose between, I would rather accept this demotion than sacrifice the integrity that my constituents have always expected from me.”
Mr. Hudak will replace Mr. Hillier with Monte McNaughton, one of the youngest members of the Tory caucus and generally seen as a rising star.
Mr. Hillier’s demotion to the backbench comes just days after Mr. Hudak fired finance critic Peter Shurman.
As reported last week by The Globe and Mail, Mr. Shurman claimed $20,719 last year to subsidize a Toronto apartment despite representing a riding a half-hour drive from Queen’s Park.
Mr. Shurman received the money because his primary residence is in Niagara-on-the-Lake, 150 kilometres from his riding.
Mr. Hudak demanded Mr. Shurman repay the money. When Mr. Shurman refused, Mr. Hudak stripped him of his portfolio.