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Queen’s Park bully pulpit

Premier Ford on his best behaviour
John Bell

March 25, 2019

Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford is often absent from Question Period at Queen’s Park. He has missed 61% of sessions, especially since his attempt to appoint his old buddy Ron Taverner as head of the OPP blew up in his face.

“He’s ducking questions about his interference in the process to appoint the next OPP commissioner. That’s also why he’s been hiding out so much since the start of the new session” noted NDP MPP Catherine Fife. (She may be wrong–he may just be lazy. He regularly had the worst record at Toronto city council meetings when he was a Councilor.)

But when Ford does attend, he’s liable to threaten his questioners with bodily harm. When Windsor MPP Taras Natyshak dared to ask for some back story on why Ford has kicked veteran Tory Randy Hillier out of caucus, a purple-faced Ford challenged him to a fist fight. “He thinks he’s a big tough guy, but why doesn’t the big tough guy walk outside and make those accusations outside the door if he’s so tough?”

Off his monorail

What caused Ford to use his bully pulpit like an angry toddler? The thuggish Tory boss has been forced to backtrack on a number of his attempts to cut services and brow beat opposition. Taverner was forced to remove himself from the running for OPP chief. Angry and organized activists have pushed back on cuts to services for autistic people, especially after it was discovered that Minister Lisa MacLeod threatened service agencies that they would suffer if they didn’t publicly support the government. Pushback from students, teachers and parents has forced Ford to retreat on rolling back the sex-ed curriculum.

And then he had to deal with Randy Hillier. The 12-year Tory MPP has always been a right-wing loud mouth , a climate change denier and a bigot. But his neck was always just a little too red to suit the Tory brass. He refused to jump and applaud Ford’s every parliamentary pronouncement, like the rest of the lackeys in caucus, which riled the Bully and his handlers.

So when he appeared to direct a “Yadda, yadda, yadda!” toward autism rights activists in the parliamentary gallery (he later angrily insisted his less-than-witty heckle was directed at an NDP opponent) Ford had the pretext he was looking for to suspend and eventually expel Hillier from the Tory caucus.

If anyone thought Randy Hillier was going to go gently into that good night, they’ve been hiding under a rock for the past 12 years. Hillier wrote to his constituents: “The truth behind my removal, however, is not due to banter in the House but long-standing tensions between me and Doug Ford’s most senior advisers (Dean French and Chris Froggatt) over what is expected of MPPs in the PC caucus.”

More seriously, he left amid accusations of improper lobbying taking place in the back rooms of Queen’s Park: “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. I could not stand by and tolerate operatives engaging in similar and more egregious acts.”

No wonder Ford was acting like a schoolyard bully when the NDP asked a reasonable question. Anything to change the channel.


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