As eastern Ontario MPP Randy Hillier continues his crusade to end pandemic lockdowns, some of his constituents are questioning whether he should remain in office.
On Thursday, Global News spoke with a number of people living in his riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, and they all agreed that his denial of COVID-19 health guidelines doesn’t reflect their views.
“I find it embarrassing. He is gaining a higher profile provincially, but for all the wrong reasons. He is willfully ignorant of the science,” said Katie Amy, a resident of Verona, Ont.
“It’s infuriating. It’s a misrepresentation of who some of his constituents, and he’s preying on the fear and the vulnerability of people in his riding,” said Nicki Woock, a resident of Kingston Mills, Ont.
“It’s disappointing when our leaders are lagging instead of leading,” said South Frontenac resident Martin Hankes-Drielsma.
The disapproval of Hillier’s COVID-19 rhetoric has pushed Kelley Denham of Smiths Falls, Ont., to take it upon herself to create a petition called “Demanding the Immediate Resignation of MPP Randy Hillier.”
As of Thursday evening, the petition has received 8,335 signatures.
“Everyone was just so outraged they wanted to do something about it, so I made the petition so we could do something about it,” said Denham.
The petition of constituents may catch Hillier’s attention, but it’s ultimately his choice to vacate his seat at Queen’s Park. But can he be removed from office?
Queen’s University Canadian politics researcher, Jacob Robbins-Kanter, says it’s unlikely.
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“It’s very difficult to remove an elected official and with good reason, whether federally or provincially. If elected officials could be easily removed, that would be undemocratic and unfair to the voters who put them there,” said Robbins-Kanter.
“There is ultimately a way for them to be removed, and that’s by voters during the next election.“
That election is coming sometime before June 2022.
Ironically, if we rewind back to 2013, Hillier, then a member of the Conservative party, actually tabled a failed bill that would allow voters in Ontario to recall and replace their MPPs.
“I have always thought that when people aren’t performing their jobs or not performing as expected, there should be a way to replace them, ”Hillier told Global News in 2013.
Hillier said then that provincial elections, held approximately every four years, do not provide the practical mechanism to hold politicians accountable for their actions.
Even though the rural Ontario politician has received backlash for his denial that masks and lockdowns are effective measures to combat COVID-19, his preaching that the pandemic is impacting freedoms and causing more harm than good is finding traction among like-minded supporters.
Praise from Facebook and Twitter users from across Canada can be found on most of his social media posts.
“You do great work, Randy Hillier. A true public servant, not enabling your constituents to live in and perpetuate fear,” said Keith E. Graydon on Facebook.
“We want to thank you for your tenacity of spirit and hard work for the people of Canada,” wrote Claudia Sutton.
This wave of support for the independent MPP has one neighbouring politician shaking his head as the Canadian death toll surpasses 22,000.
“The cynic in me would say he likes the limelight and that there is the kind of personal motivation to some of this. Unfortunately, that love of the limelight has disastrous public health effects,” said Ian Arthur, MPP for Kingston and the Islands.
“We’ve had some angry phone calls directed at our office where they think I am him. But we politely explain that there’s two MPP’s that represent parts of Kingston.”
Hillier told Global News that he’s heard the calls for him to resign but says he believes he is doing the right thing, claiming he’s defending democracy and freedoms.
Hillier says he is willing to put his views to the test in the next provincial election.