Ford suspends MPP from caucus over 'disrespectful' comments to parents of kids with autism
Premier Doug Ford kicked out a member of his Progressive Conservative caucus over “disrespectful comments” made to the parents of children with autism.
Randy Hillier was suspended indefinitely on Tuesday afternoon, a few hours after allegedly saying “yada, yada, yada” - a remark that some parents say was a “slap in the face” during a day when autism funding was a top issue being discussed.
Shiri Bartman was sitting in the visitors’ gallery and says the remark came at the end of an emotional question period, when a parent burst into tears.
“She was quite upset,” Bartman told CTV News Toronto.
“That caused the opposition on the floor to make some comments.”
During that heated exchange, Hillier, according to Bartman, left his seat and said “yada, yada, yada” to members of the opposition while making an unspecified hand gesture.
“There was a big ‘woah’ from everyone on the floor,” Bartman said.
The comment immediately prompted a reaction from Ford, who suspended Hillier immediately.
“I want to listen to every parent, and every family member who wants to share their stories and their asks,” Ford explained.
“But Mr. Hillier’s comments crossed the line and that is unacceptable.”
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Hillier underscored that the comment was directed at a member of the opposition bench, and part of the "banter" in the legislature.
“I found the exploitation of these families by Members of the NDP Caucus disheartening,” he said.
“In my twelve years in office I do not recall any Member heckling a spectator in the gallery and all banter is always between Members on the floor of the House.”
He also added an apology to the parents in the gallery who felt the comments were directed to them.
“They were not, and never would be,” Hillier said.
Bartman says everyone in the chamber was in shock when it happened, and while it was directed to the opposition, families felt insulted.
“His comment was a slap in the face on an emotional day,” Bartman said.
“I appreciate the premier addressing it directly.”
Ford said Hillier would only be allowed back into the PC Party once the entire caucus decides his fate at a future meeting.