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In Hillier country, constituents get behind their outspoken MPP

People in Carleton Place, Ont., say they'd rather have a politician who speaks for them than one who toes the party line. In Randy Hillier, they've certainly found him.

Randy Hillier ejected from PC caucus over dispute with party leadership

Cutting remarks: Carleton Place, Ont., barber Ike Smith and his customer, Pat Anglehart, say they like that their MPP, Randy Hillier, speaks his mind. Hillier was ejected from the Progressive Conservative caucus last week. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Ike Smith's barber shop in Carleton Place, Ont., is an independent business where customers tend to say what's on their mind — kind of like their MPP, Randy Hillier, suddenly an Independent member of the provincial legislature.

"Well you know, he's a leader, but he does catch a few people by surprise," Smith said.

He speaks with the people, not down to them, and I believe he does represent us.- Pat Anglehart

Hillier, who has represented the area since 2007, was first suspended, then ejected from the Progressive Conservative caucus following a very public dispute with his former party.

The rift arose over comments he was accused of making toward parents of children with autism, though he denied it.

In a statement, Hillier said he was being pushed out because he failed to applaud in the legislature and generally toe the party line.

Barber shop customer Pat Anglehart said Hillier has always spoken his mind, and that's what his constituents have come to expect.

"He speaks with the people, not down to them, and I believe he does represent us, not his party," Anglehart said as Smith clipped his silver locks with a pair of fine scissors.

"He's very honest that way and very down to earth. That is why he's been around for a long time, and he has the backing of the people."

But now that Hillier is sitting as an independent, Anglehart does fear the riding will be ignored by Queen's Park.

"I think a lot of people in this region feel that we as eastern Ontario are being rejected."

'It was a shock'

Just down Bridge Street at Graham's Shoes, Doug Hawkins agreed Hillier has a lot of local support, but believes he'll have a tougher time now winning re-election here.

"Of course, that's a while away," he allowed. "A lot of things can happen in three years."

Tattoo artist Falken Newton believes there are two sides to the story, maybe more. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

At a nearby tattoo studio, Falken Newton said he was surprised to find out Hillier had been pushed out. 

"It was a shock when I heard it. I wish I had a little bit more information on what was really going on," Newton said. "There's always like two, three or four sides to every story."

Constituents first 

Out on the sidewalk, Chris Bowes said he fully supports the Doug Ford government, but also believes Hillier did the right thing.

"He's going to stand for his constituents first, party and politics second, which is refreshing in today's day and age of politics," he said.

Carleton Place resident Chris Bowes said he wishes more politicians would put their constituents ahead of their party. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Bowes said more politicians should take Hillier's lead.

"There's too much party and politics instead of policy and people first,: he said. "That's truly unfortunate in politics."

With files from Hallie Cotnam

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