Hamilton MPP Paul Miller has kicked off the election campaign by filing a $1.3-million lawsuit against Ontario’s NDP and Leader Andrea Horwath following his ouster from the party over racism allegations.
The party said it turfed the 71-year-old from caucuses in March after discovering he had joined a virulently anti-Muslim Facebook group. The NDP also referenced a “pattern of troublesome behavior” that suggested Miller “may harbor Islamophobic, homophobic and racist views.”
Miller denies the allegations, labeling them a “political assassination” attempt meant to allow the party to bring in “younger candidates, diversified candidates.” He will contest the June 2 election as an independent candidate in the Hamilton East-Stoney Creek riding where he was first elected in 2007.
The veteran politician filed a legal action against the NDP in Hamilton court Friday — just two days after the start of the election campaign — seeking damages of $1.3 million for conspiracy, discrimination and breach of contract.
Miller is also seeking a declaration he was “discriminated against on the grounds of age, marital and family status.”
“I want the people to see the truth,” he said in a brief interview Tuesday.
The suit names the NDP, party officials Michael Balagus and Lucy Watson, and Horwath, who is also MPP for Hamilton Centre.
“We’re confident that the party and our leader did the right thing, and that Mr. Miller’s claim will go nowhere,” said Watson, who responded to a Spectator request for comment Tuesday with a statement on behalf of the NDP, Horwath and other named party officials.
The party has yet to formally respond to the action with a statement of defence.
At a campaign kickoff event last week, Horwath told reporters she had “no choice” but to remove Miller from the party. “I stand by the decision that I made regarding Paul Miller,” she said
The NDP earlier announced pre-election vetting found Miller’s Facebook account had joined the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam, a group known for extreme Rhetoric, including references to hunting Muslims and calling them sewage.
Miller said his lawyer has advised him against commenting further on details of the lawsuit while it is before the courts.
But his statement of claim argues his own investigation found “no record” of his account joining the group or communicating with its members.
Miller has said in the past he believes his Facebook account was “compromised” without his knowledge. The MPP’s statement of claim says his own investigation found “multiple logins” to his Facebook account from places unaffiliated with the politician’s home or office — in some cases from cities “which Paul has never visited.”
The document alleges the “real reason” he was turfed is due to his age and marital status.
In particular, the document alleges party officials had privately urged Miller not to run again and told local NDP riding association officials “people would be upset” if he were nominated due to controversy surrounding his wifeschool board trustee Carole Paikin Miller.
The NDP statement explaining Miller’s ouster referenced findings of a racism probe at the Hamilton public school board that resulted in the censure of Paikin Miller and calls for her to resign.
That school board investigation report referenced both Paikin Miller and the MPP “scoffing and muttering under their breath in indignation” during a virtual meeting discussion of anti-Black racism and policing in schools.
Miller’s unexpected ouster has spurred drama and uncertainty in a riding that has overwhelmingly voted orange in each of the last three elections.
Accountant Zaigham Butt, a former family friend of Miller, is now running against him for the NDP in the Hamilton East-Stoney Creek riding. Butt’s father, Zahid, is an NDP riding association president who initially defended Miller after his ouster from him but later said he agreed with the party’s decision after learning more about his former friend’s “behaviour from him.”
The messy political divorce has also spurred a split among some traditional NDP supporters — particularly among local Stelco retirees who count Miller, a former steelworker, as one of their own.
Miller declined to comment on the NDP replacement candidate Tuesday, but reiterated he is already door-knocking and distributing “burnt orange” campaign signs in the riding as an independent candidate.
Miller and Butt will face off against well-known Liberal and Tory candidates in city councilor Jason Farr and former football star Neil Lumsden, respectively. Cassie Wylie is running for the Greens in the riding, as well as New Blue candidate Jeff Raulino.
Matthew Van Dongen is a transportation and environment reporter at for The Spectator. [email protected]
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