Ottawa

Ottawa-area MPP Jack MacLaren expelled from PC caucus

Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown has booted Ottawa MPP Jack MacLaren from caucus over alleged comments he made about French-language rights in Ontario and misleading voters in a 2012 video that has surfaced online.

Expulsion comes after remarks he made about French-language rights in Ontario surface online

Carleton—Mississippi Mills MPP Jack MacLaren has a new spot in the Legislature, separated from his former PC colleagues. Technically he's sitting as an independent because the Trillium Party, which he has joined, does not have official party status. (Mike Crawley/CBC)

Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown has booted Carleton—Mississippi Mills MPP Jack MacLaren from caucus over alleged comments he made about French-language rights in Ontario and misleading voters in a 2012 video that has surfaced online. 

"Once again, Jack MacLaren has been caught making comments that are unacceptable. This video is the final straw," Brown said in a written statement Sunday morning. 

"I have expelled Jack MacLaren from the PC caucus. The expulsion is indefinite. He will not be a PC candidate in the next provincial election."

In a video from 2012 obtained by Ottawa radio station 580 CFRA, MacLaren appears to be speaking to a crowd of people when a man raises the issue of French-language rights and anglophones losing job opportunities in eastern Ontario. 

Each time Jack MacLaren is caught making disparaging or insensitive remarks about others he asks for forgiveness and a second chance.- Patrick Brown, PC leader

"You don't have to convince me what's wrong with French-language and English in Ontario," MacLaren appears to say in the 23-minute video.

"You're right. But you won't hear it because we're trying to get elected."

MacLaren, first elected in 2011, then goes on to say, "We have lots of things that we're going to do but we won't say before the election because we won't get elected. 

"You'll get my vote if you say it," the man responds. 

MacLaren replies: "Well, then I'm afraid I won't get your vote."

The video illustrates a "pattern" with MacLaren, Brown said in his statement on Sunday. 

"Each time Jack MacLaren is caught making disparaging or insensitive remarks about others he asks for forgiveness and a second chance. And a third chance. And a fourth. And each and every time, he has disappointed those who have put their trust in him."

Carleton-Mississippi Mills MPP Jack MacLaren has been no stranger to controversy in recent months. (CBC)

MacLaren joins Trillium Party

Hours after being expelled, MacLaren issued a statement on Twitter announcing he had joined the Trillium Party of Ontario "after months of deliberation and discussion with my constituents."

"I believe I can better serve and represent the people of my riding as a member of the Trillium Party of Ontario," MacLaren said in the statement, which did not directly address the expulsion.

"The Trillium Party will give me the opportunity to speak freely on my constituents' behalf, to vote freely on their behalf, and to have input into all policy-making on their behalf."

He can stand up [at Queen's Park] and he can say exactly what his constituents want him to say.- Trillium Party leader Bob Yaciuk

Later, in an interview with CBC News, MacLaren said he had already been planning to defect to the Trillium Party, and had scheduled a media announcement for Tuesday before Brown forced his hand.

MacLaren also vowed his entire riding association would "resign en masse" early this week from the PCs and form the Trillium Party's local riding association.  

He dismissed the comments in the video, claiming they were "a non-issue then, and [are] a non-issue now."

"The news here is the Trillium Party, and [that] I'm a member of the Trillium Party," MacLaren said.

"I'm on the same page with the basic philosophies and values ... family values, freedom of people to do what you want, so long as you're not hurting your neighbours."

Technically, MacLaren is sitting as an independent because the Trillium Party does not have official party status.

Party wants sex-ed review, no carbon taxes

According to its policy page, the Trillium Party of Ontario is against carbon taxes and wants a review of Ontario's sex-ed curriculum. The party also calls for the province's public and separate school boards to be administered by the same governing body.

The party ran two candidates and received 296 votes in the 2014 Ontario election.

Party leader Bob Yaciuk called MacLaren's decision to switch political affiliations a "game-changer," adding that he wouldn't try to rein in the MPP.

"He can stand up [at Queen's Park] and he can say exactly what his constituents want him to say. He can put his hand up and say 'I support this or I do not support this.' And that's a rare thing for any member sitting in provincial parliament right now," said Yaciuk.

"I don't try to control Jack. Nobody has control of Jack — except for the 100,000 people that he represents. That's who is Jack MacLaren's boss."

'Lying or manipulating people'

Nepean—Carleton PC MPP Lisa MacLeod told CBC News she supported Brown's decision to remove the controversial figure from the Tory caucus.

Asked why the expulsion didn't come sooner, she said Brown had to weigh his loyalty to MacLaren for supporting him in the leadership race versus the continued distraction caused by his repeated public gaffes. 

MacLeod, a former francophone affairs critic, categorically denied the suggestion that her party had plans to change bilingual hiring practices in Ontario. 

"It's absolutely false that anybody was talking about that type of activity," she said. 

"That was lying or manipulating people into believing something that we didn't stand for, and I really reject that notion."

She also accused MacLaren of being out of touch with his constituents in Carleton-Mississippi Mills. 

MacLaren's controversial past 

MacLaren has been no stranger to controversy in recent months, which nearly came to a tipping point when Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne suggested the MPP should be removed from the PC caucus.

Wynne's remarks came after MacLaren was at a "men's night" fundraiser in his riding in March 2016 when he told a sexual joke about Liberal MP Karen McCrimmon and her husband. Following that incident, he participated in sensitivity training. 

In March of this year, he admitted he "made a mistake" during a Queen's Park debate that a zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse for health care professionals would be "extraordinarily hard — overly harsh — on doctors."

In another gaffe, MacLaren was caught having fake constituent endorsements on his website. He apologized and removed the phoney online statements.

'Not going to worry about little nothings from the past'

In an interview with CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Monday, MacLaren called the incidents "little nothings."

"I'm going to represent the people of Carleton–Mississippi Mills in a fair and open manner, speak as they would have me speak, vote as they would have me vote, and I'm going to talk to them and make policy that they would like made," MacLaren said.

"That is democratic, that is what I'm going to do, and I'm not going to worry about little nothings from the past that have nothing to do with good government.

"There is tremendous pressure on members of a party to do what the party is told, or you pay a penalty. And I'm tired of being beaten on the head for trying to do what is right, and it's not going to happen anymore."

Listen to the entire interview here.

With files from Matthew Kupfer, Florence Ngué-No, and The Canadian Press