TORONTO – A Progressive Conservative member of the Ontario legislature who landed in hot water last week over a sexist joke about a Liberal MP apologized Wednesday for posting fake constituent endorsements on his website.
Jack MacLaren met with party officials for over an hour before he emerged to say the phoney endorsements were no longer on his website.
“I apologize. We have removed it from my website and we’re sorry it happened,” MacLaren said before walking away and declining to answer questions from a crowd of reporters and camera crews following him.
The Ottawa Citizen first reported the phoney names and pictures on MacLaren’s site Tuesday night. By Wednesday morning, a disclaimer had been posted on the site admitting the names and pictures of the alleged constituents were not real.
MacLaren, who represents Carleton-Mississippi Mills in eastern Ontario, also sent out an email insisting the fake photographs and names were used to “protect the privacy” of people who provided positive feedback to his office.
“While this was not intended to be misleading, I recognize that it was improper,” he said.
MacLaren’s website was shut down by Wednesday afternoon. ReEnvision, the company that developed and provides technical support to the website, said it has “no control over the content.”
Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said he was still gathering all the facts on MacLaren’s website, and insisted internal caucus discipline matters must remain private.
“I will weigh my options once I’ve gathered all the details,” said Brown. “I’m going to do my due diligence.”
Just last week Brown had to distance himself from “misogynist comments” that MacLaren made in the form of a crude, sexual joke he told about Liberal MP Karen McCrimmon at a fundraising event. MacLaren refused to talk to the media about his off colour comments, but he did issue an apology to McCrimmon after the story became public — weeks after the event.
MacLaren was first elected in 2011, after defeating veteran Progressive Conservative Norm Sterling, a 34-year veteran of the Ontario legislature, for the party’s nomination.
The negative publicity around MacLaren’s website had some of his Tory caucus colleagues saying they want him gone from the party. It also prompted the Liberals and New Democrats to call on the Tory leader to deal with the situation.
“I think it’s time for Patrick Brown to do some soul searching, and if he says there’s no room for that kind of behaviour in his party, then I wonder why Jack MacLaren is still a member of that caucus,” said deputy premier Deb Matthews.
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also advised Brown to rein in MacLaren.
“There’s no doubt that leaders have to deal with challenging caucus members sometimes,” she said. “Mr. Brown’s going to have to deal with this one.”