Patrick Brown’s first big test

Opinion Apr 16, 2016 by Editorial Waterloo Region Record

If Patrick Brown hopes to rise to the top of Ontario politics, he'll need to cut the dead weight holding him back. And there's currently no heavier encumbrance hanging around the Progressive Conservative leader's neck than a crude, embarrassing MPP named Jack MacLaren.

It's likely MacLaren would have remained an unknown and irrelevant Tory backbencher were it not for three egregious errors committed by him that have recently come to light.

At a charity fundraiser in Carp, Ont., last month, MacLaren cracked a vulgar, sexual joke about the federal Liberal MP from his riding, Karen McCrimmon. Both McCrimmon and her husband were at the event, and both were humiliated. As for the audience, it was shell-shocked. When MacLaren's failed attempt at humour hit the news, however, he issued a belated apology.

Yet this was not a one-off error that could be easily excused. New audio recordings emerged late this week from another event in Carp that revealed the Carleton-Mississippi Mills MPP had made equally obscene references to Premier Kathleen Wynne.

While MacLaren's remarks on two occasions were disturbing, distasteful and unbecoming to an elected legislator, they were not necessarily career killers. In the face of withering public censure, he expressed remorse for insulting McCrimmon. Had it gone no further, he might have deserved full dispensation and a place in the Tory caucus.

But this week, MacLaren was exposed for something far worse. He had posted bogus testimonials from phoney constituents — complete with photographs lifted from the Internet — on his official website.

Anyone who had viewed this website, which has now been taken off-line, would have seen individuals, accompanied by names and photos, heaping praise on the MPP for helping them with things like getting an OHIP card or resolving a problem with the Transportation Ministry.

The trouble is, the names and photos were fake. One photograph was of a New Zealand-born software developer who lives in Germany. Another was a picture of a man taken in Netherlands a decade ago. On Wednesday, MacLaren said that while the testimonials were real, the website had used false names and pictures to protect the privacy of individuals.

"Improper," was the word he applied to his transgression. To that, we would add "deliberately misleading," "disingenuous," and "unethical."

If the public cannot trust this politician to use the real names and pictures of people endorsing him, how can they trust the endorsements? And how can they trust him when it comes to far greater matters?

If Patrick Brown expects to become Ontario's premier after the next provincial election two years from now, he has to convince people he's up for the job. He has to show he's a leader of integrity ready to make tough decisions. He needs to demonstrate his caucus is filled with smart, trustworthy and ethical MPPs.

It's certain he'll hammer the Liberals for their ethical sins, both real and perceived: the gas plant scandal; inappropriate political donations; a mysterious purge of potentially damaging government emails. This is what Brown will throw at Wynne.

But if he won't act now to clean up his own house, how can he complain about someone else's mess? Brown says he rebuked the errant MPP and demoted him as chair of the Tories' Eastern Ontario caucus. That's not good enough. MacLaren must go.

Patrick Brown’s first big test

Opinion Apr 16, 2016 by Editorial Waterloo Region Record

If Patrick Brown hopes to rise to the top of Ontario politics, he'll need to cut the dead weight holding him back. And there's currently no heavier encumbrance hanging around the Progressive Conservative leader's neck than a crude, embarrassing MPP named Jack MacLaren.

It's likely MacLaren would have remained an unknown and irrelevant Tory backbencher were it not for three egregious errors committed by him that have recently come to light.

At a charity fundraiser in Carp, Ont., last month, MacLaren cracked a vulgar, sexual joke about the federal Liberal MP from his riding, Karen McCrimmon. Both McCrimmon and her husband were at the event, and both were humiliated. As for the audience, it was shell-shocked. When MacLaren's failed attempt at humour hit the news, however, he issued a belated apology.

Yet this was not a one-off error that could be easily excused. New audio recordings emerged late this week from another event in Carp that revealed the Carleton-Mississippi Mills MPP had made equally obscene references to Premier Kathleen Wynne.

While MacLaren's remarks on two occasions were disturbing, distasteful and unbecoming to an elected legislator, they were not necessarily career killers. In the face of withering public censure, he expressed remorse for insulting McCrimmon. Had it gone no further, he might have deserved full dispensation and a place in the Tory caucus.

But this week, MacLaren was exposed for something far worse. He had posted bogus testimonials from phoney constituents — complete with photographs lifted from the Internet — on his official website.

Anyone who had viewed this website, which has now been taken off-line, would have seen individuals, accompanied by names and photos, heaping praise on the MPP for helping them with things like getting an OHIP card or resolving a problem with the Transportation Ministry.

The trouble is, the names and photos were fake. One photograph was of a New Zealand-born software developer who lives in Germany. Another was a picture of a man taken in Netherlands a decade ago. On Wednesday, MacLaren said that while the testimonials were real, the website had used false names and pictures to protect the privacy of individuals.

"Improper," was the word he applied to his transgression. To that, we would add "deliberately misleading," "disingenuous," and "unethical."

If the public cannot trust this politician to use the real names and pictures of people endorsing him, how can they trust the endorsements? And how can they trust him when it comes to far greater matters?

If Patrick Brown expects to become Ontario's premier after the next provincial election two years from now, he has to convince people he's up for the job. He has to show he's a leader of integrity ready to make tough decisions. He needs to demonstrate his caucus is filled with smart, trustworthy and ethical MPPs.

It's certain he'll hammer the Liberals for their ethical sins, both real and perceived: the gas plant scandal; inappropriate political donations; a mysterious purge of potentially damaging government emails. This is what Brown will throw at Wynne.

But if he won't act now to clean up his own house, how can he complain about someone else's mess? Brown says he rebuked the errant MPP and demoted him as chair of the Tories' Eastern Ontario caucus. That's not good enough. MacLaren must go.

Patrick Brown’s first big test

Opinion Apr 16, 2016 by Editorial Waterloo Region Record

If Patrick Brown hopes to rise to the top of Ontario politics, he'll need to cut the dead weight holding him back. And there's currently no heavier encumbrance hanging around the Progressive Conservative leader's neck than a crude, embarrassing MPP named Jack MacLaren.

It's likely MacLaren would have remained an unknown and irrelevant Tory backbencher were it not for three egregious errors committed by him that have recently come to light.

At a charity fundraiser in Carp, Ont., last month, MacLaren cracked a vulgar, sexual joke about the federal Liberal MP from his riding, Karen McCrimmon. Both McCrimmon and her husband were at the event, and both were humiliated. As for the audience, it was shell-shocked. When MacLaren's failed attempt at humour hit the news, however, he issued a belated apology.

Yet this was not a one-off error that could be easily excused. New audio recordings emerged late this week from another event in Carp that revealed the Carleton-Mississippi Mills MPP had made equally obscene references to Premier Kathleen Wynne.

While MacLaren's remarks on two occasions were disturbing, distasteful and unbecoming to an elected legislator, they were not necessarily career killers. In the face of withering public censure, he expressed remorse for insulting McCrimmon. Had it gone no further, he might have deserved full dispensation and a place in the Tory caucus.

But this week, MacLaren was exposed for something far worse. He had posted bogus testimonials from phoney constituents — complete with photographs lifted from the Internet — on his official website.

Anyone who had viewed this website, which has now been taken off-line, would have seen individuals, accompanied by names and photos, heaping praise on the MPP for helping them with things like getting an OHIP card or resolving a problem with the Transportation Ministry.

The trouble is, the names and photos were fake. One photograph was of a New Zealand-born software developer who lives in Germany. Another was a picture of a man taken in Netherlands a decade ago. On Wednesday, MacLaren said that while the testimonials were real, the website had used false names and pictures to protect the privacy of individuals.

"Improper," was the word he applied to his transgression. To that, we would add "deliberately misleading," "disingenuous," and "unethical."

If the public cannot trust this politician to use the real names and pictures of people endorsing him, how can they trust the endorsements? And how can they trust him when it comes to far greater matters?

If Patrick Brown expects to become Ontario's premier after the next provincial election two years from now, he has to convince people he's up for the job. He has to show he's a leader of integrity ready to make tough decisions. He needs to demonstrate his caucus is filled with smart, trustworthy and ethical MPPs.

It's certain he'll hammer the Liberals for their ethical sins, both real and perceived: the gas plant scandal; inappropriate political donations; a mysterious purge of potentially damaging government emails. This is what Brown will throw at Wynne.

But if he won't act now to clean up his own house, how can he complain about someone else's mess? Brown says he rebuked the errant MPP and demoted him as chair of the Tories' Eastern Ontario caucus. That's not good enough. MacLaren must go.