Ontario Conservative apologizes for using fake testimonials on his website

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photo: CTV

By Keith Leslie, THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO: A Progressive Conservative member of the Ontario legislature was sanctioned by the party’s leader on Wednesday for posting fake constituent endorsements on his website a week after he landed in hot water for a sexist joke about a Liberal MP.

Jack MacLaren met with party officials for more than 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.

PC Leader Patrick Brown removed MacLaren as the eastern Ontario representative in the PC caucus and gave the job to another Tory member of the legislature, Jim McDonell, but stopped short of removing him from caucus entirely.

A source familiar with the situation said Brown is furious with MacLaren, especially after he made crude remarks about MP Karen McCrimmon at a recent fundraising event near Ottawa.

Just last week Brown had to distance himself from “misogynist comments” that MacLaren made in the form of a sexist joke he told about McCrimmon.

MacLaren wouldn’t 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.

The uproar over those revelations had barely died down when the Ottawa Citizen reported on the phoney names and photos 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.”

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 had some of his Tory caucus colleagues saying they want him gone from the party entirely.

The Liberals and New Democrats, meantime, urged Brown 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.