A Progressive Conservative member of the Ontario legislature who came under fire for telling a sexist joke about a Liberal MP has been ordered to undergo sensitivity training.
PC Leader Patrick Brown said Monday he has ordered Jack MacLaren, who represents the Ottawa-area riding of Carleton-Mississippi Mills, to stay away from Queen's Park for an indefinite period "because of recent inappropriate conduct."
"I have been clear that there is no room for anything less than respect and tolerance in the Ontario PC party and caucus, in our legislature, and society," Brown said in a statement.
"Reassignment of MPP MacLaren's roles will remain in effect until such time as I determine that appropriate corrective action has been taken."
MacLaren found himself in hot water after telling a crude joke about Liberal MP Karen McCrimmon during a fundraising event last month in Carp, Ont., when the two were sharing a stage. MacLaren only apologized for his off-colour remarks weeks after the event when the media got hold of the story.
Earlier this month, MacLaren made headlines again when he was forced to admit that constituent testimonials posted on his website, including names and photos, were fake.
The website was eventually taken down, but MacLaren refused to offer any explanations for the phoney postings other than a terse apology before he bolted away from reporters.
Last week, Brown demoted MacLaren as the PC caucus representative for eastern Ontario, but on both occasions the Opposition leader stopped short of kicking him out of the Tory caucus.
Brown was unavailable to comment Monday because he was running in the Boston Marathon, but deputy PC leader Steve Clark said it was no surprise that MacLaren faced additional disciplinary action.
"The leader was very clear that he was going to gather further information," said Clark. "He's made, I believe, the appropriate action on the member, who will remain in his riding."
The entire PC caucus underwent sensitivity training over a year ago — Clark believes MacLaren was in attendance — and MacLaren will have to pay for the additional training himself. Clark could not say what that would entail.
Deputy premier Deb Matthews called MacLaren's punishment a "mild rebuke," and suggested Brown boot the trouble-prone Tory from the PC caucus.
"If Patrick Brown says there's no room for that kind of comment in his caucus, I guess the question is why is there room for Jack MacLaren in your caucus?"
Brown has been trying to put a more modern, inclusive face on the Progressive Conservatives since he won the leadership last year, and his efforts are not helped by sexist remarks that reinforce old, negative stereotypes about the party.
Premier Kathleen Wynne, who has publicly called on Brown to kick MacLaren out of the PC caucus, sent a letter to the Speaker of the legislature Monday saying she wants the parties to develop a code of conduct for members of the legislature.
"I believe that we must not tolerate inappropriate conduct by or against our members as their conduct their work, be it in the legislative precinct or at events in their ridings and elsewhere," wrote Wynne.
"Members are expected to act in a manner that promotes confidence in the integrity of each member and protects the dignity of the Assembly."