TORONTO — A controversial Ontario politician who was kicked out of the Progressive Conservative caucus over the weekend is casting doubt on the official party story about his removal.
Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said in a statement Sunday that Jack MacLaren was being booted out because of a video from 2012 that showed him hinting at a hidden party agenda and making negative comments about French language rights.
Brown called it the "final straw" with a politician who had previously come under fire for vulgar remarks about a female MP, having fake testimonials on his website, and saying a zero tolerance policy for the sexual abuse of patients is "dangerous."
But MacLaren said Monday the real reason he was expelled from caucus was because PC officials found out he was already leaving to join another party.
MacLaren said he joined the Trillium Party of Ontario on Friday and had scheduled a news conference for Tuesday, but when the Progressive Conservatives became aware, they kicked him out Sunday morning.
The 2012 video, which CFRA Radio in Ottawa posted online on Sunday, was not a problem at the time or in the five years since, MacLaren said.
"Why it's considered to be an issue today is a mystery to me."
Glossy pamphlets with MacLaren's name and picture alongside Trillium party policy were distributed to reporters early Monday morning.
Progressive Conservative Party officials said Brown was not available Monday to answer questions.
MacLaren said he will now be free to vote his conscience, rather than dealing with the "albatross" around his neck of whipped votes — however he made the remarks to reporters outside the House while missing two votes.
One of the main reasons MacLaren said he left the Tories is because he is against a carbon tax, something Brown has advocated for in place of the current cap-and-trade system.
"I would never support a carbon tax," he said. "The majority of Ontarians don't support a carbon tax. The majority of the PCs do not support a carbon tax."
One of the main policies of the Trillium party is opposing carbon taxes, whether revenue neutral or not. It also calls for the sale of Hydro One to be halted — though the sale is all but complete, lowering the minimum age for apprenticeships, publicly disclosing salaries of public sector employees making over a certain amount — which already happens annually through the so-called sunshine list, and opposing the updated sex-ed curriculum.
"We believe that the curriculum should in large part be based on hard health science and should not be used as a tool for social engineering," the pamphlet says.
The updated curriculum includes warnings about online bullying and sexting, but protesters have zeroed in on discussions of same-sex marriage, masturbation and gender identity.
MacLaren, who represented the eastern Ontario riding of Carleton-Mississippi Mills, briefly took his seat in the legislature Monday — it had been moved away from the PCs. He is now technically sitting as an independent, since the Trillium party doesn't have official party status.
Progressive Conservative Lisa MacLeod called on MacLaren to resign.
"He wasn't elected as a Trillium party MPP," she said. "He was elected in a seat we have held for 40 years."