Both these so called populist leaders, aggrieved, rude, ignorant and domineering, set the tone for the Age of Political Bullying. They are role models for how low you can go under the political limbo bar and still survive.
Now we have Lisa MacLeod, the esteemed — make that steamed — PC MPP for Nepean, Ont., and newly minted Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport exhibiting abusive behaviour. And not even for the first time.
MacLeod apparently thought it was all right to approach Eugene Melnyk, owner of the Ottawa Senators hockey team at a Rolling Stones concert last week in Barrie and unleash a torrent of abusive, profanity laden criticism on him because “her” team wasn’t winning.
According to Melnyk, MacLeod, whom he didn’t recognize, approached him and said “Do you know who I am? I am your minister and you’re a f — ing piece of s-t and you’re a f — ing loser.’ ”
Wow. I am pretty sure some of us would lose our high profile jobs if we were caught exhibiting abusive behaviour like that.
And the only time any of us, no matter how powerful, should ever ask “Do you know who I am?” in a public setting is when we need help getting home.
MacLeod even got both her public and private apologies wrong, first of all, after saying “Let me set the record straight” explaining lamely she had offered the NHL owner “blunt feedback.”
She then offered what to Melnyk seemed like a flippant personal apology before being pressured by her leader Doug Ford, to get a bit more humble. (Ha) She finally said her comments were “inappropriate.”
Let me offer the minister some “blunt feedback:” Drunk on power, having learned nothing from her reportedly threatening or belittling comments to the parents of children with autism when she was managing that file and scaling down their benefits before she was hustled out of the position — MacLeod is a proven disaster when it comes to accepting or giving criticism.
She is a bully who needs help now.
And yet the only “loser” here is the public, parents who are trying hard to bring their kids up to be both strong and civil or who are dealing with an abusive situation in their own home. If it’s OK for a cabinet minister to speak to others publicly like that, what’s stopping a family member?
There will undoubtedly be another powerful politician in our sphere going lower than that this week so the news of one out of control and profane cabinet minister will fade quickly.
We shouldn’t let it.
And we should hold ourselves to a higher standard as well, as citizens, as taxpayers and even as writers and critics.
If I don’t have more effective words at my command than to call a public person a “piece of s-t,” sometimes egregiously abbreviated on Twitter to “pos” then I should find another calling.
I even have something good to say about Lisa MacLeod. She was very effective as an MPP during the Nepean tornado in 2018, her passion, concern and even joy in helping others reflected in her tweets and public service announcements.
While I think MacLeod is responsible for her own public behaviour, it certainly does not help that the Ford governing ethos is a bullying, sneering and belittling one.
Think back to when Doug Ford’s substance addicted and drunk driving brother Rob was Toronto’s mayor, and our current Premier not only enabled him, but went out of his way to be abusive and belittling to those who criticized his late brother, or somehow threatened his administration.
At the time, I felt we were all unwilling co-dependents in the Ford family drama, and that we the citizens would suffer emotionally. We did.
Those two men set the damaging tone — probably as a result of some faulty dynamics in their family of origin which featured, among other better qualities, bullying and addiction. Some of these harmful dynamics stem from what therapists would call a “shame-based identity.”
I don’t want Lisa MacLeod fired — it wouldn’t be fair if her boss continues to exhibit some of the same bullying tendencies.
Politicians have always used cuss words, especially in private. I once had a western Premier take me aside and say “I want you to know something. I don’t give a s-t about Toronto and I don’t give a s-it about the Toronto Star.” That was decades ago.
Instead Lisa MacLeod should reflect on her terrible public behaviour, apologize publicly to all Ontarians, and promise to clean it up and try harder to be a good role model for everyone. Admitting to shame is a giant step forward.
Sooner or later some “blunt feedback” will materialize for the Ford government at the ballot box. But who wants to suffer through these vulgar tirades till then?
Judith Timson is a Toronto-based writer and a freelance contributing columnist for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @judithtimson