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Ottawa Mayoral Candidate Mark Sutcliffe Under Fire Over Endorsement From Controversial MPP Lisa MacLeod

Sutcliffe faces backlash after trotting out endorsement from Lisa MacLeod, who pushed social assistance cuts and demonized refugees

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Ottawa Mayoral Candidate Mark Sutcliffe is drawing the ire of community groups across Ottawa after touting an endorsement from Doug Ford’s controversial former Minister of Social Services, Lisa MacLeod.

On Wednesday,  Sutcliffe’s campaign issued a statement announcing their candidate had secured the endorsement of Ottawa-area PC MPP Lisa MacLeod and thanked the right-wing politician for her “long-time friendship.”

“We need Mark as our Mayor,” Macleod is quoted as saying in the statement.

The endorsement from MacLeod, who earned a reputation pushing some of the Ford government’s most regressive, right-wing policies, stands in contrast with Sutcliffe’s  attempt to present himself to voters as a “sensible centrist” and a “non-partisan and non-ideological” choice for mayor

A tweet issued by Sutcliffe’s campaign announcing MacLeod’s endorsement has generated hundreds responses ridiculing the endorsement.

Meanwhile, a number of community groups and progressive organizations have publicly criticized Sutcliffe for joining forces with MacLeod, noting her long history of controversial behaviour and policies while she served as Ford’s Minister of Communities, Families and Social Services.

“There is a saying that one can be judged by the friends one keeps,” former Ontario Child Advocate Irwin Elman told PressProgress.

“The former Minister of Children and Youth Services decimated supports to Ontario’s children and families ( just ask a parent of an autistic child) and then eradicated the safeguards that might challenge her dangerous decisions (like the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth),” Elman said.

“She took every action in a manner that was so dishonourable that she was turfed from the post by her own government.”

Trevor Manson, Secretary co-chair of the Ontario Disability Support Program Action Coalition, said Sutcliffe’s embrace of MacLeod is troubling given her long history of cutting social assistance to some of Ontario’s most vulnerable.

“Looking at the former Minister’s track record, if Mr. Sutcliffe feels her endorsement will help his campaign, that’s on him,” Manson told PressProgress.

“The disability community clearly is not his target demographic.”

Mark Sutcliffe’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment from PressProgress.

MacLeod, who has been a provincial conservative MPP since 2006, joined Doug Ford’s cabinet in 2018. Immediately, the government cancelled a planned increase to Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program rates — warning that too many people were “dependent on government.”

Soon after, while promising a “compassionate” series of changes to income support programs — that, as PressProgress found, actually meant billions in cuts to the programs, and an increase clawback rate to recipients’ income.

MacLeod also sparked widespread outrage from parents of children with autism.

Under proposed changes to programs supporting kids with autism, eligible families would receive a maximum lifetime total of up to $140,000 per child for treatment but even that sum came with fine print.

The cap would get lower as kids get older.  So, a two-year-old child entering the program would get the maximum $140,000 but a seven-year old would be capped at $55,000. Each year after, the cap was $5,000 per year.

That’s a problem for kids requiring intensive therapy, which can cost between $50,000 to $70,000 a year.

Some physicians also said they were threatened into supporting the changes or else they would face “four long years” under the Ford government.

When parents responded, MacLeod was soon forced to clarify that she did not plan to resign.

During her time as minister, MacLeod also cut supports for children of refugees.

In 2019, as PressProgress was first to report,  the Ontario government informed municipal service providers it intended to eliminate the Transition Child Benefit. The TCB provides support for the children of refugee claimants and the recently unemployed so they can access “basic necessities” — for example, food and clothing.

When asked about it in the legislature, MacLeod opted to fearmonger about “border crossers” instead of addressing concerns by parents and health providers the cut will increase the province’s number of homeless children.

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Eventually, MacLeod was finally turfed from the Ministry in June 2019.

Lisa MacLeod did not respond to a request for comment from PressProgress seeking additional comments on her support for Sutcliffe’s campaign.

 

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Mitchell Thompson
Reporter
Mitchell Thompson is PressProgress’ Ontario reporter. His reporting has a special focus on workers and communities, and public services and privatization, and public accountability.

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