Cabinet minister Lisa MacLeod becomes Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, after Premier Doug Ford shuffled his cabinet last week.
Stan Behal / Postmedia
Veteran MPP Lisa MacLeod and money maven Gail Vaz-Oxlade and their supporters on both sides are embroiled in a Twitter donnybrook after Vaz-Oxlade used a crude expression to describe MacLeod on social media.It began Thursday, when the Nepean MPP posted a tweet celebrating her 14-year-old daughter’s Grade 8 graduation.“Does she know her mother is a heartless c—?” responded Vaz-Oxlade, the author of financial advice books and host of television’s Til Debt Do Us Part, in a tweet.Then everyone piled on.MacLeod attracted controversy after introducing changes to funding for therapy for autistic children in February. The new policy would severely reduce funding to families who were receiving $60,000 or more a year for treatment.MacLeod argued the changes would give support to 23,000 children who were on a waiting list, but the changes have sparked a series of protest and made her the target of harassment. Earlier this month, 41-year-old Rebecca Reid, the mother of an autistic four-year-old, pleaded guilty to criminal harassment and uttering threats after sending more than 100 emails to MacLeod. On a cabinet shuffle June 20, MacLeod was moved to the Tourism, Culture and Sport ministry. In an interview, MacLeod said the new portfolio would give her a chance to “take a breather.”But the autism portfolio has followed MacLeod like a dark cloud. On Friday, the Globe and Mail reported that according to a leaked internal report, the Ford government deliberately spread misinformation about the costs and backlog for autism treatment to justify its funding model. The internal review by MPP Roman Baber dated June 13, obtained though anonymous sources, was critical of the funding model announced by MacLeod. According to the Globe and Mail, repeated assertions made by MacLeod that 23,000 children were on the waiting list was “unverified and is likely inaccurate.”“This has been the toughest and most damaging file in our first year of office,” the newspaper quoted from the report. “Regretfully, to add fuel to the fire, our tone has been less than ideal. We are talking about children and families in need.”In a tweet on Friday in response to Vaz-Oxlade’s comment, MacLeod said she has experienced death threats, online harassment at intimidation at events that required police protection for months.“It took a tremendous toll on my family & my mental health. I’m simply not tolerating it anymore. Disagree with me fine. But lines are being crossed.”Responded Vaz_Oxlade, who has an autistic child: “You’re absolutely right. When you LIED about kids on the wait list, when you LIED about kids coming off the wait list, you crossed the line. When you took futures away from children, you crossed the line. Polite c—s are still c—s.”Both MacLeod and Vaz-Oxlade have their defenders and detractors.Health Minister Christine Elliott came to MacLeod’s defence tweeting that “vile language and threats of violence” have no place in public discourse.“Thank you for your enduring commitment to standing tall in the face of bulling and harassment.”Laryssa Waler, executive director of communications for the premier’s office, said it was a “disgusting” tweet and asked where was the chorus of female voices from all political sides condemning it.“I’ve heard you all wonder why more women don’t get involved in politics. People like Gail Vaz-Oxlade are why.”Meanwhile, a Vaz-Oxlade supporter urged MacLeod’s defenders to “get over yourselves. Words are just words. Your actions actually are hurting people. Big difference.”Vaz-Oxlade said she has not communicated with MacLeod’s daughter in any may, “I only responded to the mother, not the child,” she tweeted.“Yah, boo hoo hoo, what about the children she’s destroying with her vile mismanagement and evil heart? Do you feel sorry for the? Their poor stressed-out parents? Hmmm.”Asked for comment, a spokesman for MacLeod pointed to his boss’ tweet from Friday and a statement from Jill Dunlop, the associate minister of Children and Women’s Issues, which called for an apology.“At a time when society ifs finally beginning to recognize the need for women’s perspectives and experience to inform our political discourse, Ms. Vaz-Oxlade chose to normalize misogynistic acts.”Vaz-Oxlade’s final Twitter post was a photo of a sleeveless shirt with the words “Conservatives: Putting the ‘N’ in Cuts.”“I’ll just leave this here.”Vaz-Oxlade did not respond to a request for an interview.