Senator apologizes for 'mangled remarks' about Ottawa residents frustrated by convoy protest
WARNING: This story contains disturbing language.
A Conservative senator from Nova Scotia has apologized in the Senate for comments he made about the reaction of Ottawa residents to the "Freedom Convoy" demonstration that had occupied the city's downtown for three weeks.
Sen. Michael MacDonald was captured on video expressing support for the protesters, and disparaging the reaction of residents opposed to the noise, idling, and other issues that came with the occupation.
"Oh, I hear this all the time – ‘They’re in our city’ – It’s everybody’s f------ city," MacDonald is heard saying. "This is the capital of the country. It’s not your g------ city just because you have a six-figure salary and you work 20 hours a week."
When reached by CTV News Sunday night, MacDonald said he was "mortified" and said he would apologize. MacDonald explained that the video was recorded Wednesday night when he was returning from dinner and had been drinking. He said he had asked the person with the camera not to record.
Standing in the Senate on Monday, MacDonald apologized to the residents of Ottawa for his remarks.
"I left the impression that I agreed with trucks being illegally parked in the downtown and made some mangled remarks about the sentiments of people in Ottawa regarding the protest," he said. "So, I first want to apologize to the people of Ottawa for my clumsy language. It was not my intention to disparage anyone."
During the recorded conversation, MacDonald said he didn't mind protesters leaving Windsor or other border crossings, but when it comes to Ottawa, "I don't want them to leave," he whispered.
In the Senate, he explained that he only supported the push to remove COVID-19 public health measures.
"Like so many Canadians, I am mentally exhausted after two years of lockdowns and a third year facing more of the same. It was the demand to open this country back up that I support," he said.
MacDonald acknowledged the frustration Ottawa residents felt because of the three-week long protest and occupation, but blamed the municipal government for allowing it to happen.
"When I arrived for work over three weeks ago and saw the trucks all over Wellington Street, I couldn't believe that this was allowed to occur," he said. "Ottawa has a professional, well-trained, modern police force, which, if properly directed, is more than capable of preventing a situation like this from developing. This failure is the responsibility of city hall."
MacDonald acknowledged his privilege in being able to retain a paycheque throughout the pandemic and said if "this unfortunate episode" brings attention to some of the issues facing Canadians who have been unable to work or go to school because of public health mandates, "then my present embarrassment will have accomplished something positive."
MacDonald also apologized in the Senate to his wife, whom he called "a Karen" in the recording, saying she is "the salt of the Earth and the rock of my family."
A “Karen” is a derisive term often used online to describe someone who complains about vaccination and COVID-19 mask mandates. In fact, Sen. MacDonald’s wife is named Marilyn, according to his Senate biography.
Saying he loves Ottawa, MacDonald told his colleagues he is contrite.
"I'm sorry for those I've disappointed," he said. "I expect better from me and I will do better going forward."
With files from CTV National News Senior Political Correspondent Glen McGregor