An Ontario cabinet minister said Friday that she apologized to the owner of the Ottawa Senators for being “blunt” — which came after she reportedly hurled a profane tirade at Eugene Melnyk at a Rolling Stones concert.
Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Lisa MacLeod described the encounter as her giving Melnyk “feedback” on the management of the hockey team.
“Let me set the record straight, I gave (Melnyk) some feedback at the Rolling Stones concert and I apologized to him for being so blunt,” she wrote on Twitter. “I have serious concerns about the state of our beloved Ottawa Senators! We need to get our team back on the road to winning the cup!”
The Ottawa Citizen reported that MacLeod saw Melnyk at Saturday’s concert near Barrie, Ont., yelled at him that she is his minister and swore at him.
“I am your minister and you’re a f—ing piece of s–t and you’re a f—ing loser,” MacLeod said, as recounted by Melnyk to the newspaper.
The Citizen reported that Melnyk complained to the premier’s office and that both MacLeod and Premier Doug Ford later called him. Ford’s office told The Canadian Press that it had no comment beyond MacLeod’s tweet.
The Senators said Melnyk stands “firmly” by the account of the incident he gave to the Citizen.
“He has received a call from and had a very positive conversation with the premier of Ontario, which he intends to keep private, but he is grateful for the leadership the premier showed and was impressed with how he approached this difficult situation,” the organization said in a statement.
MacLeod was recently demoted from Children, Community and Social Services after her handling of the autism program sparked outrage.
The Liberals called on Ford to fire MacLeod as minister and suspend her from caucus, noting she also had to apologize after autism therapists said she and her staff told them it would be “four long years” for their organization if they didn’t provide a positive quote to help promote her new program.
“For months now, parents, professionals and concerned citizens have warned the minister’s conduct is inappropriate and unbecoming of a cabinet minister,” Michael Coteau wrote on behalf of the Liberal caucus.
Coteau noted that Ford suspended Randy Hillier from caucus for saying “yada, yada yada” to parents of children with autism — Hillier maintains the remarks were directed at the NDP.
“Surely he can see that Minister MacLeod’s pattern of behaviour is much worse than an offside comment,” Coteau said.
Hillier was later kicked out of caucus for not being a “team player,” though he says it was because he clashed with Ford’s now former chief of staff Dean French.
New Democrat Marit Stiles noted Friday that MacLeod has previously said she wouldn’t tolerate bullying when dealing with criticism over the autism program.
“I don’t know why she thinks that it’s OK for her to bully and use that kind of language with a private citizen,” Stiles said.
Ford will have to make a decision about what behaviour he will tolerate from his ministers, she said.
“At the end of the day, this is Mr. Ford’s government,” Stiles said. “He is the premier of this province. He needs to make a call on this and I would say he needs to set the bar a whole lot higher than this.”
Melnyk’s hockey team has endured a series of on- and off-ice controversies since coming within a goal of making the Stanley Cup final in 2017.
Melnyk himself has been the target of criticism among some Ottawa fans. Months after he criticized fan support and said the team could move elsewhere if support doesn’t improve, four billboards went up across the city with the hashtag #MelnykOut.
Earlier this year, a plan to develop land near downtown Ottawa featuring a new arena for the Senators fell apart after Melnyk and business partners failed to solve a dispute.
On the ice, the Senators finished last in the NHL standings this past season after going into rebuilding mode following the trade of captain Erik Karlsson on the first day of training camp.
Allison Jones, The Canadian Press