STELLARTON – Lisa MacLeod was in her uncle’s house in Pictou County when she got a call Thursday night. It was Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
After a long week during which she’s been peppered with questions on controversial issues by both opposition members and the media, he was calling to see how she was doing.
“He wanted to make sure that I knew that he appreciated the work I did.”
MacLeod has served under five different leaders during her time in the Ontario Legislature but she says none have shown her the loyalty Ford has.
“Sometimes we don’t see those things in the newspaper and you don’t see it come across on television, but I can assure you he’s a person with a big heart and I think that’s going to serve our government very, very well.”
MacLeod, who grew up in New Glasgow is the daughter of the late town councilor Danny MacLeod was in town for the weekend to attend her 25th high school reunion. While home she also spoke at a breakfast hosted at the Holiday Inn Express in Stellarton by the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce, during which she shared about her rise in the political world from the youngest female MPP ever elected in Ontario to managing several prominent cabinet positions in the newly elected majority government under Ford. She also shared about the impact her roots in Pictou County have had on her life and what it’s like to work with Ford – painting a picture of the man that is contrary to the way he’s been portrayed by some.
“I really enjoy Doug Ford because his motivations come from the same sort of motivations that the people of Pictou County have in just helping other people and not being drawn into ideological positions,” she said. “I think that’s really refreshing.”
Earlier this year, MacLeod had been presented a national award for the advancement of women in politics and during her comments she talked about as a child watching her mother help manage her aunt’s campaign for the school board in the early 80s.
At the time women weren’t involved in politics often and it inspired her. Much has changed since those times and MacLeod has been part of the evolution in the political world.
When she first left Pictou County for Ottawa, MacLeod said her parents were opposed.
“I had $200 in my pocket, a car loan and a student loan. I didn’t have a place to live,” she said.
What she had was a lot of determination.
She slept on a friend’s sofa and worked hard to find a job first in the private sector and then working in the political world she has loved since childhood.
She first ran for office herself 13 years ago in the riding of Nepean and has been serving ever since.
“I’ve held most of the roles in opposition and now am a senior member of the Ontario legislature at the ripe old age of 43,” she said.
In Ford’s government she is Minister of Children, Community and Social Services as well as Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues. Her duties also include the portfolios of immigration and anti-racism.
While it’s been a long time since she lived in Pictou County, she said every day she thinks about her roots.
“There’s not a speech that I give that I don’t tell people about this community,” she said.
“The strong rural roots that I have from rural Nova Scotia have really been part of my values when I stand in the Ontario legislature.”
She hopes to apply those values when she makes tough decisions on welfare reform, social assistance or other issues.
“I will be guided by the principles you all live by. That is be hard working, decent honest law-abiding citizens who want to help people if they are in need.”
To her family and friends in the audience she expressed her gratitude.
“I want you all to know you’ve had a big impact on my life. I may have been away from here for 25 years and I know this community has changed a great deal, but the upbringing this community has given me – particularly from my family – has really impacted my life and I carry the lessons you all taught me with me every day.”