MPP Lisa MacLeod: ‘I’m Not Going Anywhere’

By Charlie Senack

In a packed church hall with a roaring crowd on March 27, Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod celebrated her 18th anniversary serving the residents at Queen’s Park.

A few hundred supporters gathered at St. Patrick’s Fallowfield Parish, alongside Ontario Premier Doug Ford, finance minister Peter Bethlenfalvy and transportation minister Prabmeet Sarkaria.

During a fireside chat hosted by Richmond media personality Sam Laprade, MacLeod said she has no emotions of leaving politics aside.

“You always hear rumors that I’m running federally. I’m retiring; I’m going to Pluto. Just look at this room. I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying right here,” she said to a cheering crowd. “I am home, I am well, and I am committed to doing what I’ve always done — looking out for the people of Nepean and making sure that Ottawa gets its fair share at Queen’s Park.”

A packed house showed up to help Lisa MacLeod celebrate 18 years as the local MPP. (Charlie Senack photos)

MacLeod is now the longest serving female MPP at Queen’s Park. She was first elected to the provincial legislature in March 2006, and quickly became a vocal critic in opposition.

Her fierce spirit and fiery remarks led the Nova Scotian Native to becoming an Ontario cabinet minister when the Ford-led PC party took power from the Kathleen Wynne Liberals in 2018.

The Nepean MPP began as the minister in charge of women’s issues and also took on the challenging role of minister of children, community and social services. In 2019, MacLeod transitioned to the minister in charge of tourism, culture and sport, leading that sector through the first waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While dealing with tough files, MacLeod was dealing with her own personal struggles of mental health and depression. She was soon diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was forced to take time off after winning her sixth election.

“Learning about that was equal parts relief because I finally found out what was wrong and how I could move forward. But it was also a realization that my whole life had to change,” MacLeod told the crowd. “It was going to be hard for me and I had to take some time off. I want to thank all my constituents, in particular those who always supported me to allow me the time necessary to heal. While I’ll always have this disorder, it’s manageable.”

MPP Lisa MacLeod poses for a photo with Councillors David Hill and Wilson Lo, and Premier Doug Ford.

MacLeod slowly transitioned back to work and she’s now back to full time. Her focus now, she says, is looking after her constituents.

Serving the large riding Nepean (and Nepean-Carleton before that) is a full time job; so was being an active mom. MacLeod also paid tribute to her husband Joe Varner and daughter Victoria for their support and patience over the last 18 years.

“Raising your child when you’re flying to Toronto on a Sunday night or Monday morning was difficult, even more difficult when your husband is deputy chief of staff to the minister of defense and his role is to look after the war in Afghanistan,” said MacLeod. “When I was home for the break he was in Portugal or Afghanistan or Germany, and it was really hard on a personal level.

A display showed the highlights of MacLeod’s tenure as MPP.

Since being elected, she has seen Barrhaven through many tragedies: the 2013 Via Rail train/bus crash, two tornadoes, a derecho, and pro care members hills including Rowan’s Law and Nick’s Law.

“Any type of issue is making sure that you put your boots on, your gloves on, and get to work,” said MacLeod. “You help whoever needs it. You don’t pick and choose.” 

During his speech in the church hall, Premier Ford called MacLeod a “champion” and said she always has the best interests of Nepean at heart.

“There is no better representative for the riding than Lisa has been for over 18 years,” he said, calling MacLeod “the number one retail politician.”

“You don’t get elected unless you take care of your riding,” Ford added. “I always preach to our caucus to focus on their ridings: Take care of your people, don’t forget  where you came from, (and) always remember the people that got you there.”

The Premier also noted recent investments being made in Barrhaven for education, health care, and infrastructure. A day after his speech at MacLeod’s party, funding for the Barnsdale Highway 416 interchange was announced — a project the Nepean MPP has long campaigned for.

Live music was part of the festivities.