Categorized | Canadian Politics

Patrick Brown quits Ontario PC leadership race

Posted on 01 March 2018 by admin

The ousted former Progressive Conservative leader has abandoned his comeback bid to lead the party, saying he cannot run a campaign while fighting to clear his name.

Ousted former Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown has abandoned his comeback attempt to lead the party.

Six hours after the Star posted a story about his apparent involvement in a Tory candidate nomination that is being investigated by Hamilton police, Brown announced Monday afternoon he was giving up his campaign for the PC helm.

“I simply cannot run a provincial party leadership campaign … while at the same time continuing my fight to prove that the allegations are lies. You simply cannot shoot on two nets at the same time,” he said.

That was a reference to the Jan. 24 CTV News report about two women who alleged sexual misconduct by Brown when they were 19 years old and he was a Conservative MP.

In a four-page letter to party brass Monday, Brown acknowledged his latest leadership bid was “a source of distraction” as the Tories gear up to fight Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals in the June 7 provincial election.

His departure came before the final PC all-candidates debate in Ottawa on Wednesday night.

It leaves former MPP Christine Elliott, former Toronto councillor Doug Ford, rookie PC candidate Caroline Mulroney and social conservative activist Tanya Granic Allen as the remaining leadership hopefuls.

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Pressure had been building on Brown to exit the race he joined 10 days ago after emerging from seclusion, with intense scrutiny spreading to his personal finances.

Last week, the Star revealed the provincial integrity commissioner, J. David Wake, was querying Brown about unreported rental income on his $2.3-million Lake Simcoe home, on which he has a $1.72-million mortgage despite earning $180,000 a year while leader.

In a statement Monday, Wake said his independent office is now “conducting an inquiry” under a section of the Members’ Integrity Act in response to a request from Tory MPP Randy Hillier, alleging “deeply troubling” questions regarding Brown’s finances and international travels.

Once Wake’s probe is concluded, a report will be filed to Speaker Dave Levac. Brown has dismissed Hillier’s complaint as “garbage.”

Rival candidates were relieved at Brown’s departure from the March 10 leadership race, with six days of online voting about to begin Friday.

“Now more than ever, we need to move forward without these distractions,” Mulroney tweeted Monday. “Patrick has done the right thing.”

Brown, 39, was originally forced to quit as Tory leader on Jan. 25 after the CTV News report about alleged sexual misconduct.

He has since filed a libel notice against CTV, calling the story “false” and saying it subjected him to “ridicule, hatred and contempt.” The network stands by its story.

Brown now sits as an Independent after being ejected from the Tory caucus on Feb. 16 by interim PC leader Vic Fedeli, just hours before joining the leadership race.

Fedeli said Monday that Brown made “the right decision for himself and the Ontario PC Party” in dropping out.

While Brown and other leadership candidates paid $100,000 to register and get access to the party membership list, plus a $25,000 compliance deposit to make sure they follow the rules, a senior party source said Brown will get a refund of only the compliance fee.

The events of the past two weeks have whipsawed both Brown and the PCs as the party insists it’s fit to govern the province despite internal problems.

Stunning party members when he entered the leadership race to claim the job he had just resigned from, Brown boldly proclaimed, “I think my name has been cleared,” as he was chased by reporters from PC headquarters on Adelaide St. to a taxi.

At the time, he said the party had been “hijacked” and his moderate People’s Guarantee election platform — unveiled to great fanfare last November — abandoned.

His confidence that day was in stark contrast to his tearful 81-second news conference at Queen’s Park on Jan. 24, hours before resigning as leader in a caucus call with other Tory MPPs.

On Monday, Brown credited his 23-year-old girlfriend, Genevieve Gualtieri, who accompanied him on some of the foreign travel, for standing by him.

In his statement, he called her “my partner” and said he wanted to protect her and his parents and sisters from further “attacks.”

“She never signed up to be in the public eye yet she ended up on the front page of the Toronto Star,” he said of Gualtieri, a former Tory intern.

“We never dated during the brief time that she worked at Queen’s Park for another MPP. Nor did we travel together while she worked there. We had an on-and-off relationship because of the nature of my job … throughout it all her family always recognized the special bond we have and encouraged us to work through the hard days.”

Brown said his ordeal “has brought us closer together.”

Some 20 nominated Tory candidates and three sitting MPPs — Toby Barrett, Rick Nicholls, and Ross Romano — backed Brown’s latest leadership bid.

But most of the PC caucus was supportive of Fedeli’s move to banish him and did not want him in the race.

MPP Todd Smith — who co-chairs Elliott’s leadership campaign — said the tumult around Brown has stolen the spotlight from the PC race.

“Let’s be honest, the air has been sucked out of this campaign because of all of the stories that have been swirling around Patrick Brown,” Smith said. “It’s difficult for anyone to get any kind of traction because of the circus type of atmosphere.”

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