TORONTO — A longtime Progressive Conservative’s comments that she had flagged rumours about Patrick Brown to his campaign team weeks before he stepped down raised questions Friday about the party’s own processes for dealing with sexual misconduct allegations.
Ontario legislator Lisa MacLeod said she shared information about Brown “two or three times” as recently as December but didn’t know whether it had been brought to the attention of others in the party.
The allegations related to “inappropriate touching,” among other things, and were similar to those that prompted Brown to resign this week, she said. MacLeod said she was told they were unfounded.
“There’s been a lot of speculation and people have heard a lot of different things throughout a period of time. So, there were lots of things that were percolating that a lot of people heard,” she said.
The Progressive Conservatives’ newly appointed interim leader, Vic Fedeli, said he had not heard any such rumours and vowed Friday to review the party’s human resources policies.
Brown stepped down as Ontario Progressive Conservative leader early Thursday after emphatically denying what he called “troubling allegations” about his conduct and his character.
The allegations were brought by two women who spoke to CTV News and have not been independently verified by The Canadian Press.
Critics said MacLeod’s account raised “serious questions” about how the party handles such cases.
“Two brave, young women came forward with horrific allegations of degrading and unwanted sexual acts at the hands of Patrick Brown,” Andrea Horwath, leader of the Ontario New Democrats, said in a statement.
“My thoughts are still with those women — and that’s why today’s indication that the PC Party may have dismissed similar concerns about their leader as ‘unfounded’ is deeply troubling, and raises serious questions.”
MacLeod said she reported the rumours to her friend Dimitri Soudas, who worked on Brown’s campaign team.
Soudas, who previously worked as communications director for former prime minister Stephen Harper, said the information he received was vague but he nonetheless encouraged MacLeod to report it to others.
“I strongly urged her to raise these issues directly with Mr. Brown as I was a volunteer and she was a caucus member,” he said on Twitter. “I also urged her to raise this issue with caucus. She clearly didn’t.”
Kevin Gaudet, a longtime Progressive Conservative who organized the party’s policy convention last year, said it has policies in place to deal with any allegations that might surface.
But he said it’s hard to comment on what the party could have done in this case given that the allegations reported by MacLeod were vague and that “none of us know what was said to whom.”
“To the best of my knowledge, the party is…fully prepared and expects to receive and deal with any allegations (of) impropriety undertaken by any representative or agent of the party,” he said.
Meanwhile, Brown’s sister came to his defence, saying on Facebook that her brother was the victim of a “political hit.”
Stephanie Brown said the allegations are “completely false” and her brother did not deserve what happened to him this week.
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press