Shock, surprise in Barrie, Ont., in light of Patrick Brown’s fall from grace


BARRIE, Ont. — People in the city where Patrick Brown forged his political career reacted with a mix of surprise, public silence, or even indifference to his abrupt resignation as Ontario’s Progressive Conservative leader on Thursday in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations from two women.

At a restaurant in Barrie, Ont., that Brown was known to frequent, a steady stream of customers moved in and out. One patron, retail worker Angela Bert, said the politician was a familiar figure at community events and always seemed proud of his connection to the city.

“It was a shock to see, when I woke up this morning,” Bert said of the news that Brown had stepped down in the wee hours. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Bert, who said she’s a regular at local bars, was adamant she had never heard any rumblings of the kind of sexual misbehaviour of which Brown is accused. The allegations made to CTV News, and not verified by The Canadian Press, include Brown making advances on a young woman who worked in his constituency office.

“The ladies at work were all talking about it and now the media has come down and so everyone is asking what people knew,” Bert said. “I can only speak for myself but I hadn’t heard anything.”

The restaurant’s general manager, however, refused to comment.

At a nearby cheese shop, owner Jessi Fournier and employee Catherine Harrington mulled the situation, saying they had both known Brown for years. Both said Brown was a familiar presence in town, and often helped out at fundraising events.

Both women described him as friendly, professional and public-spirited, and said people looked forward to his attending or speaking at an event.

“It’s shocking. It’s sad,” said Fournier, who helped Brown on one of his political campaigns. “It’s hard to know the truth from both sides.”

Fournier said people rallied behind Brown, a long-time councillor in Barrie, when he ran for leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives.

“They were proud of him,” Fournier said.

Harrington, who said Brown was always polite, said no one coming into the store on Thursday had brought up the topic that had roiled the legislature.

Bert, however, said she hoped the fallout from the Brown situation wouldn’t tarnish the city’s image.

“I hope this doesn’t put Barrie in a bad light,” she said. “That would be unfortunate.”

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press