TORONTO — The former leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives warned Tuesday that accounts questioning his integrity are likely to emerge in the coming weeks, claiming a small group of insiders is trying to derail his efforts to reclaim his old job ahead of a spring election.
Patrick Brown, who stepped down last month amid sexual misconduct allegations before being booted from Tory caucus, has been fending off accusations of mismanagement and corruption during his time as leader.
The 39-year-old Barrie, Ont., politician accused unnamed insiders of attempting to stop the party from moving forward — comments he made in a Facebook post that came shortly after the party’s interim leader voiced his lack of confidence in Brown as a candidate.
“Over the next weeks you may hear or see stories questioning my integrity, character and my leadership of our party,” Brown wrote. “This small group of insiders will stop at nothing in their attempts to derail us. These stories and accusations come from people who feel backed into a corner by the choices they have made, rather than any choice or decision I have ever made.”
Brown denied a story published by the Globe and Mail that said he discussed a $375,000 deal for a share of a restaurant he owns in Barrie and an unspecified number of Aeroplan miles with a man who would be acclaimed as a Progressive Conservative candidate in Brampton, Ont., five months later. The Canadian Press has not independently verified the allegations.
Brown accused party staffers of leaking information to media.
“It has been revealed through news stories about my personal finances, that these individuals have illegally gained access to my personal information,” he said. “This includes bank statements, mortgage information, legal documents, all of which is legally protected and personal information. They have taken that stolen information to the media to cast further doubt.”
Brown also defended himself against accusations that party membership numbers had been exaggerated. Earlier this month an email sent by interim party leader Vic Fedeli to the Tory caucus said the party’s membership numbers were not 200,000 as Brown had claimed, but were closer to 133,000.
Brown said the memberships in question expired a few weeks after he made his statements about the figures and that they were accurate at the time.
“There is one person at party headquarters who looks after every single membership form and verifies the payment,” he said on Facebook. “He should be allowed to speak but won’t be allowed to because he will speak the truth.”
Brown, who is running for re-election in the riding of Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, has said he helped grow the party to unprecedented levels since becoming leader in 2015, so he should be the one to lead it through the spring election.
A Tory legislator said Tuesday he would be filing a complaint with Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner regarding Brown’s alleged conduct. Randy Hillier, who has voiced his support for another leadership candidate, told reporters Brown is not fit to be an Ontario legislator, much less party leader or the premier of the province.
Meanwhile, Fedeli said he wrote to the party executive before Brown joined the leadership race, raising concerns about his suitability as a Tory candidate.
“I wrote to the party president and indicated that Mr. Brown did not have my confidence to be party candidate in Barrie,” Fedeli said. “Now that he’s a candidate, it’s very difficult to speak about him and not the other candidates. That was done before he filed nomination papers for the leadership.”
Fedeli added that since Brown is in the leadership race, he will no longer comment on him, or any of the other candidates, who include Toronto lawyer Caroline Mulroney, former Toronto councillor Doug Ford, former Tory legislator Christine Elliott and social conservative advocate Tanya Granic Allen.
Shawn Jeffords , The Canadian Press