Ousted Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown was facing more trouble Monday as Ontario’s integrity watchdog said he had launched an investigation into the politician’s conduct, sparking questions about whether the 39-year-old would continue his bid to reclaim his former job.
Earlier in the day, Brown’s team denied media reports that he was planning to bow out of the party’s leadership race, and hours later said a statement was forthcoming.
“Patrick Brown has not stepped down. It’s up to the media to end the speculation that they’ve stirred,” spokeswoman Alise Mills said on Twitter. “Patrick Brown will be issuing a statement to media after meeting with his campaign staff later today.”
Mills also suggested Brown’s entry into the leadership race just over a week ago has taken a toll on his family.
“Yes Patrick and his family have been forced to endure attacks on their character, malicious gossip and threats. This is not news but something that’s very painful for the family and for Patrick,” she said.
Brown resigned as Tory leader in late January after CTV News reported allegations of sexual misconduct that he has vehemently denied. He launched a bid to reclaim his old job earlier this month, saying he helped grow the party to unprecedented levels and should be the one to lead it into the province’s spring election.
Brown has, however, been dogged by allegations of mismanagement and corruption, including from within his own party.
On Monday, the province’s integrity commissioner, J. David Wake, said he would probe allegations regarding Brown that had been made by Tory legislator Randy Hillier.
Last week, Hillier asked Wake to look into Brown’s financial disclosures and international travel during his time as party leader, alleging he contravened legislation that governs Ontario politicians’ conduct. Hillier alleged Brown “engaged in dirty and crooked politics” and called him a “liar.”
Brown has denied Hillier’s allegations, and responded last week by sharing a copy on social media of a two-page letter to the integrity commissioner that called the accusations “entirely fictional” and a “crass attempt to spin the legal as illegal.” Brown was not immediately available to comment Monday on the integrity commissioner’s probe.
Wake gave no timeline for the completion of his investigation but said his findings will be made public.
Since joining the leadership race, Brown has spent the past week touring the province campaigning and meeting with supporters.
He has also faced mounting pressure to drop out of the contest, including calls from Tory leadership candidate Caroline Mulroney for him to quit and focus on clearing his name.
“This is a leadership race for the future of our party and Patrick Brown needs to step aside,” Mulroney said last week. “He needs to put the party above himself.”
Mulroney, a Toronto lawyer and daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, called on her fellow competitors — former legislator Christine Elliott, former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford and parental rights advocate Tanya Granic Allen —to join her call for Brown to drop out
Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives will begin voting for their next leader online on March 2. The winner of the race will be announced March 10 in Markham, Ont.
Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press