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A short history of Patrick Brown electoral controversies

"Their allegations are lies and I can only wish that they end their attacks on myself and my family," he wrote to his local paper, shortly after being elected to public office at the age of 22

Now fully penetrated by Pierre Poilievre’s populist pugilism, Jen Gerson believes the Conservative Party of Canada is “going into full-on fucking fever-dream bunker mode.”

“And do I think that it’s possible that a party in full-on fever-dream bunker mode could hypothetically make some shit up in order to take out the second-runner in a race? Yeah, of course that could fuckin’ happen,” she says. “But, my goodness, Patrick Brown is a bad, bad poster child for a victim complex, isn’t he?”

Gerson, the founder of The Line and former co-host of OPPO, comes on this week’s CANADALAND to explain what the heck is going on with the Conservative leadership race, from which Brown — the moderate who might’ve posed a threat to hard-right front-runner Poilievre — was just abruptly disqualified:

In Gerson’s view, moderate conservatism deserves a standard-bearer “who’s not as problematic and baggage-ridden” as Brown (such as, say, Jean Charest). But what does she mean by that?

Here is a short history of Patrick Brown controversies, limited to those that relate to elections and campaigns:

April 1998: Patrick Brown has held one elected office or another his whole adult life. Prior to even seeking public office, he ran for, and won, the presidency of the youth wing of the federal Progressive Conservative (PC) party at the age of 19. That took place against the backdrop of a PC contest to choose a new party leader, and the Ottawa Citizen reported that one of the hopefuls, future senator Hugh Segal, had kicked in $50,000 toward Brown’s campaign for the youth presidency. Brown denied that was the case, offering evidence to the Citizen that the $52,000 he spent in his six months running to head up the National Progressive Conservative Youth Federation had in fact come from different prominent party sources, including two affiliated with then-Ontario premier Mike Harris, who was firmly in the anti-Segal camp. Brown nevertheless ended up endorsing, and then working for, Segal’s leadership bid, which ultimately lost out to that of former PM Joe Clark.

November 2000: Brown’s first run for public office came at the age of 22, when he successfully beat incumbent Jean Sweezie by 26 votes to become the alderman (councillor) for ward 9 in Barrie, Ontario — a city he in which he’d taken up residence just a couple months prior. The week after the election, the Barrie Examiner reported that some of his new constituents weren’t happy with the way he’d won; one accused his campaign of “dirty tricks.” But while some of his tactics — like delivering an election-day letter to supporters of the third- and fourth-place candidates, emphasizing that only he could beat the incumbent — might have been seen as uncommonly aggressive in the context, there was no indication he did anything improper. In a letter to the Examiner, Brown fired back at his critics: “I am disappointed by your article a few days ago which allowed my defeated opponents to attack me on the front page of your paper.…Their allegations are lies and I can only wish that they end their attacks on myself and my family. This negative style of politics is what drives many of my generation away from politics. ”

January 2004: Shortly after being reelected to council, Brown tried making the jump to federal office, looking to become the first candidate fielded by the new Conservative Party of Canada (created from a merger of the PC and Canadian Alliance parties) in the riding of Barrie. But things got off to a rocky start; as the Examiner later summarized, Brown “was accused — by members of both former parties — of stacking the party membership and then the new executive with his own supporters at the founding meeting” of the local riding association. Party brass in Ottawa investigated complaints about the eligibility of some of those new executive members but found everything to be in order. A few days later, one of Brown’s advisors paid a late-night visit to the home of Rod Jackson, who was also seeking the nomination; that led to a police investigation but no charges. Brown would go on to win the nomination but lose in June’s general election to Liberal incumbent Aileen Carroll.

January 2006: Brown defeated Carroll on his second try, in the election in which Stephen Harper’s Conservatives swept to power. A couple weeks before doing so, however, Brown’s campaign had to apologize to the president of Barrie’s chamber of commerce for distributing a flyer that had erroneously identified him as an endorser.

July 2010: In his second term as MP (having been easily reelected in 2008), Brown earned the ire of both the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and opposition Liberals for using part of his parliamentary mailing allowance to distribute flyers on behalf of a Barrie city councillor seeking reelection. Because the flyer concerned the councillor’s opposition to a particular development project, Brown told QMI that he didn’t see it as campaign material — but also that he wouldn’t have sent it closer to the election date.

March 2015: Toward the end of his third term as a federal Conservative backbencher, Brown sought the leadership of the Ontario PC party. His main rival, MPP Christine Elliott, made hay of what she described as “significant discrepancies” between the sum his campaign claimed to have raised and the fraction that had been reported to Elections Ontario. Brown’s campaign responded by noting that Elliott appeared to be counting money that preceded the campaign period, as well as other funds raised too recently for Elections Ontario to have yet posted it on their site. Indeed, records of further donations soon appeared online, but the campaigns sparred over whether Brown’s had made the disclosure to Elections Ontario prior to Elliott’s raising of the issue or because of it. Brown would go on to win the party leadership, in part through the support of evangelicals and social conservatives; while he publicly supported same-sex marriage and abortion rights, so-con leaders would later provide evidence to the Globe that he’d quietly been assuring them of the opposite.

September 2015: Brown won the Simcoe North seat in the Ontario legislature, in a by-election called following the resignation of longtime PC MPP Garfield Dunlop. While Brown said Dunlop would be sticking around Queen’s Park as a volunteer adviser, the former MPP soon got a paid contract from the party, a fact that remained hidden until the Star got a hold of internal emails the next year.

June 2017: In the run-up to the 2018 Ontario election, more than a few PC nomination battles devolved into a morass of allegations and acrimony — beyond even the baseline level — eventually branching into multiple lawsuits and at least one police investigation (in which no charges were ultimately laid). Despite what in some cases amounted to claims of fraud, in June 2017 Brown chose to certify all of the candidates who had already won their nominations, prompting the executive committees of multiple riding associations to quit in protest. A year out from the election, Rick Gibbons put it thusly in the Ottawa Sun: “The party is plagued by internal controversy in at least half a dozen ridings and a rising chorus of party malcontents is expressing alarm over [Brown’s] leadership and the dirty tricks they allege are being employed by his office during nomination battles…[Party stalwarts] cry shenanigans over tactics being employed to get what they see as Brown-favoured candidates nominated for the next election.” Several of the nomination irregularities appear to have been connected to Snover Dhillon, a convicted fraudster and long-time associate of Brown’s, who as of this past spring was wanted by police in India for having allegedly orchestrated the murder of a kabbadi player in the middle of a match.

April 2018: Three months after resigning as PC leader following (vehemently denied) allegations of sexual misconduct — and two months after an aborted run to fill the void created by his own departure — Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner recommended that Brown be reprimanded for four ethics breaches [pdf]. Two related to his failure to disclose rental income, and two related to his failure to disclose the source of a $375,000 loan he took out to purchase a property in Oro-Medonte, Ontario, in 2016. The money had come from a paralegal named Jass Johal who not long after would be acclaimed as the PC candidate for Brampton North. When the Globe had initially asked about this, Brown denied any business dealings with Johal and claimed his family had assisted him with the purchase.

July 2018: Brown entered the race to become the first directly-elected chair of Peel Region, west of Toronto. After Doug Ford’s new PC government cancels regional-chair elections (returning them to appointed positions), Brown decided to run for mayor of Brampton instead. He wins.

July 2022: He is abruptly booted from the race to become the new leader of the federal Conservative party, after an advisor tells the party that her role on the campaign was being funded by a business, contrary to election law, and that Brown was aware of this. He denies the allegations and attempts to appeal, as an August 19th deadline looms to run for reelection in Brampton.

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