Patrick Brown drops out of Ontario PC leadership race

Former Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown has ended his campaign to re-take the reins of the party heading into the June 7 provincial election, says the party's chief electoral officer Hartley Lefton.

39-year-old politician has been plagued by scandals since last month

Former Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown has dropped out of contention to lead the party into the June 7 provincial election. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Former Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown has ended his campaign to re-take the reins of the party heading into the June 7 provincial election, the party's chief electoral officer Hartley Lefton says. 

The president of the Progressive Conservatives Jag Badwal and the leadership election organization committee received a letter from Brown announcing his withdrawal from the leadership race he triggered, Lefton said in a tweet late Monday afternoon.

Brown was forced to resign his leadership post late last month amid accusations of sexual misconduct by two women dating back to when he was a federal MP in the Barrie, Ont., area. He has "vehemently" denied the allegations since they were first made public in a report by CTV News and repeatedly said in statements posted to Facebook that important elements of the women's stories can be proven to be untrue. 

In a four-page statement posted on Twitter shortly after the news he had dropped out of contention, Brown listed three key reasons for this decision, including:

  • A desire to focus on his case against CTV News.
  • Freeing up the PCs to focus on defeating the Liberals.
  • Protecting his family and friends.

"While I am discontinuing the pursuit of my goal to lead this great and proud party into government as our next premier, I remain steadfast in my love for Ontario and Canada," the statement read. 

Interim leader Vic Fedeli applauded Brown, saying in a statement obtained by CBC Toronto: "I want to thank Patrick Brown for making the right decision for himself and the Ontario PC party. He is right to focus on clearing his name."

Caroline Mulroney, who is among four candidates vying for the Tory's top spot, echoed this, saying he made the right decision for the party. 

"We only have a couple of weeks left in the leadership campaign, so myself and the other leadership candidates can focus on the issues that … party members want to talk about, and that's what I'm starting to do," she said at a campaign event in Burlington, Ont. 

PCs focus on defeating Wynne

The 39-year-old MPP, who currently represents Simcoe North, shocked party insiders and political observers alike when he registered to run in the party's snap leadership race just hours before the deadline to do so expired.

His registration in the leadership race ignited a fractious internal battle between his grassroots supporters, caucus allies and the party's top brass. 

While Brown has maintained that he has substantial grassroots support, his short-lived campaign was plagued by scandals that have roiled the PCs just months before they challenge Wynne.

 On Monday, Brown explained in a statement that his participation in the PC leadership race has "become a source of distraction from the real goal of replacing" the Liberals. 

'I cannot allow my family to suffer this way'

In the few weeks between Brown's resignation and his announcement that he is dropping out of the race, he was booted from the PC caucus and became the target of a lengthy complaint — made by Conservative MPP Randy Hillier — to the province's integrity commissioner.

The complaint outlines accusations of "significant" financial and ethical impropriety and, in Hillier's words, "crooked and dirty politics" that breached the province's ethics rules.

The complaint questions how Brown could afford the mortgage on his $2.3-million house, alleging Brown violated the rules for MPPs by failing to declare all his sources of income. 

Hillier also questioned how Brown paid for overseas trips, including travel with his girlfriend, who was a Queen's Park intern at the time. In his complaint, Hillier suggested some business people may have covered trip costs. 

In response to Hillier's complaint last week, Brown called the allegations "imaginary" and "make-believe."

Ontario's integrity commissioner confirmed Monday he is investigating that complaint.

As a result of this, Brown says his family and friends have come under fire "by a rogue MPP," adding the public spotlight of his leadership campaign has been "so hard on them."

"The guilt and pain in seeing them hurt because people want to come after me is indescribable," he wrote in a statement Monday. "I think Ontarians have seen by now that I am a fighter. I don't mind taking punches. I can deal with the attacks. But I cannot allow my family to suffer this way as a result of my own ambition to finish the job I started."

Challenging CTV News

Over the weekend, Brown sent a notice of libel to Bell Media, the parent company of CTV News alleging it engaged in "false, malicious, irresponsible and defamatory" reporting on its national newscast as well as its news website. 

"I am a strong supporter of the #MeToo movement, but false allegations broadcast by the media diminish that movement and minimize the voices of women who come forward honestly and with pure intentions," Brown said on Monday. 

"That could not be allowed to stand. It had to be challenged."

In mid-February, it was reported that one of the women, who alleges Brown asked her to perform oral sex on him, had revised some details of her story outlining her allegations against Brown.

Patrick Brown's leadership candidacy lasted 11 days, after the former Ontario Conservative Party leader announced he was withdrawing his bid. Brown originally resigned as leader a month ago following allegations of sexual misconduct, but announced his candidacy in the party's new leadership race not long after. This latest twist comes after the announcement that Ontario's integrity commissioner is probing Brown's finances based on a complaint from a Tory caucus member 1:55

​CTV News originally said she was in high school and under the legal drinking age at the time when they met at a bar on the night in question, but later said she was in fact out of high school and was of legal drinking age.

"In the court of public opinion and among the many journalists I've spoken to, these allegations are now seen for what they are — fictitious and malicious," Brown wrote in a Facebook post when that revision was made public.

The woman's lawyer dismissed it as a "collateral matter" and said the accuser "stands by the truth of the core allegation."  In his libel notice, Brown denies engaging in sexual misconduct or providing alcohol to someone under the age of 19. Brown is demanding an apology and retraction from CTV News.

In a brief statement issued early Saturday, CTV News acknowledged it has received the notice.

"CTV News stands by its reporting and will actively defend its journalism in court," it said.

Mulroney, Christine Elliott, Doug Ford and Tanya Granic Allen are running for the PC's top job. 

PC members will vote for their party's new leader between March 2 and 8. The winner will be announced on March 10.

With files from Mike Crawley and Lucas Powers