Former Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown calls allegations 'absolute lies'
PC leadership hopeful Christine Elliott said she would let Brown run if he clears his name
Former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown says he's contemplating legal action to restore his reputation in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations, which he calls "absolute lies."
Brown, who had already strongly denied the allegations, gave his first interview since stepping down from his position last month to the Postmedia news agency.
In what the outlet calls an "emotional interview," Brown compares his experience of being accused of sexual misconduct to "getting hit by a truck."
He says the incidents alleged by two women in a CTV News report "didn't happen," and he suggests being forced to resign as leader just months before a provincial election was akin to "frontier justice."
Brown told Postmedia he's "strongly considering a legal recourse."
The former PC leader broke his silence earlier in the week with a brief message posted on Twitter, saying he was "immensely grateful" for the support he and his family received.
I am immensely grateful for all the support expressed to my family and myself. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/metoo?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#metoo</a> can be a tool to lift society and I applaud that effort. <br><br>False allegations however undermine that good work. <br><br>The truth will come out. <br><br>Thank you to all.—@brownbarrie
His sister, Stephanie Brown, has also denounced the allegations, which have not been verified by The Canadian Press, as a "political hit."
Brown stepped down in late January just hours after an emotional late-night news conference in which he vowed to fight the allegations.
A few days later he was asked to take a leave of absence from caucus and the party's interim leader, Vic Fedeli, said he would not sign Brown's nomination papers for the province's June 7 election if the allegations still stood at campaign time.
Support from PC candidates
After Brown's interview with Postmedia was published online, a number of PC candidates who won their nominations during Brown's tenure posted supportive messages to Twitter.
"What happened to you wasn't right," said April Jeffs, a PC candidate in Niagara Centre.
Goldie Ghamari, candidate in the riding of Carleton, said that Brown "was executed without a trial." As the PC caucus met in Toronto late last month to deal with the fallout from Brown's departure, Ghamari told the Ottawa Citizen newspaper that Tory MPP Rick Hillier tried to intimidate her out of running for office outside a party convention in 2016.
Ghamari said in a series of tweets on Friday that "it should be up to our justice system to decide" on the veracity of the allegations against Brown.
"I will stand by [Brown]. The truth is coming out," she said.
Thunder Bay candidate Derek Parks said that Brown "has done so much and involved so many in the PC Party of Ontario," adding that he's "encouraged" Brown decided to speak out publicly again.
Leadership race looms
Brown's resignation intensified a fractious internal dispute over the future of the party and forced the PC's to hastily plan a leadership race that is set to conclude on March 10.
So far, three high-profile candidates have entered the contest for the party's top job, including the politician who came second to Brown in the last leadership race.
Christine Elliott, a former Ontario legislator, launched her campaign last week, days after former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford announced his bid. Caroline Mulroney, a Toronto lawyer and the daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, threw her hat in the ring last weekend.
At a conservative conference in Ottawa this weekend, Elliott said that if Brown can clear his name, he should be able to run for the party in the next election.
"I think it's important for Patrick to come forward to say his view of what happened," Elliott said during a question-and-answer session at the annual Manning networking conference.
""I know he is trying to clear his name, if he is able to clear his name by the time the election comes forward then I would have no problem with him running as a candidate. But that has to happen before, in my opinion, he should be able to run."
All three leadership candidates spoke at the conference, but Elliott was the only one to be asked directly about Brown by the moderator, journalist Anthony Furey.
During his time in the spotlight, Ford revealed that he will pursue a seat in the Legislature even if he loses the leadership race.
He cited his performance in Toronto's 2014 mayoral election — he raked in about 34 per cent of the vote, finishing second after John Tory. That, he suggested, bodes well for his potential to turn Toronto's typically left-leaning voters.
"We need those seats."
He'll win them not just on the backs of Ford Nation, the nickname given to the passionate supporters of Doug and his late brother Rob.
It's thanks to them that Fords have represented a suburban Toronto riding for years, and it's because of them he'll run no matter what in 2018, he said.
But attracting NDP and Liberal voters are also key, he said, as he claimed that much of the PC Party base comes from the left.
"Don't count out hardworking union people as being fiscally conservative," he said.
With files from CBC News