What did the Ontario PCs know? And when did they know it?
Party officials tell conflicting versions of what they heard, who they told, about Patrick Brown
When it comes to who knew what about Patrick Brown's alleged conduct, it's clear the story is far from straight.
At a Thursday news conference, the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party's deputy leaders were unequivocal: They had no idea that the allegations of sexual misconduct against their former leader were coming.
"None of us knew about what the allegations were, if there were going to be any allegations," until they became public, said MPP Sylvia Jones. "Absolutely it was a shock."
Less than 24 hours later, the meaning of "none of us" was tested when Conservative MPP Lisa Macleod revealed she had heard rumours about Brown's conduct weeks before he resigned early Thursday after the accounts of two women were published by CTV News. He denies any wrongdoing.
The rumours, Macleod said, had to do with "inappropriate touching, or multiple girlfriends," among other things.
Soudas 'looked into' rumours
At first, Macleod told reporters that, after hearing the stories, she "float[ed] them up the flagpole" to the PC campaign team and "war room."
She was told, she said, the rumours were "unfounded."
Hours later, Macleod clarified that she didn't share the rumours with senior campaign staff, party management or anyone within caucus, but rather with friend Dimitri Soudas, a longtime Tory insider who was volunteering on Brown's campaign. The Tories have been preparing for a provincial election in June, looking to unseat Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne.
"He looked into some of the allegations and he hadn't heard anything, but I'm not going to get into specifics about those," she said, adding that she had not been too specific in what she told Soudas.
Soudas, the former director of communications for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, fired back from his Twitter account, writing that he had urged Macleod to raise the issue with Brown and with the PC caucus.
"She clearly didn't," he wrote.
Asked whether her party had more responsibility to look into the rumours, Macleod responded that it was "hard to say."
"Given what we know now, we will do that," she said.
Macleod and Soudas join a growing list of politicians and strategists who say they had heard stories about Brown's conduct long before he resigned.
Conservative strategist John Capobianco told CBC Radio's Metro Morning that "it was certainly conventional wisdom that there was something out there with respect to Patrick."
The "something," he said, had to do with "dating and women."
"We didn't know what was out there, but there was certainly some rumours," said Capobianco.
Scarborough city councillor Michelle Holland told a similar story on CBC Radio's Here and Now on Thursday,
"I've heard numerous rumours over the past year and a half," she said. "To my mind, this isn't news to anybody, it was just a matter of time before it came out."
Brown 'is the real victim'
Brown's family and supporters see it differently.
His sister Stephanie took to Facebook on Friday, writing that Brown "is the real victim."
"These completely false allegations were 100% politically motivated and nothing more than a political hit. I know them for a fact to be untrue," she wrote.
Newly minted PC interim leader Vic Fedeli said Friday that he "never saw anything that would have indicated any activity such as that," during the time he spent with Brown.
Despite that, Fedeli is calling for Brown to take a voluntary leave of absence, despite having the power to force Brown out of the PC caucus if he wants.
With files from the Canadian Press