Patrick Brown accused of 'dirty and crooked politics' as Ontario MPP calls for investigation

Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP Randy Hillier is calling for a "significant" investigation into Patrick Brown's personal finances over allegations the former Tory leader engaged in "dirty and crooked politics" that breached the province's ethics rules.

Randy Hillier files complaint alleging the ousted PC leader breached the province's ethics rules

Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Patrick Brown was expelled from caucus by interim leader Vic Fedeli. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP Randy Hillier is calling for a "significant" investigation into Patrick Brown's personal finances over allegations the former Tory leader engaged in "dirty and crooked politics" that breached the province's ethics rules. 

Hillier, who is supporting former MPP Christine Elliott in the PC leadership race, filed a complaint with Ontario's integrity commissioner Tuesday afternoon, citing that he has "reasonable grounds" to believe Brown violated the Members' Integrity Act by not properly declaring his income to pay for his Barrie, Ont., house, reporting gifts and travel, and disclosing income related to nomination votes. 

"There are disconcerting patterns related to the Member's personal finances, which require explanation," Hillier wrote in the five-page complaint obtained by CBC Toronto. 

"Recent media reports are now indicating a pattern of behaviour that could only result in an assertion of what appears to be financial impropriety; a legal failure to report gifts and lavish travel from third parties and lobbyists; and, a statutory failure to report other sources of income." 

Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP Randy Hillier filed a complaint on Tuesday with the province's integrity commissioner against PC leadership candidate Patrick Brown. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

The move comes shortly after Brown announced his candidacy for the party's snap leadership race, which he triggered last month by stepping down amid accusations of sexual misconduct. 

Brown already "vehemently" denied the allegations levied by two women, which date back to when he was a federal MP, and has repeatedly said he has cleared his name since the allegations were published. 

The Simcoe North MPP was booted from Tory caucus last week, which forced him to sit as an independent in the Legislature when it resumed Tuesday from its winter break. 

CBC Toronto asked Brown about Hillier's complaint outside PC Headquarters on Tuesday evening. He responded by saying "that's just Randy being Randy. It was all garbage and I'll have a response shortly to the integrity comissioner."

Brown remained defiant of the allegations questioning his ethics in a Facebook post issued earlier in the day.

"I want you to know that over the next weeks you may hear or see stories questioning my integrity, character and my leadership of our party," he wrote. 

He also vowed to clear his name. 

"We have an obligation to the people of Ontario to get our province back on course," he wrote. "I want to finish the job that we started." 

Brown didn't properly disclose income: Hillier

In the complaint, Hillier, the MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, referred to a recent Globe and Mail report detailing allegations that in 2016, Brown tried to sell Aeroplan miles and his partial ownership of a Barrie restaurant for $375,00 while in negotiations with a man who later became a Tory candidate in the riding of Brampton North. 

The restaurant involved is Hooligans, an eatery and sports bar in downtown Barrie; Brown owned a 9.9 per cent interest. It is also the former site of The Bank, a nightclub where one of Brown's accusers claims she was with him before he made unwanted sexual advances toward her in 2013.   

CBC News has not independently confirmed any of the details laid out in the report. 

Brown responded on Twitter Monday, calling the story "yet another example of a failed attempt at a political hit job by our opponents." He then accused a former member of his senior staff of giving the newspaper an intentionally misleading version of events.

Hillier said Brown attributed the $375,000 as a gift from his family to assist him in purchasing his $2.3 million waterfront house on Lake Simcoe. 

"Such assistance does not appear in his public disclosure," Hillier's complaint read. "How is the public to have confidence in the financial affairs of elected officials if transfers of large sums of money are not accounted for in legally required [public] disclosures."

Brown maintained his version of the events in a Facebook post Tuesday. 

"The story out there today is intended as an attack on my character and my ability to manage my personal finances," he wrote. "Let me be clear, like many young Canadians — my family loaned me the money to help with the down payment on my house."

Brown added he has "always been in full compliance" of the Members' Integrity Act in disclosing his personal finances and business dealings. 

Hooligans restaurant in downtown Barrie is the former site of the nightclub called The Bank, where a woman claims she was with Brown before he made unwanted sexual advances toward her in 2013. (CBC)

Hillier's complaint goes on to highlight Brown's travel to India, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and Fiji, which he alleges were business trips that "were not paid for by the PC party" and "to the best of our knowledge, were not paid by him." 

He claims that Brown took part in several all-expense paid trips that raise questions of "conflict of interest" due to his position as PC leader. 

Hillier alleges in January 2016, Brown and a PC party intern travelled to India on a trip that was paid for by a man through an Ontario-based telecommunications company. Hillier claims Brown was in a romantic relationship with the intern.

"If it were to be discovered that [the man] paid for these trips; elements of them; in whole or in part in excess of a global figure of $200, it would raise significant issues of conflict of interest," said the complaint. 

He purposely and willfully lied to the people of Ontario.- MPP Randy Hillier

According to the Members' Integrity Act, government officials have 30 days to issue a disclosure statement after receiving a gift that is valued at more than $200. 

This alleged failure, according to Hillier, is a "conflict of interest" for Brown who was head of Ontario's Opposition during the time of travel — between January 2016 and December 2017. Hillier adds all of the companies and people who allegedly paid for these trips were linked to conducting business with the provincial government or the PC party. 

CBC News has not confirmed any of the details regarding Brown's travel. 

"I've known Patrick Brown to lie just about every time he opens his mouth," Hillier told reporters Tuesday morning outside the legislative chamber. 

"He purposely and willfully lied to the people of Ontario."

He added in a statement late Tuesday that Brown's financial impropriety is "deeply troubling."

PC committee votes on Brown's candidacy

Hillier's complaint comes during the PC leadership race, which will be decided on March 10. 

Apart from Brown, four other candidates have entered contest while the Tories continue to fend off accusations of mismanagement and corruption. 

Brown's entry into the leadership contest hours before the Friday deadline further roiled the party. This move was met with sharp criticism from other candidates and caucus members. 

Since then, Hillier has been a vocal opponent. He issued a statement late Tuesday reiterating his position that Brown is "unfit to be leader, unfit to be a member of the Ontario PC Caucus, and unfit to serve in this Legislature."

As of Tuesday morning, however, there was confusion about whether Brown would in fact be cleared to run for leader.

His candidacy must be approved by the PC's provincial nomination committee, which wields the power to reject a candidate on any grounds it sees fit.

Interim leader Vic Fedeli stressed that he has no influences over the committee's decisions, which will be announced Wednesday. 

"It's an open and fair process. The rules apply to everyone, all of the five candidates that are entered," Fedeli said.

"I am going to leave it up to the leadership process."


Amara McLaughlin

Senior producer, CBC News

Amara McLaughlin is the senior producer of social media for CBC News in Toronto.

With files from Natalie Nanowski