Politics

Conservative Party tried to bring Brown into compliance with election laws and failed: leadership chair

The chair of the Conservatives' Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC) said the party tried to bring disqualified candidate Patrick Brown into compliance with federal election laws and leadership race rules for nearly a week, but the effort failed.

Party says it gave Brown 'every opportunity' to address allegations

Patrick Brown gestures at the Conservative Party of Canada English leadership debate in Edmonton on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. The chair of the Conservative Party's Leadership Election Organizing Committee said Friday the party tried to bring Brown's campaign into compliance with leadership race rules and election laws, but failed. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The chair of the Conservatives' Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC) said the party tried to bring disqualified candidate Patrick Brown into compliance with federal election laws and leadership race rules for nearly a week, but the effort failed.

Brown, the mayor of Brampton, Ont., was disqualified from the leadership race Tuesday. On Thursday evening Debbie Jodoin, a former regional organizer on the Brown campaign, said in a media statement through her lawyer that Brown arranged for her to work on his campaign through a third-party company.

In a message to Conservative members Friday morning, LEOC chair Ian Brodie divulged details of the party's communication with the Brown campaign after the committee received information last week that the campaign allegedly violated federal election laws.

"Together with our party's lawyer, I personally engaged for the better part of a week to find a path for the Patrick Brown campaign to be in compliance with our rules and federal law," Brodie said in the email.

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Brodie said that he and the lawyer met with representatives of Brown's campaign on June 29 to tell them about the allegations and say that the party would require a response to them. He said that the party sent a letter to the Brown campaign the next day requesting a response to the allegations.

The Brown campaign responded on July 1 but the response "did not address our concerns about the violations," says Brodie's email.

The two sides communicated until July 5, when LEOC decided to disqualify Brown in an 11–6 vote, the email says.

"In the spirit of good faith and fairness, the party gave them every opportunity to clarify and resolve their concerns aside. Ultimately that effort failed," Brodie said.

"To be clear, the Brown campaign knew full well what the allegations were.  Any suggestion to the contrary is simply incorrect."

Brown and his campaign have claimed that the party failed to adequately inform them about the allegations. In a statement Thursday evening, a spokesperson for the Brown campaign said the party failed to conduct itself fairly and transparently while addressing the allegations, and alleged Brown's disqualification was the result of an effort to thin out the number of candidates.

"The goal was to disqualify Patrick Brown from the leadership race and narrow the field," the statement reads.

Brown's legal team sent a letter to Brodie in response to his statement, criticizing the LEOC chair for releasing a statement to party members and the media while not responding to their request for an appeal of the disqualification.

"We have read Ms. Jodoin's statement, and it is our view that there has been no breach of the Canada Elections Act," the letter reads.

Brown offered to reimburse company, campaign says

Brodie's message came after Jodoin released a statement through her lawyers on Thursday night in which she identified herself as the whistleblower in the Brown campaign. Jodoin said she personally discussed with Brown an arrangement for her to be paid by a private company, and that he approved.

"Mr. Brown told me that it was permissible for me to be employed by a company as a consultant, and then for that company to have me volunteer with the campaign," Jodoin's statement said.

"He connected me by text message with a third party for that purpose. I trusted him, but as time went on I became increasingly concerned with the arrangement and suspected it was not OK."

Brown's campaign is still claiming the party didn't offer full details of the allegation.

Brown's campaign claims that, prior to his disqualification, it had identified Jodoin to the committee as a possible source of the allegations and that the committee never responded.

A letter Brown's campaign sent to LEOC regarding Jodoin says she had approached Brown asking for employment with his campaign. The letter says Brown instead referred her to his friend for a job but that Brown assumed volunteer work for his campaign would not be done on company time.

Brown's campaign offered to reimburse the company that had paid Jodoin, according to the letter.

Enforcement agency investigating allegations

The Commissioner of Canada Elections, the office responsible for enforcement of and compliance with the Canada Elections Act, confirmed Thursday it had received information regarding the Brown campaign's alleged violations of the law.

Liberal MP Adam van Koeverden has requested that election officials look into whether the Conservative Party benefited from the Brown campaign's alleged wrongdoing. 

Brodie said Brown could not continue to be a candidate given the gravity and credibility of the allegations.

"LEOC could not afford the risk of having a leadership candidate under the investigation of Elections Canada for breaking federal law — especially one that did not answer the questions we put forward to him to bring him into compliance," Brodie said.

Brodie said he would like to share all the information the party has on the matter with members but, for legal reasons, he can't right now.

Five candidates remain in the Conservative leadership race. The party will announce the new leader in September.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Richard Raycraft

Web writer and producer

Richard is a web writer with CBC News and an associate producer with CBC Radio. He's worked at CBC in London, Ont., Toronto, Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa.

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