Patrick Brown disqualified from Conservative leadership race

With two months to go before the Conservative Party chooses its next leader, Patrick Brown has been ejected from the race over allegations he broke financing rules.

Party alleges he broke financing rules, which Brown denies

Patrick Brown has been disqualified from the Conservative Party of Canada leadership race. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

With two months to go before the Conservative Party chooses its next leader, Patrick Brown has been ejected from the race over allegations he broke financing rules.

The bombshell news came in a statement released late Tuesday night by the party's leadership election organizing committee, which said Brown, who is currently the mayor of Brampton, Ont., was being disqualified from the race after "serious allegations of wrongdoing" related to financing rules.

"We regret having to take these steps but we have an obligation to ensure that both our party's rules and federal law are respected by all candidates and campaign teams," said the statement from Ian Brodie, head of the Conservative Party's Leadership Election Organizing Committee, which oversees the race.

Those involved did their best to be fair to Brown and his campaign, Brodie said, giving them time to substantively refute the allegations.

"None of these problems has any impact on the integrity of the vote itself," he said, adding the party will share the information it has with Elections Canada.

Brown's campaign quickly fired back, saying in a statement early Wednesday that his disqualification is unfounded and an attempt to ensure that his rival, Pierre Poilievre, wins the race. It added it would consult its legal team.

The campaign said it only learned of the decision to eject him through the media.

The statement said the allegations are anonymous and that the campaign wasn't given the full details of the allegations. However, it said the campaign still attempted to respond to the party's questions and claims.

Brown's campaign suggested the "reprehensible, undemocratic behaviour" of disqualifying him was done to benefit the race's presumed front-runner.

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Asked about the defection of two MPs from Patrick Brown to Pierre Poilievre's team, Interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen says she knows that candidates will run a good race and, in the end, the party will stand united behind its new leader.

"Why is the party doing this? It was expecting a coronation for Pierre Poilievre," the statement said.

"When the final membership numbers came in, it became clear Poilievre did not have the points to win this race.

"The attempt to silence Canadians and skirt democratic values through this unfounded disqualification is the only way to ensure his victory was secured."

The statement said the disqualification is "an embarrassment," suggesting the party is not serious about winning a general election. 

Poilievre campaign spokesperson, Anthony Koch, fired back in a media statement on Wednesday morning, calling the accusations against Brown "credible."

"As should have been expected, in the hours since the decision, Patrick has lashed out at our campaign and the Party. As always, when caught, Patrick tries to make himself into a victim, but ultimately the only person responsible for his disqualification is himself," the statement reads.

A spokesperson for Jean Charest, another leadership candidate, said in a statement that the news is "deeply troubling" and called on the party to provide more information.

"We must ensure integrity of the process. Members deserve the truth. We need to understand what the allegations are and how Patrick Brown's campaign responded. Transparency is paramount," the statement reads.

A notice from Brampton city council dated Tuesday said a council meeting scheduled to take place on Wednesday has been cancelled "at the direction of the Mayor."

Brown will still appear on ballot: source

A Conservative source familiar with leadership election organizing committee, who is not authorized to speak publicly about internal party matters, told CBC News late Tuesday that Brown's name will still be on the ballot.

The source said that the hundreds of thousands of ballots required to carry out this race have already been printed and stuffed into envelopes, ready to be sent out to party members ahead of the September vote.

The source said the party will likely follow the same process it did in 2017, when Kevin O'Leary pulled out of that leadership race after the ballots had already been sent out. 

On ballots where people have marked Brown as their first choice, party officials will ignore that selection and only count the subsequent candidate selections.

The source said the party is confident that, even with this late elimination, there is no threat to the integrity of the vote. The party already conducted an extensive review of the membership list and weeded out several thousand would-be voters late last month, the source said.

The news of Brown's ejection is a major upset in an already tumultuous race filled with personal barbs. 

Brown has run under the slogan "fighter, leader, winner" and has relentlessly attacked Poilievre. 

Brown has already dealt with turmoil in his political career, which included time as a federal MP and three years as leader of Ontario's Progressive Conservatives.

Race has raised interest in Conservative Party

He resigned as Ontario Progressive Conservative leader only months before the 2018 election, when CTV News reported on two sexual misconduct allegations against him. 

CTV later settled a defamation suit with Brown and acknowledged "key details" in its initial reporting were factually incorrect and required correction.

Brown was one of six contenders for the leadership.

While sharp attacks have been one of the defining qualities of the race to replace Erin O'Toole as leader, the race has also generated a lot of interest in the Conservative Party.

Last week, the party announced that about 675,000 people had signed up to choose the new leader.

The results of the leadership race are expected to be announced on Sept. 10 in Ottawa.


Catherine Cullen

Senior reporter

Catherine Cullen covers Parliament Hill for CBC News in Ottawa. She writes frequently about the Conservative Party. She has also worked in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.

With files from Richard Raycraft.