As It Happens

Former PC staffer on how political life lends itself to 'inappropriate behaviour'

With Patrick Brown's ouster, the Ontario Progressive Conservative party is rapidly grappling with where to turn next — just months ahead of an election.
Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown leaves Queen's Park after giving a brief press conference on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. Brown says he "categorically'' denies "troubling allegations'' about his conduct. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)

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With Patrick Brown's ouster, the Ontario Progressive Conservative party is rapidly grappling with where to turn next — just months ahead of an election.

Brown stepped down as party leader following a CTV News report that two women made allegations dating back to when he was a federal MP. He denied those allegations during a hastily-called press conference Wednesday night.

Patrick Brown denies allegations

5 years ago
Duration 1:28
Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown denied allegations of sexual misconduct at an unexpected news conference at Queen's Park Wednesday night.

The party vowed Thursday they would be ready for the June 7 provincial election and that they will form the next government. But it's left the provincial Tories in damage control. They are expected to pick an interim leader Friday.

"I'm sad for my party," Ginny Movat told As It Happens. The former Ontario PC party campaigner and staffer spoke to guest host Helen Mann about what the allegations mean for the party and how they can move forward.

What do you think of the way he handled himself [in the press conference]?

I don't think that was a well thought out press conference. I think he convinced himself, maybe a few people close around him, convinced him that there'd be an opportunity to survive this.

I think this idea of referencing the fact that you have sisters as somehow a reason why you might not have committed the actions he's alleged to have committed ... that's not really an excuse. It's not an explanation.

Patrick Brown chased by media as he flees Queen's Park

5 years ago
Duration 1:16
Makes quick exit without statement after hastily calling press conference to deny misconduct allegations

So that was grossly inadequate and a bit mind boggling and as soon as it ended, my immediate thought was that I'm not sure how he lasts the night as a leader and ultimately he didn't.

As you heard about those accounts, what did you think? What did you feel?

I felt upset. I mean, I felt sad for the victims and impressed with their bravery at coming forward. You know there are a few areas that people look to now for what is acceptable behaviour, particularly of elected officials. One is what is the age of the person that is making that accusation or what was their age at the time? Was there a power imbalance? And was there a consent element?

In this circumstance, all three of those categories the leader appears to be accused of having been off-side.

Political observers, members of the media have suggested these allegations were an open secret. If that is true, how could Mr. Brown's senior staff or members of the caucus not have known about them?

I think it's irresponsible and not altogether fair to imply that the allegations themselves were an open secret. So were there rumours? Almost certainly.

During his press conference, Brown was visibly emotional. He said he was made aware of the allegations earlier on Wednesday, but did not provide details on what the allegations were. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)

But there were no media outlets that came forward with these allegations until last night because I think there was a lot of work that went into proving and making a case for their veracity. It was a really strong report and I believe that they were all quite shocked.

Should parties not be more proactive in finding out whether those things are potentially true?

I think it's incumbent upon political parties. Look, there's no doubt that the circumstances in which politics occur on the Hill, at Queens Park, I worked to Queens Park. I've been there as a young woman in fact and there is no doubt that the circumstances there lend themselves to inappropriate behaviour.

Ontario Conservative party officials react to Patrick Brown resignation

5 years ago
Duration 0:53
Must choose new leader before June election

The nature of people coming into an abundance of power very suddenly and those power imbalances being very stark. There's a culture in political social life where there's quite a bit of drinking often under all sorts of circumstances that create a situation where we see it coming out. And I think it's a good thing. I think sunlight is probably the best disinfectant.

Are we going to see more of this come to daylight from the Ontario legislature?

I do [think so]. Yeah I do. I think that victims will feel emboldened, as they should, and it will further undermine and push out those abusers who have been hiding in the system.

Do you fear that your party's thrown away what looked like a good chance to govern again?

I am nervous. I've been through a few losses so I'm sort of hardened to it. You know there have been shorter paths to victory in politics but not many.

Brown was running on a platform for the 2018 election which featured a signed "guarantee" from him that if he failed to bring in his five key promises in his first term in office, he would step down. It is unclear if the PCs will move forward with what Brown promised in his platform. (Mike Crawley/CBC)

And it could be appealing for a few candidates. You know some of the bigger name candidates who maybe wouldn't want to commit 10 years to trying to become a leader and a premier. This is one of the shortest paths to possible victory that we've ever seen in provincial politics. Five months is not a long time. So I'm optimistic. I'm sad. But I'm optimistic.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.