Patrick Brown and priorities: Why the PC Party leader couldn't last -

Patrick Brown and priorities: Why the PC Party leader couldn’t last

Paul Wells: There is a right to a day in court—but not to the leadership of a political party and a caucus that will not have you


UPDATE (1:45 AM ET): Patrick Brown has announced he will resign as leader of the Ontario PC Party, but will stay on as an MPP.

I know I’m paid to game out the electoral repercussions of public events, but it is not easy to generate much enthusiasm for the task in the wake of explosive allegations of sexual assault by Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown.

The province’s election, scheduled for June 7 under a fixed election-date law, will sort itself out, and suddenly seems quite distant anyway. What is much closer is the claims themselves, unearthed by CTV reporters Rachel Aiello and Glen McGregor and backed in one case by an extensive and contemporaneous social-media record. The stories told by the reporters’ two sources are far worse than stale anecdotes about an after-hours scoundrel. Rather, they suggest the systematic use of alcohol to deny meaningful consent to very young women, one of whom depended on Brown for career advancement.

These accounts have not been independently verified. Brown has denied them and said he will seek legal recourse against his accusers. That’s his right. I know Andrea Horwath, the province’s NDP leader, is the furthest thing from an impartial judge, but I think she drew a useful distinction between the right to a day in court and the right to lead a political party, come what may: only the first of those rights actually exists. Brown “deserves his day in court,” Horwath said in a news release, “but no person can lead a political party in this province with allegations like these hanging over his head.”

Among those who seem to agree are most of the people who were, until Wednesday night, Brown’s closest political advisors, including two I know personally and take to be among the most thoughtful members of their party, deputy campaign chair Dan Robertson and chief of staff Alykhan Velshi. They quit rather than support their leader. Given the success they’ve had bringing Brown close to a likely electoral victory, it must have been a terribly difficult day. But not a hard decision: Robertson and Velshi would certainly have helped Brown impose a swift exit on any member of the PC caucus who faced similar accusations, and due process take the hindmost.

READ MORE: Patrick Brown denies allegations: Transcript

Armchair political theorists sometimes lament the fact that Canadian political parties lack a formal mechanism for replacing their leaders through a simple vote of their parliamentary caucus. Caucuses used to pick and depose leaders just like that, on short notice and with no appeal to the broader party membership. Australian political party caucuses sometimes launch such “spills” against their leaders, to the delighted envy of Canadian process wonks.

On Wednesday night, observers were quick to note there is no such mechanism, either formal or traditional, in the Ontario PC constitution for deposing a leader who doesn’t want to go. I believe we’ll soon be reminded no formal mechanism is needed. Politics is the art of the possible: leading a caucus that will not have you is not possible.

Brown cannot last as leader. Who will replace him? I don’t know. Will a new leader be better for the PCs’ fortunes than he would have been? We’ll find out. It’s not, in the first instance, what matters. What matters is consent, allegedly denied to two women, now irrevocably withdrawn from one politician.



Patrick Brown and priorities: Why the PC Party leader couldn’t last

  1. The allegations need to be taken seriously & investigated thoroughly. But what happened to the presumption of innocence, a fair trial/investigation which is owed to the accused? Destroying someone’s life based on allegations is not any better than ignoring the voice of a victim.

    • If this was a Grit, would you have formed the same opinion, i think not.

      • Lets hope the media gives this the same scrutiny as they did with Wynne and Trudeau, because if it bleeds, it leads..

  2. He has not been charged and is still a sitting MPP. In this case the allegations are being taken seriously enough by the party that he cannot stay on as leader. Yes, politics does have an impact on a senior politician, especially if he/she is a leader of a party. It is between Mr. Brown and the Party as to whether it would be best for him, and their upcoming election hopes, for him to resign or stay on as leader. Patrick Brown is a senior politician and like most execs and high profile people he is held to a different standard. That is why they get the big bucks.

    • Thats 2 conservative Premiers brought down for sexual allegations, just imagine if theses guys had been given the keys to the castle. Their seems to be a lot of Donald Trumps within the conservative party, how about Andrew Sheer, oh i forgot, he is the Mike Pence of the North and conservative party, a bible thumper, and probably has to have his wife around, when he is in the presence of another women.

      • Trudeau has turfed 5 of his own for similar crap. I’m actually glad Brown is gone-he was too weak-on many files he sounded like a Liberal. Good chance Lisa Raitt will replace him. She should beat the crap out of Wynne.

    • “He has not been charged.” I don`t think there is anything you could charge him with. These accusations were simply aimed at bringing him down politically. Brown, however, may be in a position to sue CTV over the irresponsible publication of salacious details of a private sexual encounter.

  3. How many times did i post on this site, saying Patrick Brown will never become Premier of Ontario, just like i predicted a lot of things on here, so if anyone of you talking heads, journos, bloggers and any other right wing mouthpiece wants the tea leaves of politics read in this country, i don’t steep my leaves, i tell it like it is..Good job last night Mr. Wells on PnP, i see a bright future in your TV career. It takes a lot to impress me, though i still think David Cochrane, excuse my bias because he hails from where i hail, is probably the best person for the job on PnP, but i think if you had a few months on the job, you would blend fine too. i have good judgement of character, i know the right stuff when i see it. i don’t get into policies like most, i use common sense and look at the character of the person..

    • Can’t help but feel sorry for the Ottawa media: finally a real scandal not a manufactured one, and it’s not at the federal level.

    • I agree with your assessment who should lead the CBC PnP.
      In the past few months the CBC Management “tested” few candidates internally and externally and David Cochrane, in my view was the best candidate to lead the program permanently. I am not from Atlantic Provinces like you, I am from Ontario.
      Paul Wells is an excellent writer/commentator/thinker rather then TV personality, I like Paul very much and we are from the same city.

  4. Thank you for the balanced reporting Paul. It is a breath of fresh air in these divisive times
    and certainly on the Maclean’s forum which can often be challenged in the ‘balanced journalism’ area.

    It still worries me that anyone can make an allegation and destroy someone’s life and we all must be
    very careful and always consider the source of the allegations. This time it seems that his resignation was
    the right thing to do.

    • I wonder if Paul or some other Ottawa based reporters know or can guess why Brown never had any success at the federal level during his backbench years in the Harper government.

      • We’re pretty innocent out in the boonies here.
        But they are now saying this was an open secret in Ottawa media circles for years. True?

  5. I never knew why he was chosen as Conservative Leader in the 1st place: he’s a Liberal Lite, flip-flopping on so many things + M103 + Carbon Tax. Now this fiasco of apology (folding like a cheap suit, teary eyes, shaky voice). Please, Conservatives, elect a REAL Leader, with balls, with actual will to fight and with true conservative ideas. Caroline Mulroney? Christine Eliott? Yeah, these ladies have more balls than Patrick Brown – what a joke.

    • Many people did not like him –myself included, but that does not justify using this pathetic tactic of smearing a person’s reputation with anonymous accusations. Unfortunately this unsavoury strategy of mud slinging based on ten-year old ambiguous claims of sexual transgressions will be used again and again since it seems to work.

      • Of course, the accusations are under the belt despicable blows. Gleefully convenient for Wynne and Horvath. But if the allegations are so untrue like he said, then FIGHT. Fight, for God’s sakes. Not fold like that. Take a lesson from Trump who fought tooth-and-nail and FIGHT. I don’t know but the process for electing a leader in Conservative Party of Ontario needs to be reviewed. For the life of me I don’t understand how a limp lukewarm guy like Brown was elected in the 1st place. I know, he’s a good guy, he means well yadda-yadda but against Liberals & NDP you need a much stronger stance to have a chance.

    • I fully agree with you. I’m hoping Lisa Raitt replaces him. She’d be far better.

  6. Didn’t Wynne have issues with two unknown Ontario MPP a few years ago? Nothing divulged. We should also wish to examine harassment based on same sex,but we don’t. Perhaps that’s an area media is too afraid to mention.

    • Are you talking about Benjamin Levin? Currently incarcerated for counseling to commit a child sexual assault and the creating and distributing child pornography?

      He was the Deputy Minister for Education and served under McGuinty and along side Wynne. He is also one of the major contributors, consultants and overseers of the Ontario Sex Education Curriculum that is currently being taught to our 2,000,000 enrolled public education students.

      If anything — the fact that we allowed his material to be taught to our students — points to how far we’ve come and how tolerant the great citizen’s of Ontario are. If we can distribute and teach the pedagogy of an incarcerated individual like Levin — surely our hearts will be big enough to perhaps forgive Brown.

  7. “Rather, they suggest the systematic use of alcohol to deny meaningful consent to very young women, one of whom depended on Brown for career advancement.” I take issue with Wells`description of what in fact occurred. It is normal to offer drinks when entertaining. The women were not underage (for sex). Making sexual overtures to attractive women is also normal, and sensible women speak up when they are not interested. Brown did not force himself on anyone. This is a media pile-on against a conservative politician. What would happen if an attractive Liberal politician made similar overtures to women — maybe even our PM??? I`ll tell you what — nothing. No one would even bother to investigate. Most women have experienced something similar. Sexual advances are not always welcome, but that needs to be communicated at the time — not ten years later. Most women do not come out ten years later with coy innuendos aimed at destroying someone`s career.

    • As none drinker, i personally believe if a man tries to go to bed with a women who is drunk and not in control of her faculties, i consider that as rape. Women are more vulnerable when drinking than men are, just watch the movie, ‘Anatomy of a Murder’ with Jimmy Stewart and Lee Remick, and it is the same mentality men use towards women today . Men are not understanding women with the same ears, you have to understand a womens point of view. i would not want to try and guess how many times a women gets approached in a sexual way or manor every min. in this world. Men have to get past this cave man mentality when it comes to women. This is only my opinion.

      • Who said the women were drunk? They did have drinks, but there is no indication that they were unable to control the situation. In fact — they did! You seem to want a world in which men may not make sexual overtures to women. Unfortunately men making overtures to women is a normal sexual situation. At an earlier point — I think late sixties — it was determined that women are as interested in having sex as men. Some are. So we had the sexual revolution. Now some women want to behave as though that never happened. We have lost sight of the rules for sexual interaction. NOT forcing yourself on a women when she signals disinterest is the main rule. Brown did not violate that rule. Men not being allowed to initiate a sexual interaction is NOT a rule. This situation is reminiscent of the Liberal guy who had sex with a woman AFTER she gives him a condom. Our sexual communications have gotten very confused and public voyeurism along with political exploitation do not help.

  8. Good. He wasn’t actually a conservative anyway, just an opportunistic “Anyway the wind blows” politician like McGuinty. There are lingering questions about how he was able to get to where he is (was) anyway, signs indicate that he was gaming the system.

  9. A former drama teacher could be open to all forms of allegations by former students. The new media inspired way to take down politicians.