TORONTO — Former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown says he is fighting to reclaim his old job after receiving a wave of support from party members since he resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations.
Brown officially joined the race to lead the Tories late Friday shortly before a registration deadline and Elections Ontario now lists him as one of five candidates vying for the party’s top post.
Speaking at the party headquarters, the Barrie, Ont., politician said he is not running for his own benefit.
“This isn’t about me, this isn’t about the PC party, this is about making sure that on June 7, the Progressive Conservative party is successful,” he said.
“The support we’ve been getting across the province has just been so encouraging—the amount of candidates, the amount of party volunteers, riding presidents who have reached out—frankly, it changed my opinion. this is not what I was thinking about but the support of the party membership has really inspired me.”
Earlier on Friday, Brown was kicked out of the Tory caucus, which means he will sit as an independent when the legislature resumes on Tuesday.
Brown has mounted a campaign in recent days to clear his name, alleging two women who spoke out against him in late January were lying and possibly manipulated by his political enemies inside and outside the party. He has also vowed to sue CTV News, which broadcast the allegations. CTV has said it stands by its reporting.
He said Friday he believes his name has been cleared.
Four other candidates—former Tory legislator Christine Elliott, Toronto lawyer and businesswoman Caroline Mulroney, former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford and social conservative advocate Tanya Granic Allen—are already competing to be party leader.
Mulroney and Ford said Brown joining the race is pulling attention away from what should be the party’s real objectives—defeating the Liberals.
“Patrick Brown made the right decision to step down. A leadership election is not the place for him to clear his name,” Mulroney said on Twitter. “Our focus should remain on beating (Premier) Kathleen Wynne in less than 100 days. This is a distraction from that and I am disappointed.”
Ford said in a statement that the party is stronger without Brown, citing a boost in fundraising and memberships since the former leader resigned.
“The Ontario PC Party needs to focus on defeating the (Kathleen) Wynne Liberals in June,” he said.
Elliott also stressed the importance of unity ahead of the spring election.
“With fewer than 100 days, now is a time for unity. I am the leader that can unite the party and beat Kathleen Wynne,” she said in a statement.