Maybe Patrick Brown is the most unfairly persecuted politician on the planet.
Despite his deep fidelity to the rules and squeaky clean procedural history, trouble seems to find him – or rather, is maliciously assigned to him, in the form of repeated and deliberate political takedowns (which, not coincidentally, inspired the title of his 2018 memoir, Takedown).
Perhaps there’s something about Mr. Brown that his many enemies, both past and present, have feared – enemies that have at times included the news media, the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party and, now, the federal Conservative Party, which disqualified him from its leadership race Tuesday evening over “serious allegations of wrongdoing.” Is it his moderate form of conservatism? His vision for Canada that is radically … uh … inclusive? Why else would Mr. Brown – noted choirboy, scrupulous ethicist, the Ned Flanders of contemporary Canadian politics – so routinely be the subject of financial, moral and procedural scandal?
Maybe it was all borne from political opportunism, starting with a claim from then-rival Christine Elliott, back in 2015, that Mr. Brown was improperly reporting his fundraising earnings to the Ontario PC party. Later, after he became its leader, Mr. Brown was accused by the party of turning a blind eye to irregularities in nomination practices in certain ridings. Maybe these claims were all bogus, intended to cut down a tall poppy as he grew into his political power.
Maybe the women who accused him of sexual impropriety in a report by CTV – the allegations that led to his ouster as PC leader in 2018 – were lying, too, even though the story that led to his downfall remains online today (with a correction as to one woman’s age), even after a legal dispute with CTV was resolved without any money exchanging hands. The report is now prefaced with a warning label to this effect, but maybe there’s something about defamation law that we laypeople don’t understand that allows a story that Mr. Brown says is complete fiction to remain online for anyone to read.
Maybe the many scandals that trailed Mr. Brown since then – for example, that he failed to disclose a $375,000 loan from a friend who later became a PC candidate – was another unfair “gotcha” of a politician who is usually transparent about the intersection of his personal and financial relationships. Maybe everything was kosher surrounding Mr. Brown’s attempt as mayor of Brampton, Ont., to create a university in his city, even though the majority of funds, according to a letter released by five Brampton councillors Wednesday, went to a firm that employs a close associate of Mr. Brown. Maybe there’s nothing fishy about the hiring of a couple of Brown allies who were implicated in a Niagara Region hiring scandal, and perhaps Mr. Brown was honestly mistaken when he claimed that the Ontario Ombudsman had “cleared” the men of wrongdoing.
And maybe this most recent disgrace – the disqualification of Mr. Brown from the CPC leadership race – is completely unfounded and was orchestrated, as Mr. Brown has claimed, by allies of Pierre Poilievre on the leadership committee (even though CPC president Robert Batherson said Wednesday that the allegations first came from those connected to the Brown campaign). Maybe there’s nothing to the allegation that a corporation paid staffers on Mr. Brown’s campaign, which would be in clear violation of election law. Mr. Brown said he was blindsided by the news of his disqualification Tuesday evening, though sources who spoke to the Toronto Star and National Post said the campaign was informed of the allegation last week.
And perhaps the leadership committee is so in the tank for Mr. Poilievre that some individuals, such as committee chair Ian Brodie, are willing to put their reputations – and that of the party, having referred the matter to Elections Canada – on the line in order to take down the Brown campaign. Maybe their determination for a Poilievre victory (which seemed likely even before Mr. Brown’s disqualification) was so strong they opted to run with a tenuously sourced allegation, even though getting it wrong would be disastrous for the party and the credibility of the leadership vote.
Maybe there’s nothing suspicious about the fact that Mr. Brown lost his national co-chair, Michelle Rempel Garner, and campaign manager, Sean Schnell, in recent weeks amid other allegations of wrongdoing: Namely, that his campaign was paying for memberships, and that it was employing Brampton city staff members. Ms. Rempel Garner and Mr. Schnell said they left to explore her possible bid for the leadership of the United Conservative Party of Alberta, which Ms. Rempel Garner decided not to pursue, though neither returned to Mr. Brown’s campaign afterward.
Maybe all of these controversies and scandals were contrived; conjured up to malign an honest politician who plays by the rules to achieve selfless ends. Perhaps Patrick Brown, perpetually persecuted, is being railroaded once again. Maybe the only pattern here is one of unjust political targeting and cynical leadership takedowns. Maybe Mr. Brown’s vision for Canada is just too pure for this world.
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