The chair of the Conservatives’ leadership election organizing committee says the party “could not afford the risk” of having a candidate under investigation for breaking federal laws.
In an e-mail sent to party members Friday morning, Ian Brodie doubled down on the decision as the “right thing” to keep the party “beyond reproach” in the long term.
The missive did not address last night’s late-breaking statement from a whistle-blower, Debra Jodoin, who alleged that Patrick Brown broke election laws by personally directing a private company to pay for her campaign expenses.
Nor did it address the apparent disagreement within the leadership committee over Mr. Brown’s candidacy in the first place.
Sources with knowledge of the situation who would only agree to speak on the condition of anonymity told The Canadian Press that some members of a nominations subcommittee were pushing to disallow Mr. Brown from running in the leadership race.
The debate around his candidacy was largely focused on the politician’s time as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives from 2015 until 2018, according to people familiar with the tenor of the discussions.
Months after Mr. Brown resigned his position amid accusations of sexual impropriety that he denies, the province’s Office of the Integrity Commissioner found that Mr. Brown broke ethics rules by failing to disclose rental income and a large loan that financed the purchase of a waterfront home.
The committee had documents in hand detailing information about the mortgage, other financial matters and social-media posts, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matters that committee members were scrutinizing.
The nominations subcommittee, responsible for vetting potential candidates, was chaired by long-time former MP Deborah Grey and included current MP Nelly Shin, former Yukon premier Darrell Pasloski, former Stephen Harper-era minister Leona Aglukkaq and party vice-president Valerie Assouline, multiple sources confirmed.
Ms. Grey and Mr. Pasloski declined to comment, as did a party spokesman, and the others could not immediately be reached.
The broader leadership organizing committee ended up overruling the naysayers and approving Mr. Brown’s candidacy April 26 – in the interest of letting party members rather than backroom dealers decide his fate, sources said.
That same committee voted 11 to six late Tuesday to remove Mr. Brown from the contest after Mr. Brodie, its chair, brought forward allegations of financial wrongdoing.
Sources familiar with the situation said that specific evidence supporting the allegations, which they said included text messages directly implicating Mr. Brown, was not shown to the leadership committee before it was asked to vote.
Instead, the Conservative Party’s lawyer forwarded the information to the office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections, which confirmed Thursday that it had received documentation but declined to elaborate on its nature, citing confidentiality provisions of the Canada Elections Act.
Mr. Brodie’s Friday morning note further characterized the documentation he received as “credible” and “verifiable,” and thanked members of the committee for asking “important questions as part of a decision that nobody should be forced to make.”
It said the committee “did the right thing, as tough as it is, to protect the long-term interests of the party.”
Yaroslav Baran, a spokesman for the party, said the message was intended to satisfy the “yearning for information” that the bombshell news has created among members this week, “while still keeping within the confines of what’s appropriate.”
Mr. Baran said he hopes that this will be the party’s final word on the matter: “Nobody’s ever well-served by a slow drip, drip, drip.”
Mr. Brown’s campaign has said the party did not provide it with detailed information about the accusation against him, beyond an allegation that a person working on his campaign was being paid for the work by a private corporation – a violation of federal election rules.
And in an interview with The Canadian Press earlier this week, Mr. Brown explicitly denied that he had personal knowledge of any such activity.
But Ms. Jodoin, the whistle-blower, said in a statement released by her lawyer late Thursday that Mr. Brown had told her “it was permissible for me to be employed by a company as a consultant, and then for that company to have me volunteer with the campaign.”
Ms. Jodoin said that he had personally connected her with a third party for that purpose, stating, “I trusted him, but as time went on I became increasingly concerned with the arrangement and suspected it was not OK.”
In the Friday e-mail, Mr. Brodie said the Brown campaign was given multiple opportunities to respond to the allegations last week but that its ultimate reply “did not address our concerns about violations.”
It says that Mr. Brown’s team “knew full well” what the allegations were and any suggestion to the contrary is “simply incorrect.”
On Thursday night, Chisholm Pothier, a spokesman for Mr. Brown, tweeted an excerpt from a letter he said the campaign sent to the leadership committee June 30, which without naming Ms. Jodoin offered a contradictory account of her involvement with the campaign.
The letter said that it was Mr. Brown’s understanding that Ms. Jodoin was volunteering for his campaign outside of work performed for the private company, which was owned by a friend of Mr. Brown’s.
It said that the campaign was prepared to reimburse the money, which it understood to be less than $10,000, if this was not the case.
Mr. Pothier said in a statement that he believed the ouster was orchestrated to “narrow the field” in the leadership race, following accusations from Mr. Brown that top officials were in the bag for rival Pierre Poilievre.
High-profile Toronto lawyer Marie Henein, whom Mr. Brown has hired to represent him in the matter, sent a letter to Mr. Brodie on Friday asking him to convene a DRAC – referring to a “Dispute Resolution Appeals Committee” within the leadership organizing committee.
The party’s rules for its leadership race state that decisions by the chief returning officer are open to such an appeal, including decisions by the returning officer to recommend that LEOC disqualify a candidate, which happened on Tuesday ahead of the vote.
However, the rules also state that decisions by the leadership election committee itself – in other words, the decision to act on the returning officer’s recommendation – are “final” and “not subject to internal appeal or judicial review.
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