A former campaign organizer for Patrick Brown says the disqualified Conservative leadership candidate was aware that a corporation was paying her for campaign work, which is illegal under federal election laws.
Debra Jodoin, a long-time party activist, released a statement on Thursday evening, saying she is the whistleblower who informed the Conservative Party that Mr. Brown had encouraged her to work for him while under the auspices of a private company.
“In April, 2022, I agreed to join the Patrick Brown Leadership Campaign at Mr. Brown’s request to assist as a regional organizer,” she said. “Mr. Brown told me that 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 Mr. Brown connected her by text message with a third party, whom she did not identify.
“I trusted him, but as time went on I became increasingly concerned with the arrangement and suspected it was not okay,” she said.
In June, Ms. Jodoin said she asked Mr. Brown personally that the campaign pay her expenses. Mr. Brown expressed surprise that the expenses had not been covered and said he was “on it,” she said.
Shortly after that, Ms. Jodoin said: “a corporation paid me and paid for my expenses, not the Brown campaign.”
The Conservative Party has not revealed any details about why it disqualified the Brampton mayor, other than saying it involved campaign financial irregularities.
Chisholm Pothier, a spokesperson for Mr. Brown’s campaign, responded to the story with a tweet, writing that the party’s leadership committee raised the Jodoin issue with the campaign and, in response, it wrote a letter to the committee on June 30.
Mr. Pothier tweeted a section of the letter. It does not name Ms. Jodoin, but says Mr. Brown believes the matter was related to an unnamed individual who sought employment opportunities with the campaign. Because there were none available, Mr. Brown referred the individual to a friend who headed a company. The unnamed individual ended up volunteering for the campaign but the letter says Mr. Brown’s understanding was that the volunteer work was done outside the company work.
According to the excerpt of the letter tweeted by Mr. Pothier, Mr. Brown was prepared to reimburse the company owner and the company for any funds involved, thought to be under $10,000.
Jason Beitchman, counsel for Ms. Jodoin, said his client shared her concerns with the Conservative Party.
“It was at her request that the party made efforts to keep Ms. Jodoin’s identity confidential. She is a private citizen, not a public or political figure, and has many friends and colleagues in all campaigns. She did not wish to be in the middle of a political issue,” he said.
However, Ms. Jodoin’s name leaked out and she decided to come forward as the whistleblower, he said.
“Her primary interest is to ensure the integrity of the democratic process and that the rule of law is followed. On that basis, she felt it was her obligation to raise her concerns, and leave it to others to determine what further steps should be taken, if any.”
Mr. Beitchman said Ms. Jodoin provided the text messages between her and Mr. Brown to Ian Brodie, who heads the party’s leadership election organizing committee (LEOC). Mr. Brodie did not share the details of those text messages or her identity with other members of the LEOC.
Mr. Brown has denied any improper actions. He was expelled from the race for what the party called “serious allegations of wrongdoing.” Five candidates remain in the race, the winner of which will be announced on Sept. 10.
The national co-chair of Mr. Brown’s campaign says an appeal has been launched over his disqualification. John Reynolds, a former Conservative MP, said an appeal to the courts will be made if necessary.
Former Conservative Party director Dimitri Soudas said he is concerned that the Brown campaign will try to destroy Ms. Jodoin’s reputation, a woman he has known for 20 years.
“Her actions speak to her integrity and high standards of ethics,” he said.
Mr. Brown has retained Marie Henein, a prominent criminal-defence lawyer whose past clients include former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi and former Ontario attorney-general Michael Bryant, to act for him as he seeks to overturn the disqualification.
On Wednesday, the Toronto lawyer and her associate, Alex Smith, sent letters to Mr. Brodie, the LEOC chair, and to the party’s dispute-resolution appeals committee.
In one letter, the legal pair say they are appealing Mr. Brown’s disqualification.
“To be clear, Mr. Brown has engaged in absolutely no misconduct. Your refusal to specify the allegations grounding your recommendation demonstrate this,” they write. “He has refuted the paltry information you have provided and repeatedly asked for particulars. This Kafkaesque process led to a politically motivated and preordained result and is not consistent with the values that should be upheld by this party.”
The lawyers also said that tens of thousands of Canadians – “in particular, new Canadians” – that Mr. Brown brought into the party have been disenfranchised by his disqualification.
In a second letter, the lawyers say that, because Mr. Brown’s disqualification may be the subject of “anticipated litigation,” they are asking the party to ensure all documents and records associated with the disqualification be preserved.
Party president Robert Batherson said it is too soon to comment on whether the party is preserving records because they are awaiting legal advice on the issue as well as the appeal.
“The party is extremely confident in our legal position, and, more importantly, extremely confident we did the right thing,” he said. “We gave Mr. Brown and his campaign the better part of a week to get in compliance. We asked detailed questions. Unfortunately, Mr. Brown and his campaign team failed to provide us with the answers we needed to maintain his candidacy.”
Meanwhile, Elections Canada is being urged by a Liberal MP to launch an immediate, independent investigation into allegations of potential financial crimes in the current Conservative leadership race that could have benefited the Conservative Party.
In his appeal to interim elections commissioner Marc Chénier, MP Adam van Koeverden, who is also the parliamentary secretary to the Health Minister, linked the need for a probe to the party’s move to disqualify Mr. Brown from the leadership race this week.
“There are serious questions, given the nature of the Conservative Party leadership rules and the party’s membership fees, as to whether the party itself may have benefited from the alleged illegal actions of the leadership contest,” Mr. van Koeverden wrote.
The Milton MP said that benefits could be a monetary windfall for the party from membership fees sold by the contestant or leadership fees paid to the party by the contestant, or donations in kind such as labour or services that ultimately furthered the party’s political interests, but were paid for by third-party entities.
“Given these potential illegal benefits accruing to the Conservative Party, any investigation must not be limited to an individual leadership contestant but must follow the money if there was a potential benefit to the party as a whole,” he wrote.
Michelle Laliberté, a spokesperson for the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections, said Thursday that her office has received both Mr. van Koeverden’s letter as well as a submission of material from the Conservatives about the issues around Mr. Brown.
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