Patrick Brown was going to be Ontario’s next premier, according to a lawsuit filed by the former Progressive Conservative leader, who alleges his political career and reputation were “demolished” by the reporting of sexual misconduct allegations.
Mr. Brown resigned after pressure from his party’s lawmakers on Jan. 25, hours after CTV News aired a story with allegations from two women that he had provided them with alcohol and acted inappropriately during his time as a federal MP. In a statement of claim filed on Monday, Mr. Brown said the network and its journalists failed to scrutinize the allegations properly.
The Barrie-area politician, who now sits as an independent MPP, is seeking $8-million in damages.
Before the story aired, the Tories were ahead of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals in the polls and had enjoyed record fundraising. Only four months before the election expected on June 7, many believed the PC Party would be the next government.
The 35-page lawsuit says Mr. Brown was “emotionally devastated” by the story and has suffered from stress and anxiety. “Mr. Brown has dedicated his life to politics and public service,” the statement of claim says. “The swift demolition of his personal and professional reputation on national television left Mr. Brown in a complete state of shock and disbelief. Mr. Brown did not want to leave his home. He felt his world was crashing in on him.”
The document says CTV gave Mr. Brown only a few hours to respond before the story was broadcast. It says the network’s reporting was “false, malicious, unfair and irresponsible.” The story’s allegations have yet to be tested in court.
The lawsuit names as its defendants Bell Media and CTV News, network president Wendy Freeman, anchor Lisa LaFlamme, reporters Glen McGregor and Rachel Aiello, four unnamed producers and editors, as well as the Bell Media-owned news station CP24 and reporter Travis Dhanraj.
“CTV News stands by its reporting and will vigorously defend it in court,” said Matthew Garrow, a spokesman for CTV News.
Mr. Brown’s lawsuit contends that the network’s reporters ignored witnesses who contradicted their story and did not give him enough time to respond. It says the network’s attempt to get a response from Mr. Brown was “transparent lip service only to the obligation of responsibility and good faith.” The request for an on-camera interview only hours before broadcast was an “ambush email,” it says.
Mr. Brown’s lawyers wrote in the statement of claim that if the 39-year-old politician had been given an appropriate amount of time to respond, he would have told the network that the day after one of the alleged incidents of sexual misconduct, the accuser “was smiling and giggly as she told a co-worker friend that she had kissed Mr. Brown and that she was adamant that nothing else happened.”
After the story was broadcast, CTV reported that it had incorrectly said one of the accusers was in high school at the time of the incident.
According to the lawsuit, the reporting “subverted” Ontario’s democratic process and “has altered, for the foreseeable future, the political landscape and governance of Ontario.”