Patrick Brown has achieved a political comeback, winning his bid to become mayor of Brampton, Ont., just 10 months after being forced to resign as leader of the province’s Progressive Conservative Party.
With just a few polls remaining on Monday night, Mr. Brown was leading with 44 per cent of the vote, sweeping incumbent Linda Jeffrey out of office and prevailing over members of his former party who tried to prevent him from getting elected again.
Mr. Brown took the stage to cheers of “Patrick, Patrick” and promised to focus on the city’s economy in his term as mayor.
“I’ve got so much hope in my heart for what’s ahead for Brampton. You know why? I know we can turn this around, I know Brampton is going to be back, Brampton is going to become an economic engine,” Mr. Brown told a cheering crowd.
Ms. Jeffrey, who called Mr. Brown a political opportunist during the campaign, appeared shocked by her loss.
“Tonight’s results were not what, I think, any of us expected. We fought a hard and challenging race,” she said in her concession speech. “I can confidently say that our city is in better shape than when I found it.”
Mr. Brown’s campaign to salvage his political career – his third official candidacy since he was ousted by his party in January – transformed the mayoral race in this suburb west of Toronto into one of the most closely watched in the province.
Supporters arriving at Mr. Brown’s election headquarters said they didn’t mind that becoming mayor of Brampton wasn’t his first choice.
“Once you’re a politician, you are a politician for life. It doesn’t make any difference if you are serving federally or municipally or provincially,” said Sanjeev Malik, an insurance broker.
Daniel Chacko, an Orthodox Christian priest, said: “He’s a human being. He has to come back in politics. He has to find a spot."
Mr. Brown, who won the endorsement of former premier Bill Davis, ran an energetic campaign in a race dominated by concerns about crime rates, property taxes, congestion, transit and the overburdened local hospital.
Brampton voters largely viewed the election as a two-way contest between Mr. Brown and Ms. Jeffrey, who was trailing on Monday night with less than 41 per cent of the vote. None of the five other mayoral candidates received more than 6 per cent.
Along the way, Mr. Brown battled members of his former party, who tried to thwart his chances. A top campaign strategist for Premier Doug Ford held a fundraiser last month for Ms. Jeffrey, who happens to be a former Liberal cabinet minister. In addition, several members of Mr. Ford’s caucus publicly endorsed Ms. Jeffrey.
Mr. Brown entered the Brampton mayoral race at the last minute, after Mr. Ford abruptly announced he was cancelling several races for regional chairs and returning to the old appointment system, including in Peel Region, where Mr. Brown was a candidate. He was also briefly a candidate for his old job as PC leader in February.
Ms. Jeffrey accused him of seeking the city’s highest office with “the ink barely dried on his lease.” She also called him a desperate opportunist who was using Brampton to rehabilitate his political career while jeopardizing the fate of the city because of the apparent animosity between him and Mr. Ford.
In turn, Mr. Brown criticized Ms. Jeffrey for presiding over a chaotic city hall and accused her of failing to get results for the city because she was too cozy with the former provincial government.
Mr. Brown was also dogged by other controversies this year. In April, the Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner found that he broke ethics rules by, among other things, hiding the true source of financing for the purchase of a house.
Police are investigating allegations of fraud and forgery involving a nomination race in Hamilton that occurred during his tenure as PC leader, one of several such battles that gave rise to similar accusations.
Mr. Brown was forced to resign as PC Party leader in late January after CTV reported allegations of sexual misconduct. He denied the allegations and launched a defamation lawsuit.
He is writing a book about his experience, which is expected to be published next month.
With files from The Canadian Press