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Tory MPP Randy Hillier calls on Ontario ethics watchdog to probe Patrick Brown’s finances

Patrick Brown arrives at the Ontario PC Party head office in Toronto on Feb. 20, 2018.


An Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP has called on the province's Integrity Commissioner to launch an investigation into the financial affairs of former Tory leader Patrick Brown.

Randy Hillier, the Tory MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, says in a complaint filed on Tuesday that "disconcerting patterns" related to Mr. Brown's finances require explanation, including whether he has failed to disclose gifts, "lavish" travel and other sources of income in addition to his salary. Mr. Hillier is backing former Tory MPP Christine Elliott, one of four other contenders.

Globe editorial: The PC Party should kick Patrick Brown out of its leadership race

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 Patrick Brown discussed $375,000 deal with future PC candidate

"In recent weeks, much information has been publicized by the media that calls into question the ethics, behaviour, and integrity of the Member of Provincial Parliament for Simcoe-North, Mr. Patrick Brown," the affidavit says. It cites, among other issues, a Globe and Mail report on Tuesday that documented a proposed $375,000 transaction between Mr. Brown and a future PC candidate.

A spokeswoman for the Integrity Commissioner confirmed that the office had received Mr. Hillier's complaint. It came just hours before Mr. Brown was set to meet on Tuesday evening with a committee struck by the PC Party to determine whether he should be allowed to seek the leadership of the party.

Mr. Brown threw his hat into the ring last Friday, seeking to win back his old job three weeks after he was forced to resign over allegations of sexual misconduct. Also on Friday, interim leader Vic Fedeli removed Mr. Brown from the PC caucus, leaving him as an independent member.

Around the same time, Mr. Fedeli wrote to the president of the party saying Mr. Brown did not have his confidence to be a candidate for the PC Party in the June 7 general election.

Mr. Brown is expected to find out on Wednesday whether he can run as a PC candidate, a necessary step to clearing the way for him to seek the leadership. If the nominating committee rejects him, he can appeal to the party's leadership to reverse the decision. However, the process has never been tried.

Mr. Brown, who has been waging a campaign in recent days to clear his name, addressed his supporters directly on Facebook on Tuesday, saying: "I want you to know that over the next weeks you may hear or see stories questioning my integrity, character and my leadership of the Party."

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He was responding to the Globe report on a proposed deal to sell an interest in a restaurant he partly owns and some Aeroplan miles for $375,000 to Jass Johal, a Brampton paralegal who went on to become a Tory candidate.

According to a copy of an affidavit shown to The Globe, Mr. Johal says he agrees to purchase two million Aeroplan miles and an ownership interest in Hooligans restaurant from Mr. Brown. The affidavit is dated June 11, 2016, and signed by Mr. Johal.

Mr. Brown told The Globe in an e-mail that "no deal was ever done."

Other documents seen by The Globe, including bank statements, show that Mr. Brown deposited $375,000 into his account at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce on July 11, 2016. That same month, property records show he purchased a waterfront house on Lake Simcoe's Shanty Bay for $2.3-million. He took out a mortgage of $1.72-million from Toronto-Dominion Bank, according to public mortgage documents.

When asked about that, Mr. Brown, who earned $180,886 a year as the leader of the Official Opposition, responded in the e-mail: "Like many people in Ontario, I received help from my family purchasing my home."

After The Globe published the story, Mr. Brown tweeted out a picture of an affidavit dated June 16, 2016, that he says proves there was no deal.

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"I am making this affidavit to prove that there is no transaction that will be taking place, there is no exchange in funds, aeroplan miles or any interest in Hooligans," the affidavit sworn by Mr. Johal reads.

Mr. Johal was acclaimed as the Tory candidate for Brampton North on Nov. 21, 2016.

Both affidavits were notarized by lawyer Satinder Johal. At the Johal Law Firm in Brampton on Tuesday morning, two staff members said that Jass and Satinder Johal would be out for the day.

Navi Sekhon, who said she is Mr. Johal's assistant, said he had called in to let her know he wouldn't be coming in that day. She confirmed that Satinder is his daughter.

Nobody answered the door at the family's home. Even after a blue Mercedes pulled into the three-car garage around 4:30 p.m., repeated knocks went unanswered.

Mr. Hillier's affidavit raises questions about Mr. Brown's mortgage. If he received financial assistance from his family, the document says, that should have been publicly disclosed to the Integrity Commissioner.

"How is the public to have confidence in the financial affairs of elected officials if transfers of large sums of money are not accounted for in legally required [public] disclosures."

The document also questions numerous international trips made by Mr. Brown, including an all-expenses-paid one to India in January, 2016.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Brown did not respond to e-mails from The Globe on Tuesday.

Mr. Brown and three other leadership candidates have yet to be approved as PC candidates: Tanya Granic Allen, an activist who opposes Ontario's new sex-education curriculum; Ms. Elliott; and former Toronto councillor Doug Ford. Only political newcomer Caroline Mulroney, who was previously cleared to run as the PC candidate in a riding north of Toronto, has the green light.

Along with an in-person interview, party officials said the Provincial Nominations Committee is conducting background checks of the leadership candidates. According to officials, the process is designed to ensure that a candidate's history won't distract from the party's election campaign.

The decision will be made by the committee, which includes party president Jag Badwal, party treasurer Abraham Elias, party vice-president Kevin Weatherbee, Ken Zeise, Manjeet Gill and MPP Lisa Thompson. MPP Sam Oosterhoff, who is a member of the committee, has recused himself because of his support for Ms. Elliott.

A successor to Mr. Brown will be announced on March 10.

Interim Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Vic Fedeli says he informed party executives of his lack of confidence in Patrick Brown hours before the ousted PC leader launched a bid to reclaim his job. The Canadian Press
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