Patrick Brown, the ousted leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, loves to say that the effort to end the Liberal Party's stranglehold on Queen's Park is "bigger than one individual" – the very words he used in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
And yet, everything Mr. Brown has done since he resigned as leader on Jan. 25 has been a singular effort to make the PC Party and its leadership race precisely about himself.
His Trumpian suggestion that he in fact didn't resign, and his eccentric decision to run for the leadership to replace himself, have since been followed by an implausible and destructive effort to portray him as the victim in the piece.
According to Mr. Brown and his dwindling allies, he is the target of a smear campaign led by two women who went public with allegations of sexual misconduct on his part – allegations that led to his sudden resignation and threw the PC Party into turmoil.
He also claims to be the victim of a subsequent conspiracy within the party led by "a select group of individuals" who are "spreading misleading stories" about discrepancies in the PC membership list and some nomination races, as well as about his personal financial dealings.
His allegations and candidacy have led to open and bitter infighting among MPPs, party candidates, officials and supporters, crippling the party at the moment it desperately needs unity. The vast majority of sitting Tory MPPs want him gone, and he has been thrown out of caucus. But Mr. Brown is indifferent to the damage he is doing, and will continue to do, to a leadership race that ends in two-and-a-half weeks.
Although one of the women who accused him of sexual misconduct has since altered details of her story, the bottom line is that the two allegations have not been disproven. They will hang over him and tar the party.
As well, his presence in the race will compromise the party's effort to correct the apparent discrepancies in its membership list, as well as its efforts to investigate nomination races held under his leadership that appear problematic.
Above all, Mr. Brown's presence would continue the discord and infighting that he has created. The entire race would be forced into the shadow of the debate about his suitability as a candidate, keeping the party off-balance for longer than it needs to be in the run-up to the June election.
Ontario voters deserve a real option in the election, in the form of a PC Party that is united around a credible leader. It is absurd to think that that leader would be Patrick Brown. But he has proven himself incapable of putting his party first.
The party, then, must do that for him.
Party officials are examining the possibility of rejecting his application to run for the leadership. They should go for it, and then deal with any appeals process as quickly as possible. The PC Party is under no obligation to allow Mr. Brown to litigate his self-serving grievances on its back – not when it has much more important work to do.