The Conservative Party of Canada has brought in an outside lawyer to help determine whether one of its committees has the jurisdiction to hear Patrick Brown challenge his disqualification.
The news comes as Jean Charest’s leadership campaign confirms it was approached by the same organizer whose allegation against Brown led to his ousting — but says after learning she would be going public came to a “mutual agreement” to part ways.
The Conservatives’ decision to remove Brown from the race over an allegation he breached federal financing laws has left party brass preparing for what could be a lengthy lawsuit.
Brown has maintained that his campaign did nothing wrong. To steer his fight, he has hired Marie Henein, a high-profile lawyer who successfully defended former broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi and retired vice-admiral Mark Norman.
Last week, Henein wrote to the party’s top brass requesting its dispute resolution appeal committee be convened and that an appeal date be set, asking to hear back no later than last Saturday.
Conservative spokesman Yaroslav Baran confirmed the party responded Friday night.
“The Conservative Party of Canada has been reviewing whether the dispute resolution (appeals) committee has jurisdiction to consider the appeal submitted by Mr. Brown’s legal counsel,” he wrote.
“Independent counsel has therefore been retained to advise on this important question, which will guide the party’s response to Mr. Brown’s lawyers.”
The outside counsel is expected to recommend to the appeals committee whether it can hear Brown’s appeal, based on the party’s rules.
Brown’s campaign is also considering what other avenues may exist to fight the party’s decision, which has seized its top officials since it was made.
Ian Brodie, chair of the leadership election organizing committee that voted to remove Brown, emailed party members last week saying Brown knew the allegations he was facing and the party needed to act because it couldn’t afford to have a candidate under investigation for breaking federal laws.
Details of the allegation were made public when Debbie Jodoin, a longtime Conservative organizer, released a statement through her lawyer last Thursday saying she had been paid by a corporation for her work on Brown’s campaign, and that he helped make the arrangement.
The same day Jodoin went public, she informed Charest’s campaign that she would be doing so, because they had been in talks about her joining the team, a campaign spokeswoman said.
Michelle Coates Mather said Jodoin approached the campaign on June 27 and they were in talks about finalizing a contract for her to assist them get out the vote.
“She came to us on July 7 to confirm she was the whistleblower and that she would be making a public statement,” said Coates Mather.
“Following that discussion, she and our campaign came to a mutual agreement not to proceed with the contract.”
Apart from the race to lead the federal Conservatives, Brown has yet to divulge his plans for a municipal one.
Brown entered the race without resigning his job as mayor of Brampton, a city about 45 minutes from Toronto, and previously said he would consider running again in October’s municipal election if he thought he couldn’t win the federal race.
He has until Aug. 19 to register as a mayoral candidate, and a spokesman said over the weekend he won’t be making any decisions about running for a second time until he has time to talk with his friends and family.
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