Multiple text messages related to allegations that led to the ouster of Patrick Brown from the federal Conservative leadership race have been turned over to Elections Canada to investigate whether the Brampton mayor knew that a corporation was paying someone in his campaign, sources say.
Details of exactly what was in those text messages have not been revealed by the party, but the sources say there was enough evidence to forward them to the national elections body. Canada’s elections laws bar contributions from corporations, unions or non-residents.
A whistleblower who was part of the alleged scheme came to the party with texts and information, one of the sources said. The company allegedly involved is numbered, but the source didn’t know the name of the numbered company or the individual, or the amount of money paid. The Globe is not identifying the two sources because they were not authorized to speak about private party matters.
Members of the party’s leadership election organizing committee (LEOC) were not given the specifics of the allegations or the name of the company or individual on the campaign, the sources say. Mr. Brown was ousted from the race on Tuesday night in a LEOC vote of 11-6. The members of the committee who voted to keep his candidacy alive did so because they had not been shown any evidence of potential wrongdoing, the sources added.
Mr. Brown was expelled from the race for what the party called “serious allegations of wrongdoing.” Five candidates remain in the race, the winner of which will be announced on Sept. 10.
In an interview, Mr. Brown says his campaign was not provided any specific information about the allegation, such as a name of the individual or the corporation involved.
Asked about the text messages, Mr. Brown said he would love to know more about that assertion, but continued to insist that his campaign had done nothing wrong.
The national co-chair of Mr. Brown’s campaign says an appeal has been launched over his disqualification. John Reynolds, a former Conservative MP, said an appeal to the courts will be made if necessary.
“We’re appealing to the party, but if that doesn’t work, we’re appealing to the courts,” Mr. Reynolds said in an interview on Wednesday. “If we have to, I think this is something we should let a judge look at, ask is this fair.”
This week’s developments represent a new political setback for Mr. Brown. At the beginning of 2018, he was leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives until CTV News aired allegations of sexual misconduct from two women during the time he was a Conservative MP.
Mr. Brown, who was ousted as PC leader, denied the allegations and shortly before launching his Conservative leadership campaign in March he and CTV reached a legal settlement with the network expressing regrets that “key details” in its reporting were incorrect. Later in 2018, Mr. Brown was elected mayor of Brampton.
On Wednesday, he faced criticism from five Brampton city council members who said in a statement that “once again, our great city is in the national news for all the wrong reasons because of Patrick Brown.” The mayor was described by the councillors as having a “clear and alarming pattern of behaviour.”
Mr. Brown, who reported signing up about 150,000 supporters during the leadership race, said it is clear to him that his rival, Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre, bullied associates in the Conservative Party establishment to act against his leadership bid.
“I care about the Conservative Party. I am worried about what might happen if we have this Pierre Poilievre coronation,” he said. “It was a tough decision to run for this leadership. I don’t like being away from my kids, [who are] one and three. I put my name forward and was willing to work hard because I want to see the Conservative Party represent its finest traditions.”
Mr. Brown said he has not yet decided whether to shift his focus to seeking a second term as mayor of Brampton. He would have to register a re-election bid by Aug. 19.
The other candidates in the Conservative leadership race are MPs Leslyn Lewis and Scott Aitchison, as well as Roman Baber, a former independent member of the Ontario Legislature and Jean Charest, the former premier of Quebec.
Ms. Lewis’s campaign manager, Steve Outhouse, declined comment on the developments involving Mr. Brown. The campaigns of Mr. Baber and Mr. Aitchison did not respond to requests for comment.
Arriving at the Calgary airport Wednesday morning, Mr. Charest spoke to The Globe briefly, saying “this just happened. I’m not going to comment apart from saying this: We’re running to win.”
Mr. Charest was asked whether he had spoken to Mr. Brown and whether he had confidence in the party’s handling of the matter. His response was “no comment.”
He said there’s still a path to victory for his leadership bid. “It’s a clear choice – a very clear choice.”
On Wednesday morning, a spokesperson for the campaign for Mr. Charest called the news about Mr. Brown “deeply troubling,” and requested more details.
“We must ensure integrity of the process. Members deserve the truth,” Michelle Coates Mather said in a statement. “We need to understand what the allegations are and how Patrick Brown’s campaign responded. Transparency is paramount.”
A spokesperson for Mr. Poilievre, whose campaign says it has signed up more than 300,000 members, said Mr. Brown is to blame for his latest troubles.
“As should have been expected, in the hours since the decision, Patrick has lashed out at our campaign and the party. As always, when caught, Patrick tries to make himself into a victim, but ultimately, the only person responsible for his disqualification is himself,” spokesperson Anthony Koch said in a statement.
“This is not the first time Patrick has been disqualified from running for public office for reasons of ethical impropriety. In fact, the Ontario PC Party disqualified him from running as a local candidate. For years, Patrick’s conduct has demonstrated that he is the kind of person that will say and do anything to win.”
Party spokesman Yaroslav Baran said Wednesday that “there have been numerous allegations and accusations that have come forward.”
Ian Brodie, LEOC chair said in a statement on Tuesday night that the allegations are related to the financing rules in the Canada Elections Act.
In his statement, Mr. Brodie said the chief returning officer for the party informed Mr. Brown of the concerns and requested a written response. The returning officer also decided to withhold the interim membership list from Mr. Brown’s campaign.
The response from Mr. Brown’s campaign did not satisfy the concerns, Mr. Brodie said, and the returning officer recommended the leadership election organizing committee disqualify him, which it opted to do with a vote held at a meeting Tuesday evening.
“None of these problems has any impact on the integrity of the vote itself,” Mr. Brodie said. “While we felt it important to provide a transparent response to party members about this matter, because this issue is now subject to further investigation, we will not be speaking further on the subject.”
With reports from Kelly Cryderman in Calgary and The Canadian Press
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