Patrick Brown resigns as PC leader amid sexual misconduct allegations
Hours after a tearful press conference where he denied the allegations, Brown released a statement saying he could not continue as party leader with an election a little more than four months away.
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Hours after tearfully vowing to fight “false” allegations of sexual impropriety against him, Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown has resigned.
In a statement early Thursday, Brown said he could not continue as party leader with an election a little more than four months away.
“After consulting with caucus, friends and family I have decided to step down as leader of the Ontario PC Party. I will remain on as a MPP while I definitively clear my name from these false allegations,” he said at 1:25 a.m.
“I’m confident the president of our party and caucus will convene an expedited process to elect my successor who I look forward to working with.”
In a separate statement, Deputy PC Leaders Sylvia Jones and Steve Clark said caucus members agreed Brown had to go.
“We unanimously agree that Mr. Brown cannot continue serving as the leader. Mr. Brown is entitled to a legal defense and due process, but he cannot lead us into an election as a result of these allegations,” they said.
“Our caucus will immediately consult with party officials and members on best way to move forward . . .”
In a dramatic, hastily called news conference held 15 minutes before CTV News broke the news of teenagers’ encounters with Brown, the ashen-faced leader insisted he did nothing wrong.
“A couple of hours ago, I learned of troubling allegations about my conduct and character,” the Tory chief said in quavering voice prior to the 10 p.m. Wednesday broadcast.
“These allegations are false. Every one of them. I will defend myself as hard as I can with any means at my disposal. In short, I reject these accusations in the strongest possible terms.” said Brown.
“I can’t speculate on the motive of my accusers, I can only say they what they are saying is categorically untrue.
“I know that the court of public opinion moves fast. I have instructed my attorneys to ensure that these allegations are addressed where they should be: in a court of law.”
Noting his two sisters are his “best friends,” Brown stressed “it’s never okay for anyone to feel they have been a victim of sexual harassment or feel threatened in any way.”
With an election on June 7, Brown’s chief of staff, Alykhan Velshi, his campaign manager, Andrew Boddington, his advertising guru, Dan Robertson, and his press secretary Nicholas Bergamini resigned en masse.
The four key players — all well-regarded in political circles — urged the leader to quit.
“After speaking with him, our advice was that he should resign as PC Party leader,” said Velshi, Boddington and Robertson in a joint statement.
“He did not accept that advice. We have therefore resigned our positions,” they said.
On Twitter, Bergamini echoed that view.
“This evening I learned of allegations against Patrick Brown. As a result, it is in the best interest of the PC Party that he step down immediately,” the press secretary said.
“As he has chosen to follow a different route, I am resigning as the PC Party press secretary.”
Brown, a teetotalling 39-year-old bachelor, has been leader of the PC party since May 2015.
He has made a point of expanding the appeal of the party to cultural communities and has recruited more female and visible minority candidates than the Tories have ever fielded.
On his watch the Conservatives have raised millions of dollars and attracted 200,000 members.
With public opinion polls suggesting he could topple Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals in less than five months, Brown is also the face of his party.
A picture of him adorns the cover of the Tory platform, the People’s Guarantee.
In a statement, Wynne said “it’s a difficult and brave thing to do to come forward in the way these young women have done.”
“My government and I have been clear on the issue of sexual harassment and assault. In fact our policy and our ad were called ‘It’s Never Okay,’” she said.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath went further late Wednesday, saying that Brown has to step down.
“My thoughts are with the brave young women who have spoken out to describe horrible, degrading and unsafe experiences they say happened at the hands of Patrick Brown,” said Horwath.
“I’m disgusted and disturbed by these sexual misconduct allegations,” she said.
“Patrick Brown must resign, immediately. He deserves his day in court, but no person can lead a political party in this province with allegations like these hanging over his head.”
Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said “sexual misconduct, and sexual harassment have no place in Canadian society, especially within our political system.”
“I understand how difficult it can be for women to come forward under these circumstances,” said Scheer.
“The allegations against the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives are extremely serious and should be investigated fully.”
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