Conservative party disputes Brown’s allegation political corruption behind his disqualification
Patrick Brown is alleging political corruption played a role in his disqualification from the Conservative Party of Canada's leadership race, a move that came following allegations that his campaign violated election financing rules.
In his first sit-down television interview since being ejected by the Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC), Brown denied wrongdoing, decried what he called "anonymous allegations" and told CTV News Channel's Power Play host Evan Solomon he believes Pierre Poilievre supporters on the committee are behind the move.
"When I say this is politically corrupt, 150,000 Canadians, many for the first time, joined the Conservative Party, and their vote has been taken away," said Brown, referencing the new party members, his campaign says they had signed up since entering the race this spring.
"I’m shocked that they would take lengths this extraordinary to rob members of the party of a democratic election based on an anonymous complaint," he said, adding that he didn't feel as if he had enough time or information about the accusations made to properly respond, and indicating his team is assessing their options to challenge the move.
However, Conservative party president Rob Batherson later confirmed that allegations "did not come from anybody affiliated with any other campaign," seeming to suggest the concerns raised came from those previously helping try to make the current mayor of Brampton, the next federal Conservative leader.
Pressed for details, Batherson declined to elaborate, saying the ball is now in Elections Canada's court to evaluate and "interview the sources of the allegations."
Chair of the committee Ian Brodie announced Brown's disqualification late Tuesday evening, referencing "serious allegations of wrongdoing" by Brown's campaign.
"The information provided to date by the Patrick Brown campaign did not satisfy concerns about their compliance with our Rules and Procedures and/or the Canada Elections Act," reads the statement. The decision to disqualify him was made following a split vote 11 to six taken by LEOC members.
"We regret having to take these steps but we have an obligation to ensure that both our Party's Rules and federal law are respected by all candidates and campaign teams. None of these problems has any impact on the integrity of the vote itself," the statement said.
Despite growing calls for transparency, the party has declined to get into any specific details of the allegations, citing the potential impact on investigations. Brown told Solomon his campaign was told it has to do with allowing a corporation to pay for work being done by a campaign member.
"But [there was] no information about who that was or who that corporation was so it's impossible to respond to a phantom," he said.
Yaroslav Baran, who handles media communications for the current leadership contest, told CTV National News on Wednesday that there had been "numerous" accusations brought forward.
"Some of them pertain to the rules of the race, the rules set out by the leadership election organizing committee that the party established, but more recently, there have been some material brought forward that went above that and spoke to potential violations of electoral law," he said.
Baran also directly refuted Brown's assertion his team wasn't made aware of the accusations.
"The party has been very transparent and forthright with the campaign in question… The party reached out to the campaign on numerous occasions, gave them numerous and generous opportunities to explain what this was all about," he said.
"They, unfortunately for them, chose not to avail themselves of those opportunities. They knew exactly what this was all about, exactly what the material was, and they chose not to take advantage of the opportunities to give any kind of a plausible and satisfactory explanation."
The party also confirmed Wednesday that because ballot packages have already started to be sent to the approximately 675,000 members ahead of the Sept. 10 announcement of a winner, Brown's name will still appear on what will be a preferential ballot.
Pierre Poilievre declined CTV News' request for an interview about Brown's removal and the claims he has made. His campaign did send a statement Wednesday morning stating that Brown's disqualification was the "latest chapter in a career defined by numerous scandals."
"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," a statement from campaign spokesperson Anthony Koch said.
The two campaigns have had fierce back-and-forth exchanges during the race thus far, with both sides alleging different types of wrongdoing.
Poilievre's camp had previously accused Brown's team of reimbursing membership fees for those who signed up using his online portal.
Jean Charest — now one of five contenders in the race, alongside Poilievre, Scott Aitchison, Roman Baber, and Leslyn Lewis — sent a message to supporters Wednesday morning calling for answers.
In the email, director of communications Michelle Coates Mather said revelations from "both sides of the issue are deeply troubling," and that members deserve more clarification.
"LEOC must ensure integrity of the process. Party members deserve the truth. We need to understand what the allegations are, how Patrick Brown's campaign responded and why LEOC took such drastic action. Transparency is paramount," she said.
On Wednesday night, legal counsel for Brown sent a notice to the Conservative Party to say he intends to appeal the decision.
"To be clear, Mr. Brown has engaged in absolutely no misconduct," the notice reads.
However, on Wednesday evening Batherson said that the party's rules "do not provide for appealing a disqualification decision."
With files from CTV News' Evan Solomon and Rachel Aiello