January 25, 2018 10:58 am
Updated: January 30, 2018 12:10 pm

COMMENTARY: #MeToo makes its way to Canadian politics

Allegations of sexual misconduct have prompted Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown to step down, just months before he was expected to lead his party into a provincial election.

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On a day in which much of social media was focused on the sentencing of a monstrous sexual predator it seemed almost surreal to have not one but two Progressive Conservative leaders go down amid serious sexual misconduct allegations.

READ MORE: U.S. gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar sentenced up to 175 years for sexual abuse


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First, the news out of Nova Scotia was that PC leader Jamie Baillie had resigned. After Baillie had already announced his resignation on social media, the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia released its own statement confirming the request and acceptance of Baillie’s resignation: “This morning, the PC Party of Nova Scotia requested and accepted the immediate resignation of Jamie Baillie.”

The statement went on to say that the PC Party of Nova Scotia had arranged for an independent, third-party investigator to look into the matter. “The investigation has concluded Mr. Baillie breached the Nova Scotia House of Assembly Policy on the Prevention and Resolution of Harassment in the Workplace. The PC Party is committed to a healthy, safe and supportive working environment where all Nova Scotians are treated with respect and dignity. The PC Party does not, and will not, tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace.”

The actions of the PC Party of Nova Scotia are laudable, however, what happened in Nova Scotia would prove to be a simple footnote on the day for Canadian political observers, as the power and breadth of the #MeToo movement would soon lead to the middle of the night resignation of Ontario’s supposed premier in waiting.

READ MORE: Patrick Brown steps down as Ontario PC leader amid sexual misconduct allegations

Into the evening hours came the ominous press release that Patrick Brown was convening a press conference at 9:45 p.m. The wild speculation began almost immediately, but the general consensus was clear: this was not good news. Politicians do not summon journalists away from putting their kids to bed to deliver anything positive.

Shortly thereafter CTV News tweeted out what many had already surmised. With some very diligent reporting by CTV News’ Rachel Aiello and Glen McGregor, the Progressive Conservatives were going to be in for one heck of a night.

And yet it’s worth noting that the allegations being made against Brown have to some degree been circulating amongst journalists and political insiders for quite some time now.

Rumours and innuendo are obviously not fit for print or broadcast, but it does lay bare the sheer hypocrisy of so many who are feigning shock at the allegations, or those who are spinning this to be some sort of Ontario Liberal plot.

Mark Towhey, a current NewsTalk 1010 host who served as the executive director of Brown’s leadership race, took to Twitter last night to say that the Liberals had been “cooking something up”:

I’m not sure how the Ontario Liberal Party would have “cooked up” two credible allegations independently verified by journalists working for the very same parent company as Towhey, but if there is any credible reason to believe that the thorough reporting done by CTV News is inaccurate, it would be best to clearly say so.

WATCH BELOW: Video coverage of Patrick Brown sexual misconduct allegations

And while I’m certain there are colleagues of Brown’s in the legislature who were legitimately unaware of the whisper campaign and the journalists working furiously to confirm its veracity, I am hard pressed to imagine a scenario wherein Brown’s senior campaign staff had absolutely no idea whatsoever that allegations of this sort had been floating around in the political ether.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s commendable that several members of Brown’s senior staff resigned within minutes of Brown’s monstrosity of a presser, but the reality is that a man like Brown should never have risen to the ranks of leader, and one has to wonder who around him knew what and when. This is only compounded by the fact that one of his own staffers who resigned last night was himself subject to very public sexual misconduct allegations.

READ MORE: Ontario PC staffers resign following sexual misconduct allegations against Leader Patrick Brown

Brown vehemently denies the allegations being made against him and has asserted that he intends to fully defend himself in a court of law, despite the fact that CTV News has not made the names of the women public. Brown is fully entitled to use the machinations of our legal system to try and clear his name. However, for the willfully obtuse who will inevitably and wrongly claim that Brown should have benefitted from the “presumption of innocence” while leading his party into an election, I will point out that there is no legal right to stay on as a political leader amidst credible allegations being levelled at you.

No one party holds a monopoly on sexual misconduct. The last few years has made this all too clear. The Bro Code in politics runs deep and across partisan lines. Luckily though, the whisper campaign and networks of women who simply just won’t take it anymore is starting to take on its own depth.

Supriya Dwivedi is host of The Morning Show on Global News Radio 640 Toronto and a columnist for Global News.

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