The Ontario Progressive Conservative party’s co-deputy leaders said they both expressed shock after learning of allegations of sexual misconduct against former leader Patrick Brown four months before a provincial election.
“We were shocked to learn of the allegations last night,” Ontario PC co-deputy leader Sylvia Jones said during a press conference Thursday afternoon.
“Harassment has no place in our society. Period. Allegations of sexual misconduct must be taken seriously. These women deserved to be heard. It was appropriate that Mr. Brown resign last night.”
Brown, who called a late night news conference on Wednesday and said the allegations were “categorically untrue” before issuing a written statement a couple of hours later saying he will step down, is accused by two women of inappropriate behaviour.
Jones said the party is confident it will move forward with the right leader heading into the spring provincial election, which begins by selecting an interim leader on Friday.
“We have the largest fundraising. We have a great team. We have over 90 candidates already nominated,” Jones said.
“We’re ready to fight this election. We need to get over this. We need to appoint a parliamentary leader which we will do as a team tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she will not move up or push back the June 7 provincial election when asked by reporters on Thursday.
Wynne deflected questions about what Brown’s resignation means to the Ontario election and instead focused on the impact of women coming forward as victims of sexual assault or misconduct.
“There are obviously lots of political questions that are going to come forward. I honestly feel that right now I’m thinking about this in my role as a mother, as a daughter, as a community leader,” Wynne said.
“It is really, really important that we understand how deeply troubling this is to human beings… to people. This is a human problem and so we can talk about the politics, there will be lots of talk about the politics, but this is about the safety.”
CTV News published a report on Wednesday saying two women came forward accusing Brown of sexual misconduct.
CTV said one of the allegations is from over 10 years ago and involved a high school student, while the other incident involved a woman working for the Barrie MP in then-prime minister Stephen Harper’s government in 2012.
The women haven’t been named, and the allegations haven’t been proven in court.
One woman, who’s now 29 years old, said Brown propositioned her during a tour of his home while she was still in high school. He allegedly asked her to perform oral sex, which she did for a short while before leaving.
A second woman said she was working for him when he was an MP when he invited her and another person back to his place after a party. When they were alone, he allegedly kissed her and “got on top of her,” CTV reported. She described it as sexual assault.
WATCH: Jagmeet Singh calls Patrick Brown allegations ‘heinous’
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath told reporters on Thursday that although they are allegations, “it’s incumbent on us to take it seriously.”
“This is about women coming forward and calling out behaviour that they have experienced,” Horwath said.
“We shouldn’t have to be worried that our daughters, and our granddaughters, are going to face the same kinds of sexual harassment and sexual violence that many women today have faced in their lifetimes.”
Brown, who was elected as the Ontario PC Party leader in 2015, will remain on as an MPP as he fights the allegations against him. But Horwath said she would not have him remain as an MPP if he was in her caucus.
“That’s up to the Conservatives to make that decision but he would certainly not be sitting in my caucus if it was my decision to make,” Horwath said.
VIDEO: Andrea Horwath discusses how Patrick Brown’s resignation will affect upcoming election
—With files from Nick Westoll, Leslie Stojsic, Rebecca Joseph and Jessica Vomiero