The four candidates vying to lead Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party were quiet when asked during a debate about Patrick Brown’s comments in a Global News interview where he claims the sexual assault allegations levelled against him were motivated by “political adversaries.”
Debate moderator Steve Paikin asked the candidate Caroline Mulroney, Doug Ford, Christine Elliott and Tanya Granic Allen to comment on Brown’s allegations that his dramatic resignation was instigated by “political adversaries” either inside or outside the party.
“Was Patrick Brown done in by forces inside the Progressive Conservative party?” Paikin asked.
Allen pushed back saying Brown’s “corruption” had left the party in tatters ahead of a looming provincial election.
“What does it matter? At the end of the day, we have a party that is left in tatters because of the way Patrick Brown ran it,” Allen said.
Elliott said she has been focusing on the leadership.
“I have no idea what happened. I wasn’t there. I can’t speculate,” said Elliott. “I know Patrick is trying to clear his name, but I think the most important thing that we all have to remember is that we need to select a leader who is going to win in this election.”
WATCH: Patrick Brown says 3 PC leadership candidates reached out to offer support
Mulroney said that Brown is trying to clear his name, but there are “great people” working inside the Ontario PCs.
“I know that as somebody who has been working alongside a lot of party volunteers that there are great people in this party who dedicate a lot of their time to make sure that we are ready and that the party is strong come June 7,” she said.
Brown resigned as leader in late January following a report from CTV containing allegations of sexual assault by two women.
In an hour-long interview with Global News, Brown denied the allegations as “absolute lies” and suggested they were “initiated for political purposes.”
“I have a number of political adversaries and so there’s a number of people who would benefit from what happened and I hope that in the course of the investigation, we’ll be able to expose who was involved in this,” Brown said.
WATCH: Former Ontario PC leader refutes sexual misconduct allegations
On Thursday, he announced he intends to sue CTV. The network has said it stands by its reporting and will actively defend against any legal action.
“We welcome the opportunity to defend our journalism in court,” CTV said in a statement.
WATCH: PC Party candidates asked about Patrick Brown returning
Mulroney and Elliott also said during the debate that Brown should be allowed to run, while Doug Ford said he would revisit the issue if he was elected leader.
“If he can clear his name, then he can run,” Mulroney said.
Allen strongly objected to the idea, though not because of the allegations.
WATCH: Patrick Brown calls PC Party leadership race ‘worrisome’
The first debate of the leadership was hosted by TVO, Ontario’s public broadcaster. The Ontario Tories are scheduled to choose a new leader to replace Brown on March 10.