It has only been a few weeks since he won the Brampton mayoralty, but former Progressive Party of Ontario Leader Patrick Brown says the effort to have him ousted from the party’s top position was a “coordinated effort.”
“I certainly faced obstacles, and challenges, and adversity that I never thought I would face in my life,” Brown told Global News anchor and Focus Ontario host Alan Carter during a sit down interview before his new book, Takedown: The Attempted Political Assassination of Patrick Brown, is released on Thursday.
“But they say when you get knocked down, it’s not how hard you fall, it’s how quickly you get back up. And because of the support of friends and family, 2018 has ended very well.”
In his wide-ranging conversation with Carter, Brown touched upon allegations leveled against him, his resignation from the party, and political grudges.
Brown was asked about his ouster as leader, something he said was “coordinated.”
“There was certainly an effort within my own party to remove me as leader, and we get into aspects of that in the book,” Brown said.
“I think there was certainly an attempt outside the party to discredit me, but I certainly think it finished with elements within the conservative movement.”
When asked who specifically may have been behind the movement, he said it’s not entirely clear.
“There’s no smoking gun in terms of who is the one that designed this, but I certainly believe it was a coordinated effort,” Brown said.
In the book, Brown makes it clear where the grudges exist — and it starts with two cabinet ministers serving in the Doug Ford government.
He accused Finance Minister Vic Fedeli as someone who craved power, citing Fedeli’s time as temporary head of the PC Party after Brown left.
“I think he’s a competent individual, but he is one of the most ambitious people you will meet,” Brown said.
“I think that we saw during that interim period when he was the interim leader and attempting to take over the leadership without an election, that was clearly an example that Mr. Fedeli is a very, very aggressively ambitious individual.”
WATCH: Patrick Brown says Vic Fedeli ‘dodged a bullet’ in relation to sexual misconduct allegations. Travis Dhanraj reports.
When asked if Ontario is well served by Fedeli, Brown said his “worry is always when power and ambition are paramount.”
“It’s a dangerous situation, and I hope that the finance minister for Ontario’s sake will put his ambitions and his crave for power secondary to the health of the province of Ontario,” he said.
When it comes to Children, Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod, Brown said the Ottawa-area MPP was one of his “most ferocious” critics.
“Frankly during my time as leader I did my best to reach out to her, to protect her from nomination challenges,” he said.
“But I think in the days after the resignation it was very apparent that she was one of the people that was making a coordinated effort to make sure that I wasn’t the PC leader.”
Brown also suggested in the book that some of MacLeod’s supporters thought she may have faked having mental health issues to get attention.
“I believe you always need to give the benefit of the doubt to anyone that claims that they’re going through adversity with mental health. Obviously when I was PC leader I made a big focus on mental health,” he said.
“But that was the concern of these two Ontario organizers, and members of her staff ultimately, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and protected her and her nomination. She faced two challenges.
Neither MacLeod nor Fedeli would respond to Brown’s assertions on camera.
But when asked about the release of the book, MacLeod initially said she doesn’t “comment on fiction.”
However, after publication of this story Wednesday afternoon, MacLeod issued a written statement and called Brown’s comments in the book about her mental health “disgusting and cruel.”
“After much support from my family, friends and medical community, I came forward with my own struggle that is shared by millions of people across the province. The dangerous claims made in this book will make it harder for children, teens and all Ontarians to share their stories and seek help,” she wrote.
“It takes courage to speak openly about mental health struggles. Since I shared my story I made it my mission to be a mental health advocate and champion for others who might not have the support that I have.”
After this story was published, Fedeli issued a written statement calling Brown’s accusations “categorically false and without any merit,” adding Brown is “using his book to pursue old grievances.”
“Throughout my career I have held myself to a high ethical standard in my interactions with others. There is no validity whatsoever to any of these allegations. Any accusation or insinuation to the contrary is false and malicious,” he wrote, adding he has hired legal counsel.
In three posts on Twitter, Premier Doug Ford stood behind MacLeod and Fedeli.
“Minister @VictorFedeli is one of the most honourable, ethical, and decent individuals I have ever had the privilege of knowing and working with. I stand behind him completely from this disgusting smear campaign. He has my full support.”
MacLeod said she wouldn’t be commenting further on the allegations in the book, calling those “categorically false.”
Brown also praised a few of his former caucus colleagues for their support following news of the allegations.
“I would say there were some members in caucus that we’re great, in fairness. There were people that were pretty atrocious in their conduct during that hour. There were people that were there, immediately defensive, immediately wanting to help,” he said.
“The Toby Barretts, Rick Nichols, the Ross Romanos… the list goes on. There’s many that were really great during that period. Gila Martow reached out regularly.”
However, some of the toughest criticisms by Brown were reserved for a few members of his staff.
On Jan. 24, CTV News published a report saying two women came forward accusing him of sexual misconduct.
CTV said one of the allegations is from over 10 years ago and involved a high school student. The news organization later reported the woman changed her story, saying she was 19 at the time of the alleged incident and was no longer in high school. The other incident involved a woman working for the MP in then-prime minister Stephen Harper’s government in 2012.
Shortly before the report aired on CTV’s national newscast, Brown held a late evening news conference at Queen’s Park to announce he was stepping down as Ontario PC Party Leader in order to focus on clearing his name. After that news conference, three senior Ontario PC staffers released a joint statement resigning from the party. They said upon discussing the allegations with Brown, they advised him to resign.
When asked about that news conference where he professed his innocence minutes before the CTV News report, Brown said it was his staff’s idea. In retrospect, he said he would “100 per cent” do things differently when it came to senior staff appointments.
“I had worked with a group of people that were long-time loyalists, and people that I think would have walked over glass with me,” he said.
“In the last year leading up to the provincial election, we brought in so-called pros, so-called professionals, and mercenaries who went from campaign to campaign — people that had been playing senior roles on conservative campaigns nationally and provincially around the country — and frankly, those were the people that weren’t with me during the attack and adversity that I received.”
Brown said to date, he hasn’t watched that news conference. He said he was sent into it by people who were “intentionally waiting to resign at the same time.”
“That was the first stone to fall in efforts to have me removed as leader. Can you imagine going into a press conference that people coached and prepared you for, coming out to see them, and to see them not there, to see that it was all calculated and planned, to leave you there alone,” he said, adding his family wanted to join him during the news conference but were told they couldn’t attend.
“My family was quite upset by that. My sisters wanted to be there. So it was almost like out of a movie, the way it was designed and calculated — and one of the many reasons you should buy this book is going to be a good read.”
After the party held a leadership convention, a race Brown entered into for a brief period of time before dropping out, that saw Doug Ford voted into the top position, Brown was eventually barred by the party from seeking a provincial nomination and did not seek re-election as a MPP in the June election.
Brown set his sights on running to become the first elected chair of the Region of Peel. But after Ford and members of the PC Party formed government in June, they eliminated the elected chair’s position and Brown chose to make a last-minute bid for the Brampton mayor’s chair.
On Oct. 22, Brown edged out a win over incumbent Linda Jeffrey. During the election campaign, Brown also married his partner, Genevieve Gualtieri.
Meanwhile, Brown has filed an $8-million defamation lawsuit against CTV. He called their story a “false report.” The television network said it stands by its story.
When asked who is ultimately to blame, Brown said it’s shared between his former staff and CTV.
“I believe that I should’ve picked staff that weren’t mercenaries. I should’ve picked staff that were long-time friends and loyalists that I could depend on and wouldn’t ever have to worry about the calculated manipulation that we saw,” he said.
“So that was certainly a mistake, but the blame lies with CTV for airing a false story.”
— With files from Jacob Cappe