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Brown says Conservative leadership race shouldn’t be a ‘purity test’

Click to play video: 'Patrick Brown declares bid in Conservative leadership race'
Patrick Brown declares bid in Conservative leadership race
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown has officially announced that he will be entering the 2022 Conservative leadership race. Brittany Rosen has more on the uphill battle Brown has faced up to this point in his political career and the controversies that have plagued the party in recent years – Mar 13, 2022

Patrick Brown says he will stand against candidates who try to turn the Conservative leadership race into an ideological “purity test.”

In officially announcing his bid for the Conservative Party leadership, Brown painted himself as a big-tent candidate with the chops to win-over suburban Canada.

Brown suggested certain candidates in the race – Pierre Poilievre was not mentioned by name – would seek to “divide” the party and give Canadians reason to vote against the Conservatives.

“Conservatives deserve more than a leader who is an attack dog in opposition, but will never be prime minister because they’ve already turned off many Canadians,” Brown said.

“But we have to aspire in order to win a general election. There’s too much at stake to elect another leader who will keep us in opposition.”

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Brown became the fifth publicly declared candidate to seek the Conservative leadership, left vacant after a caucus rebellion ended Erin O’Toole’s tenure at the top.

A former Conservative backbencher for Barrie, Brown mounted an outsider bid to take over the Ontario PC leadership in 2015. He very likely would have become Ontario’s premier – but allegations of sexual misconduct involving two young women, reported by CTV in 2018, led to his resignation.

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Brown launched a reportedly $8-million defamation suit against CTV last year, which was settled last week as he was preparing to launch his leadership bid. No money changed hands as a part of the settlement, but CTV acknowledged that some details provided to the network required correction. The original news stories remain on CTV’s website, and Brown has denied wrongdoing.

On Sunday, he chalked the allegations up to “cancel culture.”

“When the liberal media tried to make him cancel culture’s latest victim by smearing him with false allegations, he fought back to clear his name,” states Brown’s press materials.

The allegations were not tested in court. The precise details of the settlement between CTV and Brown are not publicly known.

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Brown, like the rest of the Conservative field, highlighted affordability issues as a central part of his pitch – calling himself a “kitchen table” conservative concerned about rising fuel prices, grocery bills, and the Liberal government’s carbon pricing system.

But the Brampton mayor said there should be no contradiction between addressing climate change and being a Conservative. If elected leader, Brown said he would consult the party’s rank-and-file to find a solution that is both acceptable to Conservatives and sellable to the general electorate.

“I’ve learned from experience that our members need to decide the position of our party, and I am confident that together we can come up with a winning position, one that addresses climate change and respects provincial jurisdiction, energy security, (and) energy sector workers while keeping life affordable,” Brown said.

The pledge to consult the membership could help Brown sidestep a debate over carbon pricing – which Poilievre promised to scrap should he become prime minister. But that’s unlikely to stop the pugilistic Poilievre’s attacks on his former backbench colleague.

On Sunday, Poilievre’s camp released a video suggesting that Brown would “say and do anything” to win.

The video showed Brown saying he’d scrap carbon pricing while running for the Ontario PC leadership, and embracing carbon pricing once he was the leader.

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Poilievre, former Quebec Premier Jean Charest, Ontario MP and social conservative standard-bearer Leslyn Lewis, and independent Ontario MPP Roman Baber are also seeking the top job. Ontario MP Scott Aitchison told Global News earlier this month he was exploring a bid.

Candidates have until April 19 to declare their intention to run, and until June 3 to sign up new members to support their bids. The next Conservative leader – the third in five years – is scheduled to be announced on Sept. 10.

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