Patrick Brown wants appeal of disqualification from Conservative party leadership

By CityNews Staff

OTTAWA — Patrick Brown wants to appeal a decision made by federal Conservatives overseeing the party’s leadership race to disqualify him. 

A notice of appeal and warning of impending legal action related to Brown’s ousting wassent Wednesday evening to Don Nightingale, the party’s chief returning officer, and Ian Brodie, chair of the party’s leadership election organizing committee. 

The letters were signed by Toronto-based lawyers Alex Smith and Marie Henein, who say they are acting as Brown’s counsel. 

His decision to try and appeal his sudden removal came after Brown spent a day defending his innocence and accusing the party of mishandling the situation to stack the odds in favour of his main rival. 

The party’s leadership election committee chose — with a vote split 11 to six — on Tuesday evening to disqualify Brown from the contest, based on what Brodie called “serious allegations of wrongdoing.”

Party president Rob Batherson confirmed Wednesday the allegations came from within Brown’s campaign team.

Neither Brodie nor the party has specifically outlined what the allegations are, saying only they appear to breach the financing rules in the Canada Elections Act and as such, they would be shared with Elections Canada.

Brown’s lawyers contend the party’s decision not to provide the specifics he seeks shows he hasn’t participated in misconduct. 

“This Kafkaesque process led to a politically motivated and preordained result and is not consistent with the values that should be upheld by this party,” reads the notice of appeal co-signed by Henein and Smith. 

In a second letter, they request Brodie make sure all records and documents, including texts and messages on WhatsApp, regarding Brown’s disqualification are preserved, considering the fact his ousting “may now be the subject of anticipated litigation.”

They say that means telling leadership election committee members “to retain all of their communications with members of the Pierre Poilievre campaign and other stakeholders in relation to Patrick Brown.” 

Poilievre’s campaign said Wednesday that Brown is lashing out at the party and trying to “make himself into a victim.” His campaign also said it had nothing to do with the allegation brought forward against Brown.

Speaking to The Canadian Press earlier in the day, Brown,who is the mayor of Brampton, Ont., said the committee was presented with an anonymous allegation that someone working on his campaign was being paid by a corporation. 

Concerns about his campaign financing were first raised with his team last week.

Brown said they requested information about the identity of the individual or company, but it was not provided.

In terms of other allegations, Brown said his campaign fielded questions from the party about a report that staff from his mayoral office had been working on his leadership campaign. He said his team explained that anyone doing so wasn’t helping with the campaign during work hours.

He added there was another allegation about mail received at party headquarters related to the handwriting of one of Brown’s supporters from the Tamil community, as well as a query about the names of different supporters. 

Brown said his campaign felt the party was undertaking a “fishing expedition” with their questioning, but felt satisfied with the responses they provided.  

“I’m angry. I’m disappointed. It is incredible that this would happen,” he said. 

“We were, we believe, on the verge of winning this leadership. We thought we had a great pathway.”

Brown, a former leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives, said his campaign signed up more than 150,000 new people to join the party. Many of them hailed from cultural communities in some of the country’s largest cities, where the party has struggled to find support in the past few federal elections. 

On the allegation regarding how someone on his campaign team was paid, Brown said his team has 1,800 volunteers across the country and it’s tough to keep tabs on what everyone is doing. 

“Our campaign very strictly adhered to the Canadian election rules and the party rules. If we heard of any example where it wasn’t followed, we would, of course, want to rectify it immediately.”

Despite seeking an appeal, his options appear slim.

According to the party’s election rules, there is no apparent chance of an appeal. 

Conservative strategist Michael Diamond said courts typically try to stay out of the internal operations of political parties, so that avenue doesn’t seem likely to bring much success.

What’s important now, Diamond said, is for the party to be as transparent as possible, underlining that the removal of a candidate must only happen under the most severe of circumstances. 

“Members of the public … including the disqualified candidate, deserve to know exactly what the rationale is.”

Party spokesman Yaroslav Baran said he’s not surprised to see “sand being thrown in the air” by Brown with his accusations that the situation was handled unfairly.

“There are different categories of transgressions that have been alleged, and the … committee had to make a determination based on its evaluation of the nature of the allegations, the credibility of those making those allegations.”

Baran said the party membership list that was provided to campaigns last week — which is an all-important document candidates use to persuade party members to vote for them — was withheld from Brown’s campaign based on him allegedly violating the rules of the race.

Brown also finds himself in hot water with his critics within Brampton City Hall, with five council members releasing a statement on Wednesday that said “once again, our great city is in the national news for all the wrong reasons because of Patrick Brown.”

The Conservatives will announce the winner of the leadership race in Ottawa on Sept. 10.

Besides Poilievre and Charest, the other candidates are Conservative MPs Leslyn Lewis and Scott Aitchison, as well as Roman Baber, a former Independent member of the Ontario legislature.

Brown’s name will still appear on the ballot, as the party has already sent many out in the mail.

Last week, the party said about 675,000 members have signed up to vote for a new leader.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 6, 2022.

Stephanie Taylor and Marie-Danielle Smith, The Canadian Press

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