Patrick Brown will announce that he is withdrawing from the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership race later today. Brown is citing the health of his mother, who was hospitalized over the weekend, and the barrage of threats, including death threats, aimed at him and his family.
Yet that claim will be doubted by many as the withdrawal comes hours after the Toronto Star broke a story about Brown’s interference in a nomination race that is now being investigated by Hamilton Police and as the province’s Integrity Commissioner announced they’re conducting an investigation into Brown’s finances.
Brown, who only re-entered the race to take the top PC job 11 days ago, was coming off a weekend that featured stories claiming internal polls put the Barrie MPP in the lead in a field of five contenders.
Since the ordeal began for Brown in late January, the 39 year-old has leaned heavily on his family for support, they in turn have been greeted with vicious online criticism and threats, according to a source close to the campaign. Now with his mother being hospitalized under the stress of it all, Brown is out.
In a tweet early Monday morning campaign spokesperson Alise Mills said the threats were, “very painful for the family and for Patrick.”
Stories began circulating late Sunday night that Brown was withdrawing from the race, a claim that Mills denied.
“Patrick is staying in the race,” Mills told me late Sunday.
She described a campaign in good spirits, a candidate determined to stay in the race and win. It didn’t last.
Monday morning the Star reported that Hamilton Police had emails from Brown that appear to show him telling top aides such as former PC executive director Bob Stanley to fix the nomination.
“Let them all fight it out. And get me the result I want. But no disqualifications here. Kitchen is too hot,” Brown said in a May 2 email exchange that is now in the hands of Hamilton Police.
“Got it,” replied Stanley two minutes later, in a message that was also sent to Dykstra and another unidentified senior Conservative.
The nomination race in Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas came after a string of other contentious nominations, including Ottawa West-Nepean where Stanley and other Brown loyalists were accused of unsavoury tactics, even ballot stuffing, to get the results they wanted.
The Integrity Commissioner’s investigation comes a week after The Globe and Mail reported that Brown had developed a strange financing deal to purchase a home, a deal involving a man that went on to become a PC candidate in the Toronto area. Brown denied the deal ever went through but others raised questions about whether the deal was part of selling a nomination.
Other media outlets had their own stories on why Brown would be dropping out despite the Sunday night and overnight pushback by Brown’s campaign.
The Toronto Sun cited unending questions about the sexual misconduct allegations that first surfaced in January while The Globe and Mail cited strategy and questions about who was bankrolling Brown’s campaign.
The deadline for withdrawing from the race was last Friday so it is unlikely that Brown’s campaign will get any money back from the PC Party; his name, however, likely won’t appear on the ballot. The party is using a full electronic voting system. Party members can begin voting and ranking each candidate in their order of support on March 2, voting ends on March 8, and the results will be revealed on March 10 in Toronto.