Patrick Brown wants appeal of disqualification from CPC leadership race

On the heels of being disqualified from the federal conservative party's leadership race, Patrick Brown is calling it an "orchestrated" move. Cynthia Mulligan on what's next for the Mayor of Brampton.

By Cynthia Mulligan and Meredith Bond

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 was sent 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.

Henein is best known for successfully defending Michael Bryant and Jian Ghomeshi.

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.

In his first interview following Tuesday’s announcement, Brown tells CityNews his shocking disqualification is a “blemish” on the Conservative Party and alleges it was ‘orchestrated’ by Poilievre supporters

“They had asked some very odd and bizarre questions. But this was out of left field, and frankly, it was very disappointing because we were in a position to win this leadership,” said Brown.

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

Brodie said the allegations are related to the financing rules in the Canada Elections Act but provided no further details.

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

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.

The current Brampton mayor says the anonymous claim alleges someone was paid by a corporation while working on Brown’s campaign, but they haven’t received any additional information.

“We’ve asked for the name. No name was provided,” Brown explained.

“We’ve offered to research it and stated that if anyone were working on the campaign during hours meant to be working for another company, we would compensate [them], but we had no idea what the party was talking about.”

“Essentially, we’ve been disqualified on a phantom allegation that we have no information that would enable us to refute it,” Brown added.

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.

“I think I’ve certainly shown that I’m a fighter”

Brown says he believes there were people within the party that were nervous about his campaign as he was “challenging some of the traditional positions [and] some of the areas that I believe the party is on the wrong side of history.”

“This leadership was very much a battle for the soul of the party. And, unfortunately, they’re removing this option from party members,” Brown said.

This is not the first time a scandal has rocked Brown’s chances in a campaign. In 2018, allegations of sexual misconduct forced him to resign his position as the leader of the Progressive Conservatives.

Brown vehemently denied the accusations which have never been proven in court and within weeks was kicked out of caucus. Brown returned to the political arena later that year, becoming the mayor of Brampton.

“I think I’ve certainly shown that I’m a fighter, and just like I fought back four years ago successfully, you know, I’m not paying to take this line down.”

Brown admits this time, circumstances are a lot different.

“Four years ago, it was based on false allegations. I stepped aside to clear my name, which I did,” explained Brown.

“But what happened right here is absurd. To not allow an election within the party is something you’d see in a dictatorship, not in a democratic political party.”

Brown tells CityNews he flew back to Brampton from his campaign tour in New Brunswick early Wednesday to discuss the options available with his legal team.

“I’m going to consult our legal options and make a decision. But I would say, I’m disappointed, and what has happened is wrong,” the Brampton mayor said.

“It’s a slap in the face to party members. And the only person celebrating today, besides Pierre Poilievre, is Justin Trudeau.”

Brown asserts this move was “clearly orchestrated by Pierre Poilievre supporters.”

“I think there was a lot of influence put on the leadership election committee by Poilievre’s campaign. That’s unfortunate,” said Brown.

“This is the establishment choice, and Pierre Poilievre is the establishment choice. I don’t think anyone questions that it’s been evident with his endorsements from the party apparatus.”

Conservatives to announce leadership winner in September

When asked how far he will go to fight this, Brown admits he needs to look at options and determine how realistic those legal paths are.

“I am going to speak up; I’m not going to shy away from standing up for the 150,000 Canadians who I signed up to vote in this party who have now been disenfranchised,” Brown said.

According to the party’s election rules, there is no apparent chance at 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.

Diamond said what’s important now is for the party 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.”

“It’s paramount that there’s transparency.”

According to Brown, 150,000 new members have signed up to vote under him. About 675,000 members have signed up to vote for the new Conservative leader.

In 2020, there were only 270,000 members signed up to vote.

The party has not released information on how many each candidate has signed up, but Poilievre claims he sold nearly 312,000 memberships through his website.

The other candidates in the race are Conservative MPs from Ontario, Leslyn Lewis and Scott Aitchison, and Roman Baber, a former Independent member of the Ontario legislature.

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

While Brown won’t be allowed in the race, his name will appear on the final ballot as the party has already sent many out in the mail.

“I didn’t want to see the same old Conservative Party that would win the popular vote but lose the general election,” Brown said.

“I thought Canadians deserved a real conservative alternative. It doesn’t matter who you love, where you’re born, the colour of your skin, or what God you worship. Everyone was going to be welcomed, and I’m disappointed that we’re being robbed of that opportunity to build a modern, inclusive, Conservative Party.”

Meanwhile, Brampton city councillors have expressed dismay over becoming embroiled in the controversy surrounding Brown.

“We’re just as frustrated because we prefer to be here in council chambers, instead of being engulfed, the City of Brampton, at no fault to its own, in what happens at a party’s leadership,” said Deputy Mayor Martin Medeiros during a press conference.

“The leadership campaign should not be within the four walls of City Hall, whatever outside he has every right to do. And what we’ve been hearing from residents is that, once again, the City of Brampton name is being smeared because of our mayor, essentially, for whatever reason or another,” he added.

Medeiros said Brown should have taken a leave of absence during his leadership run.

“There’s been a negative impact on the city,” explained Medeiros. “We’ve essentially not had leadership since Christmas.”

A group of five city councillors have also called for an investigation into his dealings during his time as mayor of Brampton.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report

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