Brown says Conservative establishment, Poilievre campaign worked to oust him from leadership race

Patrick Brown says members of the Conservative Party establishment and supporters of leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre worked to disqualify him from the leadership race because they feared his progressive approach to conservatism was going to win.

“The party establishment was nervous that Pierre Poilievre wasn’t going to win. And his supporters, Pierre Poilievre’s supporters, are the ones behind this disqualification,” Brown told host Vassy Kapelos on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics Wednesday.

“They know we brought in 150,000 very motivated new Conservatives from diverse communities. They wanted to take the party in a different version, a different path, than his version of extreme conservatism.”

Brown said that his decision to take positions “that the party hadn’t taken before” made some in the party “uncomfortable” and prompted a backlash against him.

“I said very clearly, it doesn’t matter who you love, where you’re born, the colour of your skin, what god you worship. We are going to fight for everyone. I said that I would attend Pride parades, I would challenge Islamophobia,” he said. 

WATCH | Conservative Party disqualifies Patrick Brown from leadership campaign: 

Patrick Brown disqualified from Conservative leadership race

Patrick Brown says he’s been ousted from the Conservative Party leadership race by both the party establishment and supporters of Pierre Poilievre over concerns Poilievre wouldn’t win. But the committee organizing the race says the disqualification is related to financial wrongdoing.

Brown’s campaign said later it would appeal the decision and shared letters sent to senior Conservative officials.

Describing the process of removing him as “Kafkaesque” and politically motivated, lawyers with Henein Hutchinson warn Brown’s disqualification “may now be the subject of anticipated litigation.”

Brown is “not prepared to accept your attempt to disenfranchise the important voice of new Canadians in this party,” reads the letter to the party’s chief returning officer.

Brown was ejected from the leadership race Tuesday evening by the party’s Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC). The committee said Brown, the mayor of Brampton, Ont., was being dropped in response to “serious allegations of wrongdoing” related to financing rules.

The LEOC vote was 11 to 6, according to sources with knowledge of the decision.

Sources have told CBC News that there are allegations that at least one corporation paid some of Brown’s campaign workers. The sources said the LEOC’s decision to disqualify Brown was based on more than just verbal allegations and cited documents and financial records.

The sources said that Brown’s campaign was notified of the allegations verbally last Wednesday, and then by a formal letter — in accordance with the party’s leadership race rules — on Thursday. Brown’s campaign responded to that letter on Friday.

Conservative Party president Rob Batherson said Brown’s campaign was “well aware” of the allegations and “nobody should be caught off guard” by the decision to disqualify him.

“I think there was a lot of good-faith effort on behalf of the Leadership Election Organizing Committee,” Batherson told Kapelos on Wednesday.

WATCH | Brown denounces disqualification:

Patrick Brown speaks out after disqualification from Conservative leadership race

In an interview with the CBC’s Vassy Kapelos, Brown says the allegations against his campaign amount to a targeted attack by other candidates in the race.

When pressed by Kapelos for evidence supporting his allegation that Poilievre’s team was behind his ouster, Brown claimed the Ontario MP’s supporters on the LEOC were pushing for his disqualification.

“On top of that, members of Pierre’s campaign had even communicated to my campaign chair, John Reynolds, that they were going to be successful in pursuing this,” Brown told Kapelos.

Reynolds told CBC News that, as Brown’s campaign chair, he would have expected the party to reach out to him about the issue, rather than letting him learn of it through media reports.

“But over a week ago I did hear hear about it from one of Pierre Poilievre’s campaign members that this was going to happen,” he said. “This person asked me to come over to their side and join us when it did.”

‘Phantom allegation’

Poilievre’s campaign issued a statement saying Brown was dropped from the race due to “credible” accusations and dismissing his claim that the MP’s supporters scuttled his campaign.

“As always, when caught, Patrick tries to make himself into a victim, but ultimately the only person responsible for his disqualification is himself.”

Brown said that while he was presented with allegations that a member of his campaign was being paid by a private company, he was not given details that would allow his team to conduct its own investigation or properly respond to the charges.

“We had 1,800 volunteers working around the country, and we told the party we had no idea who this anonymous allegation was,” he said. “If anyone was working on our campaign during work hours on behalf of a company, we would immediately address that.

“But really, we were put in a position that we had to respond to a phantom allegation with no names, no details, and that’s impossible to do.”

More transparency called for

Conservative strategist Shakir Chambers, a principal at Earnscliffe Strategies, told CBC News that Brown’s ejection from the race was shocking and likely would make it easier for Poilievre to win on the first ballot.

He also said that he wants to hear details of the allegations against Brown before party members begin voting.

“More transparency would be better,” he said. “I think if folks could actually know what’s going on, it would help remove any division or any questions that would kind of follow this story and linger for weeks.”

Meanwhile, five Brampton city councillors published a statement Wednesday alleging that Brown hired staff and gave contracts to companies that were underqualified but had close ties to the mayor himself.

“Democracy in Brampton is under siege because of Patrick Brown,” the statement said. “It’s time to expose the truth and help us protect the hardworking taxpayers of Brampton.”

Brown said the five councillors released the statement at the behest of Poilievre’s campaign in an effort to “create disruption in Brampton,” and that the allegations contained in the statement have been dealt with already.

“It was investigated by Deloitte,” Brown said. “I supported the investigation and Deloitte found there was no wrongdoings at all. These are allegations against our previous CEO and I’m glad that it was investigated. I’m glad that the complaints were dismissed.”

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By Jon Doe