Conservative party brass are firing back against claims Patrick Brown was blindsided by his disqualification from the leadership contest over allegations that election laws were flouted.
In a Friday email to party members obtained by the Star, Ian Brodie, chair of the leadership election organizing committee, said “the Brown campaign knew full well what the allegations were.”
“Any suggestion to the contrary is simply incorrect,” said Brodie, a former chief of staff to prime minister Stephen Harper.
Brown was not immediately available for comment Friday.
Brodie’s missive to the party faithful followed a sensational revelation Thursday night that the whistleblower was long-time Brown ally Debbie Jodoin, a veteran Tory organizer.
Jodoin, who was employed for about a month as a regional organizer on his campaign, claimed she was paid for her work through a private company.
“Mr. Brown told me that it was permissible for me to be employed by a company as a consultant, and then for that company to have me volunteer with the campaign,” she said in a statement through her lawyer, Jason Beitchman of Loopstra Nixon LLP.
“He connected me by text message with a third party for that purpose,” Jodoin said of Brown. “I trusted him, but as time went on I became increasingly concerned with the arrangement and suspected it was not OK.”
In a statement late Thursday, Brown’s campaign maintained the Conservatives did not share those allegations with them.
Brown’s team noted normally “issues relating to volunteers, organizers and lobbyists are raised directly with the campaign and an opportunity to address and remediate the concerns is given.”
But they maintain that did not happen.
Not so, insisted Brodie.
“I would love to share all that we have. But we have legal restrictions of what we are to say when we are dealing with allegations of breaking federal law. That’s why we referred this case to Elections Canada,” he told party members.
“The reality is our party received credible, verifiable information alleging serious wrongdoing in the Patrick Brown leadership campaign that violated not only the Leadership Election Rules, but the Canada Election Act.”
Brodie that he and party lawyer, Arthur Hamilton, “personally engaged for the better part of a week to find a path for the Patrick Brown campaign to be in compliance with our rules and federal law.”
“We met with the campaign on June 29 to relay the allegations, to convey the seriousness of them, and to inform the campaign that we would require a satisfactory response,” he wrote.
“On June 30, after another phone call with senior campaign officials, the Chief Returning Officer, Don Nightingale, and I sent a formal letter asking the campaign for a detailed and complete response. The Patrick Brown campaign delivered a response on July 1, that did not address our concerns about violations.”
The Conservatives are particularly rattled because Brown has retained prominent lawyer Marie Henein to appeal his disqualification even though it is unclear whether any such recourse is possible.
Henein, who successfully defended ex-CBC host Jian Ghomeshi and former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant in their high-profile cases, worries the Tories because of her abilities both inside a law court and in swaying the court of public opinion.
Compounding the chaos Friday was an outage of the Rogers network that left many Conservatives unable to communicate with one another as their party scrambled to cope with the crisis.
In a salvo to Nightingale, Henein warned: “The Kafkaesque process led to a politically motivated and preordained result and is not consistent with the values that should be upheld by this party.”
The famed lawyer also said his dismissal is the “disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of Canadians — in particular, new Canadians — that Mr. Brown and his campaign have brought into the party.”
Brown has blamed front-running rival Pierre Poilievre’s campaign for his ouster.
The other main contenders in the Sept. 10 contest are Jean Charest, the former Quebec premier, and Ontario MP Leslyn Lewis.
They will be Alberta over the weekend for an appearance at the Calgary Stampede.
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