OTTAWA – Patrick Brown has been disqualified from the race for the federal conservative leadership, after ballots already began to be mailed, and his campaign is fighting what it calls anonymous accusations.
“This is reprehensible and undemocratic behavior that breaks the faith of hundreds of thousands of Canadians who embraced Patrick Brown’s vision of a modern and inclusive Conservative party,” his campaign said in a written statement Wednesday morning.
“This is an indictment against the (Conservative Party of Canada) and a party that is not serious about winning a general election,” Brown’s campaign continued. “It is a shame. But, not for us.
Ian Brodie, chairman of the leadership election organizing committee, announced the surprise move Tuesday night, saying the party had become aware of “serious allegations of wrongdoing” by the Brown campaign.
The allegations relate to the funding rules of the Canada Elections Act, Brodie said in a written statement, but did not provide further details.
In his statement, Brodie said the party’s canvassing director informed Brown, who is mayor of Brampton, Ontario, of the concerns and requested a written response. He also decided to withhold the list of provisional members of the campaign from him.
Brodie said Brown’s campaign response did not meet concerns and the canvassing director recommended that the leadership election organizing committee disqualify him, which it chose to do with a vote held at a meeting Tuesday night.
Brodie said the party will share what it has with Elections Canada.
He said both he and the party’s scrutinizing director did their best to be fair to Brown, who was the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, and allowed time to refute the allegations.
“None of these issues have any impact on the integrity of the vote itself,” Brodie said.
“While we consider it important to provide a transparent response to party members on this matter, because this issue is now the subject of further investigation, we will not speak further on the matter.”
Brown’s campaign challenged this characterization of the process.
“This decision is based on anonymous complaints. Our campaign never received the full details or evidence of these allegations, failing a basic requirement of due process,” the statement from him said.
He accused the party of going on a “fishing expedition” and not giving the campaign “enough time” to respond, but said it “still complied with all the strange requests and unsubstantiated claims.” He also said the campaign learned of the disqualification, and the meeting where the decision was made, through the media Tuesday night.
The campaign said it is consulting with its legal team.
Brown’s campaign also accused the party of making this decision to favor Pierre Poilievre, the Ottawa-area parliamentarian long considered a favorite in the race and Brown’s main rival.
“Attempting to silence Canadians and circumvent democratic values through this baseless disqualification is the only way to ensure his victory,” the statement said.
As of Tuesday night, Poilievre’s campaign had not commented on the news.
The Conservatives will announce the winner of the leadership race in Ottawa on September 10.
The other candidates in the race are Conservative MPs Leslyn Lewis and Scott Aitchison, as well as former Quebec Premier Jean Charest and Roman Baber, a former independent member of the Ontario legislature.
A party spokesman said Tuesday night that a large number of ballot packets have already been sent to members in the mail.
Last week, the party said some 675,000 members had registered to vote for a new leader of the Conservatives. The party described this as an unprecedented number for any federal political party.
The eligible voter base in 2020, when Erin O’Toole was elected leader, was about 270,000 members. Earlier this year, the party said it had 161,000 current and active members across Canada. About 48,000 of them were scheduled to expire before the membership deadline in June.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 6, 2022.
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