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The phone call that ended Patrick Brown’s leadership

Last Updated Feb 24, 2018 at 5:11 pm EDT

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown leaves Queen's Park after a press conference in Toronto on Jan. 24, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim

Patrick Brown pleaded with his caucus for an extra few hours on the night he was forced out as Ontario PC leader—he said he wanted to resign with dignity—but his MPPs were adamant that he had to go immediately, a secretly recorded tape of the conversation shows.

Maclean’s has obtained a copy of the dramatic conference call, the first of two held by the Tories on the frantic night before Brown left his position amid sexual misconduct allegations. Well-placed sources have confirmed the tape’s authenticity. At least 20 of the party’s 28 caucus members participated in the call.

The Jan. 24 conversation lays bare some of the battle lines now threatening to tear the party apart. From the start, caucus appears united against Brown and the prospect of his continued leadershipLed by MPP Randy Hillier and party whip John Yakabuski, they discuss the details of drafting a united caucus statement demanding Brown’s resignation.

Brown speaks up after 20 minutes, describing the accusations against him as “categorically wrong, false lies,” and imploring caucus to speak with him again in the morning before they issue their statement.

“Can we please allow me to do this with some dignity to meet with you guys tomorrow?” he asks. “I’m saying that I’m going to be a team player. I’ve been a Conservative all my life. I’m never going to put the party in a difficult position so we will decide what to do tomorrow. You’ve got my commitment that if I need to fall on my sword, even though—and I stress this—they’re complete bulls–t lies.”

Brown has categorically denied the allegations in public, and the accusations have not been tested in court. On Friday, his lawyers filed notice of a libel suit against CTV, which first aired the accounts of two young women.

But after the allegations were aired, his caucus mates made it clear they had no appetite to see him fight for his reputation while leading the party into a June 7 election. “Patrick, you don’t have a campaign team and you don’t have the confidence in caucus,” Hillier declares at one point. “And we’re a few short months away from an election. There is no other decision to be made.”

With caucus apparently resolved to drop him, Brown resigned in the early hours of Jan. 25, and the party eventually called a leadership election. On Feb. 16, Brown joined that race in hopes of regaining his position.

Read the full story and transcript at Maclean’s.


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