TORONTO – The former leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives broke his silence Tuesday, saying “the truth will come out” about the sexual misconduct allegations that prompted him to step down abruptly last month.
In a brief message posted on Twitter, Patrick Brown said that while he applauds the #MeToo movement, which has sparked an international conversation on sexual harassment and assault in recent months, false allegations “undermine that good work.”
Brown, who had not publicly spoken since his resignation in late January, said he is “immensely grateful” for the support he and his family have received.
He has vehemently denied the allegations against him, which were made to CTV News and have not been independently verified by The Canadian Press. His sister, Stephanie Brown, has also denounced the allegations as a “political hit.”
The Progressive Conservatives could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
Brown stepped down in late January just hours after an emotional late-night news conference in which he vowed to fight the allegations.
In the days that followed, he was asked to take a leave of absence from caucus and the party’s interim leader, Vic Fedeli, said he would not sign Brown’s nomination papers for the province’s spring election if the allegations still stood at campaign time.
Brown’s resignation plunged the Progressive Conservatives into turmoil, forcing the party to plan a leadership race that will be held before the June general vote, and stirring what Fedeli described as infighting.
So far, three high-profile candidates have announced they will vie for the party’s top job, including the politician who came in second to Brown in the last leadership race.
Christine Elliott, a former Ontario legislator, launched her campaign via social media last week, days after former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford announced his bid.
Caroline Mulroney, a Toronto lawyer and the daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, threw her hat in the ring over the weekend.
Those looking to lead the party have until Feb. 16 to register as candidates. Votes will be placed online in early March, with the results announced on March 10.
The party has also had to grapple with the resignation of its president, Rick Dykstra, in the face of reported sexual assault allegations that he denies.
The two departures have led some to question the party’s processes for dealing with such allegations, particularly after a longtime Progressive Conservative legislator said she flagged rumours about Brown to his campaign team weeks earlier.
Lisa MacLeod said the allegations related to “inappropriate touching,” among other things, and were similar to those that prompted Brown to resign. MacLeod said she was told the allegations were unfounded.