On November 14, 2018, the media began reporting on “explosive” information in a new book written by Patrick Brown, now mayor of Brampton, Ontario.
Brown had been poised to become the next Premier of Ontario until he was ousted overnight following the publication of sexual misconduct allegations by CTV on January 24th at the beginning of the year.
The chaos that ensued was unprecedented as Brown sought to both clear his name and recover leadership of the party he had revitalized.
Brown’s defamation lawsuit against CTV has been filed in court and CTV is defending their reporting. (Full disclosure: I was paid to do background research on the scandal, the results of which were turned over to another, independent journalist.)
The book, Takedown: The Attempted Political Assassination of Patrick Brown, details the events of January 24, 2018 and the weeks that followed as Brown searched for answers to how the coup had been orchestrated. Reports on the contents of the book quickly morphed from “stunning” and “explosive” to denouncing it as “petty” and “scathing.”
Given the vicious, sustained attacks from his former colleagues every time Patrick Brown refused to accept his political death, a little catharsis seems justified.
Those who have read the book (whether they like its contents or not) describe it as “a Game of Thrones kind of assassination” and say “I couldn’t put it down.” It’s certainly an unconventional read. Brown lets the reader in on the inner workings of politics in a way that’s never been done before. Instead of scripted political speeches, he writes as if he’s talking candidly to a buddy while watching a hockey game.
For instance, explaining the political term “ratfucking” for campaign war rooms, Brown calls lobbyist Bob Lopinsky “a top guy at Liberal Ratfucking Inc.” Brown goes on to admit he “didn’t think much of this at the time.” Laid out bluntly and honestly, there is a lot of retrospection.
Brown describes a theory he held that being kind to his opponents within the PC party would create a sense of unity but ultimately confesses, “I now think this concept works out better in the movies.”
One of those “enemies” who led the charge to force Brown’s resignation on what he calls “The Night of Knives” was MPP Lisa MacLeod.
Describing MacLeod’s contribution to the caucus call which ended his leadership, Brown writes that “if things weren’t so awful, [he] must say that Lisa MacLeod’s remarks would have presented some comic relief.” The book returns quite often to how many people hated MacLeod and how many people she hated in return. Undeniably, MacLeod seemed the most vicious and gleeful about Patrick Brown’s downfall.
Brown claims he struggled to befriend MacLeod despite her hostility towards him saying “Lisa, I don’t hold grudges. But you need to stop having these episodes where you believe I’m screwing you.”
The book takes aim at a number of politicians with particular focus on those who contributed the most to Patrick Brown’s removal as leader.
MPP Randy Hillier is described as “the definition of the angry white man.” Brown claims he warned Hillier numerous times to stop showing up to party functions while drunk. Interestingly, the fact that Patrick Brown abstains from drinking alcohol was used against him in the sexual misconduct allegations published by CTV.
Brown was described as a “well-reported teetotaller” in the original publication of the allegations against him.
The implication was that, by virtue of not drinking, Brown was preying on young women and waiting until they became intoxicated. The demonizing of sobriety is an interesting twist in the cultural conversation about sexual assault.
It’s interesting to note that, in the US, Brett Kavanaugh was denounced for his alleged partying behaviour. It seems with sexual misconduct allegations, you’re damned if you drink and you’re damned if you don’t.
Indeed, Patrick Brown has often been asked to explain his avoidance of alcohol as if choosing to live sober made him creepy. In Brown’s book, he describes a meeting he had with Charles Sousa, a former Minister of Finance for the Liberal government.
After being ousted as the Conservative leader, Sousa allegedly told Brown that the Liberals were always “scared” of him saying “what petrified them the most was that no one could believe [his] work ethic.”
And there is no doubt that Patrick Brown was a hard worker. With a seven million dollar inherited debt, Brown raced against the clock to eliminate the party deficit before fundraising rules changed at the stroke of midnight December 31, 2016. It seemed an impossible task.
Yet by November 2016 the chair of the PC Party Fund, Tony Miele, met Brown at a Tim Hortons outlet in Barrie, Ontario to announce they had made their goal. Brown swore Miele to silence and kept fundraising until they had raised an extra $4 million on New Year’s Eve 2017.
Despite Brown’s many accomplishments, he was deposed with no due process. His resignation was tweeted out by staff without his permission. Vic Fedeli took over as interim leader after the CTV allegations were published and declared the party had to “root out the rot” that Patrick Brown had left behind.
What had started out as a #MeToo moment quickly transformed into a political coup.
Evidence Brown produced showing that the women’s allegations were false was swept under the rug as a battery of secondary scandals were leaked to the media to switch the focus.
That the #MeToo movement may have been abused for political purpose seemed unworthy of investigation. Even as information became available that the two complainants were friends with CTV reporters, and that their own alleged witnesses denied the events, the news cycle had moved on.
Brown questions the double standards employed by media and by Vic Fedeli himself during those first few weeks of chaos.
The book reveals that Fedeli had been facing his own sexual misconduct allegation at the same time Fedeli was making public statements that he “believes women” when they say they’ve been harassed. Critics have accused Brown of making reckless assertions despite acknowledgements that Fedeli’s accuser had, indeed, approached the media through a lawyer to expose Fedeli’s hypocrisy. (Fedeli has claimed that the allegation is false.)
Brown offers advice to Doug Ford at the end of the book, though he acknowledges that it’s unsolicited. But the most valuable piece of advice to other politicians, given Patrick Brown’s surreal year, actually comes from one of Brown’s heroes, former Premier Bill Davis:
“The most important thing, Mr. Brown, is that you have around you good, smart people whom you respect and trust. That is essential. Not just people who tell you what you want to hear. Mr. Brown, whom do you have around you that you really trust? Who gives you honest and good advice?”
The truth about what happened, why CTV was determined to publish their allegations that night, and who played a role in those decisions has yet to come to light.
Perhaps the civil suit will reveal some of those answers when Patrick Brown finally gets his day in court. Meanwhile, the resounding message to the public coming from the PC Party is that some people matter and some people don’t.
Or, as George Orwell might say, some accusations are more equal than others.