Night of Knives: A chapter from Takedown reveals the dark underbelly of Ontario politics
(The following excerpt includes profanity and may be offensive to some readers)
Night of Knives
I listened to my caucus, my team, my colleagues. I
remember that early into the call, someone said, “Oh,
that fucking Lisa has already gone out with a statement.”
As I listened in, what I heard horrified me. Some of my
colleagues had transformed into hyenas.
Late in summer 2016, I took a trip to Ontario’s Georgian Bay, to the cottage of William Grenville Davis, the province’s 18th premier. Davis had been my model for governing. At the time, we were about one week away from the Scarborough-Rouge River by-election.
On a very sunny day, we sat for about four hours on the beautiful, spacious deck on Davis’s stunning property, a property he referred to back in the day as “Queen’s Park North.” I wondered how many political dignitaries visited, and how many deals had been brokered at this place during his time in public office. If only those smooth granite rocks could speak, I was sure they’d have plenty of great stories.
Davis’s son Neil and Neil’s wife, Ruth, were also there, as were some of his other children and their spouses. Davis designated the person who brokered the meeting as the “boss” of the session and the person who would determine who would sit where in the circle of chairs on the large deck. It made me smile that, after so many years, Davis still understood the art of politics.
Being at the cottage of such an icon in Ontario’s political history was pretty cool. I wanted to use the time to explain what I was all about, answer any questions he had and ask for advice. We spoke of specific issues, political stances, of the great and ugly realities of managing a big blue tent and, of course, of my riding-by-riding prospects. The details of these conversations will remain forever at that cottage, guarded by the granite below.
There is, however, one thing about that meeting that I’ll share. It’s a piece of advice Bill Davis gave me before I headed back to the large boat that would return me to Honey Harbour. The advice was simple, almost too simple:
“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?”
At the time, I didn’t realize just how important that one, simple piece of advice actually was, nor how it would come back to bite me in the ass. On January 24, 2018, I would find out.
In the introduction of this book, I set out what took place on the worst day of my life: the CTV emails; the complete shock; the rushed statement I made at Queen’s Park; and the walk back to the black sedan in which Shan Gill, my driver, would take me back to my temporary home, the apartment on St. Mary’s Street.
I entered the apartment. It looked the same as when I left. Yet, everything was different. I had now officially [alerted] the world to the fact that something big was going to break at 10 p.m. If anyone out there wasn’t paying attention, they would be now.
A small group had gathered at the apartment: John Sinclair, executive director of PC caucus services; Goldy Hyder, my debate coach and CEO of Hill+Knowlton Strategies; lawyer Mike Richmond, my long-time friend; Walied Soliman, my campaign chair and friend; Rebecca Thompson, my director of communications; Rob Godfrey, son of former Blue Jays’ President and CEO Paul Godfrey and a supporter; and my sisters, Fiona and Stephanie. Dimitri Soudas made an appearance, then left soon after.
It had been 9:55 p.m., as I was standing dazed in front of the media in the caucus room, that Alykhan Velshi, my chief of staff; Andrew Boddington, my campaign manager; and Dan Robertson, my chief strategist, had all resigned via Twitter, in a cafeteria in the basement of Queen’s Park.
While I made that walk down the marble stairs of Queen’s Park’s west wing, my only knowledge at the time was that not one of these guys was with me, as had been promised. I was alone.
Richmond had seen them leave 15 minutes before we all left for Queen’s Park. “Where are you going?” he asked.
Apparently, they were going to the Legislature building early to ensure that everything was “set up” properly for my hasty press conference. They clearly did make it to the Legislature, and I think that set up is an excellent description of what they did next. While I stood at that podium upstairs, trying to get out the message that they had instructed was my best course of action, they got out their smartphones and tweeted out their resignations.
I found out about all this when I got back to the apartment. There were more rats jumping ship: Josh Workman, who had been hired by Andrew Boddington and who had been helping organize southwestern Ontario, quit; and Nick Bergamini, my press secretary, quit. Bergamini had worked in Harper’s office and had been hired by Velshi. I suspected late in the game that Bergamini might not be acting in my best interests. He wasn’t working with Becky [Thompson], which was a little absurd, since she was the director of communications. Bergamini presented himself the next day, January 25, to the office and got his old job back under the new interim leader, [Vic] Fedeli. Ken Boessenkool, who had been brought in by Velshi to work on the campaign, also quit.
That one I couldn’t believe. Boessenkool resigned because of these allegations against me? Gimme a break!
In 2012, Boessenkool resigned as chief of staff to British Columbia premier Christy Clark. It was widely reported that he was dismissed for allegedly making an unwanted advance in a bar toward a young female political staffer in the B.C. government. In his letter of resignation, Boessenkool admitted to acting “inappropriately” and said he regretted his behaviour. He apologized to his wife and four young daughters.
When Velshi implored me to hire him as part of my campaign team, I didn’t want to because of those allegations. But Velshi pushed hard and vouched for him, saying he was very sharp. And now Boessenkool was resigning? Unreal.
In my view, none of these men behaved at all professionally. Worse still, not one had the courage or decency to resign in person or to provide me directly with any communication on their intentions while they crafted my next moves. Had I known that they intended to bail, I would not have taken their advice on the press conference or anything else, for that matter. I would have had the opportunity to release them from their duties and attend to my crisis with people who I felt would be there for me.
Think about it. When a senior-level person decides to resign from a company, they aren’t asked to participate in sensitive strategy sessions. They are thanked for their service and often they are walked out the door.
I should have had that same option. Instead, I operationalized a plan constructed by three assholes who knew that it really didn’t matter what happened because they were all about to jump ship, like the rats they are.
The fact that they did what they did, and the way in which they did it, speaks volumes about their character, or in this case, lack thereof.
I will always believe that each would have been regarded with respect had he acted professionally and discharged his duties to me as leader in a professional manner. While in my employ, they should have done everything possible to protect me, and they did not. They were aware that something was going to break, but they did nothing. I’ll address that in the next chapter.
At 10 p.m., CTV aired its broadcast live with Lisa LaFlamme, who introduced the piece as a CTV National News exclusive: “Disturbing allegations of sexual misconduct against the man who wants to be the next premier of Ontario.”
The newscast featured images of me walking to the ill-advised press conference, and the shadow of a woman (her identity was withheld) talking about her alleged experience. CTV also provided audio tapes of the second self-described victim. Now it was all out there.
I had been receiving text messages from my girlfriend, GG, throughout the evening. She was still at her workplace, SickKids Foundation, because she knew some on the team did not approve and didn’t know we had rekindled our relationship. GG was growing progressively more frantic. She’d take little breaks from her work to respond to the influx of calls she was getting on her cellphone, and she was reading all the media reports that started flooding in.
Her messages to me were consistent: “DO NOT RESIGN.”
Finally, well into the night, GG figured her best bet was to head back to Mississauga to get her car and show up at the apartment to support me.
Meanwhile, CTV continued to run with hourly repeats of its news broadcast. Social media had exploded with the story. My phone was ringing off the hook.
Hyder was very honest with me. He was clear, that in his opinion, it was doubtful that I could survive the CTV story and the domino effect it caused. “Your team, Alykhan and Andrew and Dan … they fucked you, Patrick. And in light of the story and because of them resigning, I really see no way that you can survive the weekend.” I knew I needed to survive the night and the weekend before making any rash decisions, but I trusted Hyder, and I was taken aback that he was so defeatist.
The staff’s resignation was, in Hyder’s view, an insurmountable optics problem, even though it had been a result of the domino effect caused by the CTV story.
Walied Soliman and those who remained at the apartment were there to support me, no matter what I wanted to do. We debated whom to make my chief of staff, now that Velshi had decided to move on. The group agreed on Becky or Richmond. In the end, we agreed on Becky. I huddled with those who were still part of my team. Walied believed we needed more time to think, and if I were to survive we needed to win the weekend. First and foremost, we needed to keep as many caucus and candidates onside [as possible]. He suggested that we start calling caucus members to shore up my supporters. Most were not picking up our calls.
Monte McNaughton, MPP for Lambton–Kent–Middlesex, did answer. He warned me that other caucus members were already mobilizing against me. Ross Romano, MPP for Sault St. Marie and my old law school buddy, told me the same thing. I called MPP Rick Nicholls, who was in the Caribbean. I think he may have had a few beverages in him at the resort when I called, but he immediately offered his full support.
I talked to Toby Barrett, who was also the caucus chair. He told me that in his part of the province, people were telling him that the whole thing smelled like a takedown, and that many felt the allegations were BS. He also gave me his support. I felt a glimmer of hope.
I was told that Fedeli, my finance critic, was already campaigning to be party leader. I tried to reach him, but he wasn’t picking up. Odd, I thought. Fedeli spent the last three years sucking up to me and jumping every time I called.
It was then that Rebecca Thompson noticed the invite that was sent out by email, requesting an urgent conference call with caucus. My phone had been ringing off the hook all night, and I had stopped looking at it, so I missed it. Becky came into my room and told me that caucus had organized its own conference call. She asked if we should call in and just listen. My guess was that they were not expecting me to call in.
The call was set up by Michael Harris, MPP for Kitchener–Conestoga. Harris sold the meeting on the grounds that this was pretty bad stuff, and caucus needed to get together to discuss it all. I find this somewhat ironic, given that a few months later, the party’s nomination committee would turf Harris after reviewing some flirty text messages that he exchanged with an intern back in 2012. Apparently, he was not married at the time, and no complaint was ever filed by the intern[,] who didn’t work for him. There was a great deal of chatter that the real reason for his removal was actually because he wasn’t “in” with Ford’s team after Ford won leadership of the PC Party. I can’t imagine he sees the world the same way now as he did when he booked that caucus call, but who knows?
At 10:52 p.m., and before any statement was issued by either Premier Wynne or NDP leader Andrea Horwath, our very own Lisa MacLeod sent out the following tweet: "Every citizen of Ontario deserves respect. Everyone has the right to be free from unwelcome behaviour or advances. I do not and will not tolerate abuse or harassment, and I will do everything in my power to fight against it. My heart goes out to the women who have been impacted by this behaviour. It takes courage to come forward and make these claims. These women deserve our support and thanks."
Maclean’s magazine got hold of a secretly taped recording of that conference call, which it had transcribed and published a month later. “Sources” identified the speakers though some of the speakers were not identified. As far as I can recall, the transcript of the recording as printed by Maclean’s on February 24, 2018, is authentic. I have included much of that transcript below and have put in front the names of the people speaking when identified. My comments are in italics:
The conference call began at around 10:30 p.m. Rebecca Thompson called in, but we stayed silent for 20 minutes or so, and I listened to my caucus, my team, my colleagues. I remember that early into the call, someone said, “Oh, that fucking Lisa has already gone out with a statement.”
As I listened in, what I heard horrified me. Some of my colleagues had transformed into hyenas.
John Yakabuski, party whip: “I can sit here and say, in my 15 years, nobody has been any more loyal to their leaders than me. I feel for Patrick, but my honest view in the climate we live in today and what we saw with Glen McGregor’s press [report] there … we would be facing 1993 for the federal Conservatives if Patrick leads us in this campaign. And I don’t think he could have handled the press conference any worse. I mean, I thought his statements were fine, but then the way he, it’s just, he talked about the court of public opinion. That’s where we’re living, folks. Every one of us depends on that public opinion in our own ridings, too. And we’re not impervious to what’s going on with our leader. I think that jointly, we should, in a very kind and compassionate way, request as a unified caucus that Patrick step down.”
The recording chirps with beeps and rings as more caucus members enter the call. One agrees. Another says a roll call must be held. Caucus members are still dialing in.
Some are careful to avoid assuming the allegations made against Brown are true.
“It’s [Thornhill MPP] Gila [Martow] here. I think we have to be very careful that we’re not saying we believe one side or the other side. We don’t know the facts. But just that we have to ask that he step aside because this matter has to be settled while he is not the leader and then if it gets settled to everybody’s satisfaction, we would welcome him back to the team in some capacity. Whatever was available. But I think that we have to be careful with the language that we’re not accusing anybody.”
The roll call continues. The conference is chaotic and beeps throughout, indicating someone has joined or dropped the call.
“It’s [Elgin–Middlesex–London MPP Jeff] Yurek speaking. We need a statement tonight. We can do one as a group tomorrow, but we need something tonight because I’m getting hammered already.”
A female MPP says: “Well, we all are getting hammered. We’ve got to take a breath here.”
Yakabuski begins to draft a statement on behalf of caucus on the fly: “Dear Patrick: On behalf of the members of Progressive Conservative caucus, I am writing to inform you that it has been decided that it is in the best interest of the party and ultimately the people of Ontario that you resign your role as leader of the PC Party of Ontario and leader of the opposition effective immediately.”
“Asking him to resign? That’s weak,” a male voice responds.
“That you must resign,” [Dufferin–Caledon MPP] Sylvia Jones corrects.
Other members weigh in. “Good enough for me.” “I second it.”
Next: the matter of whether Brown will be able to remain in caucus.
“I hadn’t considered that yet, but I would suggest if he resigns as leader, that’s not likely going to be an issue because we’re not going to see him at caucus. But having said that, he is still the sitting MPP,” Yakabuski says.
He’s still an elected member, one notes.
Finally, [Wellington] MPP Ted Arnott asks caucus about the allegations themselves. The CTV report was still so fresh that some members had not heard the claims in full.
“What, exactly, do we know for sure?” Arnott asks.
“Two women accused him and so far, four — two of his top staff and two of his top campaign team — have urged him to resign,” Jones responds.
Actually, these “top staff” members had not urged me to resign. They told me that they we [sic] would fight these allegations and win. They called a press conference for me, which they sold as the way to get out ahead and start the fight. They crafted my address — never mind that it was the worst possible thing for me to do under the circumstances. They did all this while they were planning to resign.
“Who are the women? Do we know who they are, and what exactly are they alleging?” Arnott continues.
“I’ve read the allegations, Ted. They’re two young women, and there’s — I’m not going to reiterate,” [Lanark-Frontenac–Kingston MPP Randy] Hillier says.
Figures. Randy hated me so much because we launched an internal investigation into his alleged physical intimidation of a PC candidate. We were contemplating sensitivity training or kicking him out of caucus entirely.
“Next question,” a male voice continues, “has anybody reached out to Patrick to try to talk some sense into him?”
“Don’t you think it makes sense to approach him and tell him this is about to happen before we do it, and allow him the opportunity to resign on his own?” Arnott asks. “He has to resign after we do this, and it’s worse for (us) if it plays out that way.”
Yakabuski: “Well it’s not like we’re going to publicize it, but he’s made it clear. He’s allowed. Ted, we’re in the midst almost, you could say we’re in the campaign. He put his self-interest ahead of us and the party by basically saying you guys can all quit, but I’m not. I really want you to think about that.”
Martow says she is texting with Walied Soliman — one of the senior campaign staffers who has chosen to stand by Brown. “I said: ‘It’s Gila here. He will be asked to resign by caucus.
Unanimous. It would be far better if he steps down while he clears his name. I’m on the conference call with caucus right now.’ So at least we, you know, we tried to make it more pleasant.”
[Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock MPP] Laurie Scott asks what the party constitution says, and Sylvia Jones concedes that it doesn’t grant caucus the right to fire the leader.
Arnott: “If we call for his resignation unanimously, it doesn’t matter what is in the constitution. He will have to resign.”
The roll call continues, as the caucus tries to figure out who is on the line, who the caucus spokesman will be and who is writing the letter.
[Oxford MPP] Ernie Hardeman: “I totally agree with the unanimous position, but I don’t agree with the at midnight in the night,” he says, “when there is no news cycle, a unanimous decision on a caucus call when not everybody is there. We should meet tomorrow morning and we should settle this all in a proper way. Tomorrow morning is still considered acting immediately.”
But others quickly note this is simply not a political climate that will tolerate stalling.
Yakabuski: “Today, we had the doctor from United States gymnasts, 175 years in jail. We had the Leader of PCs in Nova Scotia resign — same issue. We had the RCMP going on about numerous multiple recruits and candidates for recruitment being sexually assaulted by a doctor. The climate is such that any delay only gives more time for negative response from people that feel that we’re not ready to be the government.”
The caucus debates whether to issue a statement saying they will meet in the morning, which would give caucus time to review the allegations more thoroughly, and to ensure the decision is truly unanimous. But as the conference continues, messages about the allegations against Brown and his dismal press conference continue to proliferate on Twitter.
Yurek: “We live in an age of social media; we can’t wait for the next news cycle. This is happening now. Lisa [MacLeod] is getting multiple tweets and comments about issuing a statement. So we need to do something now. I can’t wait until the morning on this. I am not going to let my reputation dwindle and be questioned because of an allegation on our leader, and we’re just mollycoddling [sic] around trying to make the right decision. We need to act now. We need to make a statement. Otherwise, I’m going to make my own statement, because we all know at the end of the day he needs to step aside, show accountability and leadership until this is cleared up.”
Caucus unity is quickly dissolving, with the risk that individual members will strike out alone and denounce Brown should the group refuse to issue a collective statement demanding his resignation.
Suddenly, a non-caucus member chimes into the call.
“Hey everybody, it’s Rebecca Thompson.”
“So I’m sitting here with the leader, with Patrick,” she says. “We’ve listened to your entire call.”
The conference goes silent for several beats. There is muttering in the background.
“Are you listening?” Thompson asks.
Thompson: “What we’d like to do is to have a discussion with you about this. Tomorrow morning. Patrick wants to listen to everything that you have to say. And then Patrick is going to step down.”
What? Who gave Becky the authority to say that? I didn’t agree to that. Rob Godfrey muted the call and quickly bellowed: “Rebecca, you’ve got no fucking authority to say that! Shut the fuck up!” He said that in front of everybody, and my sisters chimed in.
The call was unmuted. I spoke into the line:
Me: “You guys, it’s Patrick. You guys, I’m always going to do what’s right for the party so please don’t pre-empt this. I just want to talk to you guys tomorrow to tell you why I feel this is an unmitigated falsehood. But we even have a female who was with me that night who has signed a statement to that effect[,] who was in photos with me that night, saying that this is completely false. But ultimately, I realize this is an age of social media. I am always going to do what’s right for the party, just give me the chance to meet with caucus tomorrow, rather than rush into any decisions at midnight.”
At this point, I was trying to walk back what Rebecca had said. Above all, I needed time — time to think and time to respond.
Hillier: “Patrick, you don’t have a campaign team and you don’t have the confidence of caucus. And we’re a few short months away from an election.”
“There is no other decision to be made.”
Me: “Randy, I’m always going to do what’s right for the party, but let’s go over all this tomorrow. I’m not going to make a decision at midnight.”
Hillier: “What’s right for the party, Patrick, is for you to step down.”
Me: “Randy, first of all you’re asking me to accept allegations that are categorically wrong, false, lies. Having said that, even though they are false and lies, I’m a team player, so let’s meet tomorrow and find out what the best course of action is.”
What was right for the party was to be modern and inclusive. What was right for the party was to have a significant membership, which I had built up. What was right for the party was a solvent party that had the means to launch a proper election campaign. What was right for the party was to attract a great slate of candidates that was more reflective of Ontario. These were MY accomplishments. Patrick Brown was what was right for the party! And I’d be damned to let these bullshit allegations remove me. Regardless of an election win, would the PC Party be so much better off under the stewardship of someone else? I didn’t think so.
Hillier: “Your team has vacated you, Patrick.”
My team of backstabbers.
Me: “Randy, I’ve got Bob Stanley here, Walied Soliman here. I’ve had the caucus chair Toby Barrett call me and tell me I have his full support. Having said that, despite the fact that we have the caucus chair, the campaign manager Bob Stanley, my interim staff, Rebecca Thompson all here offering their support, what I will say is I’m not going to do anything that hurts the party.”
Sam Oosterhoff: “This is hurting the party, Patrick. Patrick, this is hurting the party. This is really hurting the party.”
Me: “Listen, it’s like being hit by a truck with these statements. Imagine this happened to any of you. Imagine people are making up bullshit about you, and you’ve got no time to respond. So what I’m asking is, let’s meet tomorrow and we will find an orderly way to go about this. I’ll be party-first.”
Hillier: “What would you consider ‘in orderly fashion,’ Patrick?”
Me: “Well, let’s figure that out tomorrow.”
Hillier: “I think there is strong motivation and requirement that we deal with this tonight and understand what possibly could be your orderly departure.”
Me: “Randy, if it’s necessary for me to resign in the best interests of the party I will. But what I want to do is I want to meet with caucus tomorrow. We’ll bring Walied and Bob and Mike and everyone, and we will make a decision together. What I’m saying is, let’s not rush to a judgement at midnight. And you know we’ll talk about everything tomorrow. You guys take your time to [inaudible] folks and we’ll deal with this tomorrow.”
Hillier: “I think if I could put any stock in your statement, Patrick, it would have required a conference call ahead of your press conference this afternoon.”
Here, I felt sick. Hillier was partially right. The press conference was a terrible decision dreamed up by the key people I trusted, who, while selling this idea to me, had one foot out the door already. I should have called a caucus meeting, instead, and not for the purpose of resigning, but to have let everyone know that I was leader, and that anyone who didn’t support me could have walked. There’d have been many candidates lined up waiting to run in their place.
Me: “I said if it’s the will of the team then I’m prepared to resign. But can we please allow me to do this with some dignity to meet with you guys tomorrow. We have half a caucus on this call. 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 bullshit lies. Even though they are, I will always do what’s right for the party. Let’s meet tomorrow, pick a time that works for everyone and I will be there and I’m willing to fall on the sword.”
At this point, I simply wanted to buy myself time to think. Too much had happened since I walked off that tennis court only five hours before.
Jones: “I think the number I have is 21 who are on the call, I can’t justify to the media that travel schedules did not allow us to meet until 3 o’clock. I just can’t.”
I had no idea how many were on the call. All I know at this point is that not one of my supporters was on the call.
Oosterhoff: “We need to make this decision tonight.”
They wanted me dead now. They didn’t care about truth or innocent until proven guilty. They didn’t believe in due process or any process, really. They wanted me dead.
Me: “Why don’t we pick a time as early as it’s possible tomorrow that works for caucus. If 10 a.m. is too early, make it 11 a.m. I think it signals I’m going to meet with caucus to go over this [and] shows that we’re taking this seriously.”
MacLeod: “I think the time for taking it seriously went when John Sinclair [executive director of PC caucus services] called me this evening and the fact that we lost our senior campaign team. Most members on this call have been elected as long as me — some maybe a little bit longer or a little bit less.
We’re going into a campaign and we’ve just lost it now. I think Patrick, with all due respect, you don’t have the confidence of your campaign team. You don’t have the confidence of our caucus. You actually have to give those on this call and those candidates you recruited a fighting chance on June 7. And the only way you’re going to be able to do that is to reverse your decision that you made this evening on your press conference. And I know many members of this caucus are antsy, but the reality is that we’re in a day and age that we need to be very clear about who we are, and we need to be very clear on where we stand. And I think for the good of the party, the best thing you could do is to let us run this Progressive Conservative (party) in the next election without 20 more minutes of this conversation.”
OK, if things weren’t so awful, I must say that Lisa MacLeod’s remarks would have presented some comic relief. Are we kidding? Which Lisa was this talking about doing right for the team? Would it be the Lisa, of the “I Can’t Keep Staff Cause I’m So Nasty” Lisa? Or perhaps the “I Can’t Work Well with Anybody” Lisa? I couldn’t believe my ears.
And of course, speaking of doing what is right for the team, collaboratively, and with a unified voice, wasn’t it Lisa who put out her own tweet in support of my accusers at 10:52 p.m.? I wonder if she bothered to clear it with the “team” first, or if this was her way of bullying the outcome she hoped to achieve.
Me: “Lisa, I believe passionately that we need change. I believe passionately in our message. I would never want to stop us from getting to the finish line. One day is not going to make a difference, and you have my commitment that I will do what is right. Another press conference at midnight would be ridiculous.”
MacLeod: “Actually, it wouldn’t. It would give us a fighting chance tomorrow morning to start off the day fresh.”
Yes, well, no point arguing with someone who has now found religion on team spirit, albeit in the context of throwing me under the bus.
Hillier: “Patrick, you are at the finish line. Tonight is the time to make the decision. I think it’s clear and overwhelming that caucus wants you to step down and I think you should now consider how best you can do that to save what is left of your reputation, and possibly live to fight another day.”
Me: “Randy, I will do what is needed, but I’m not going to do it at midnight. Please allow me to do this with some dignity.”
“And I will not be waiting, Patrick,” Hillier says.
Good ole Randy, clearly another advocate for “the team approach.” If he didn’t get what he wanted, he’d do it his way. My political enemies from caucus like MacLeod and Hillier were going for the jugular.
Yakabuski: “We can’t have every member going on their own, doing things singularly which doesn’t speak in a unified voice with every member trying to save their own ass, which is not what we need to do, we need to save our collective ass. Patrick, I think you can see what’s happening here. The longer this goes on, the more chance there is of further damage, of people doing things and people will feel under a great deal of pressure. And (if) people are approached by a women’s group or something? Or somebody like Laurie, our women’s critic. What is she going to say? If I’m approached by the sexual assault centre in Renfrew County? How am I going to answer this?”
Me: “You guys, I’m not going to make a decision at 11:20. I’ve got the team here. I’ve got Bob and Walied and everyone let me talk to them. I’m not doing this at 11:20. I will do what’s right for the party.”
Hillier: “It will be better for you, Patrick, if you do it. Rather than caucus. We’re giving you the option to exit on your own terms tonight before caucus sends a statement out tonight.”
(The premier has just posted on Twitter. NDP leader Andrea Horwath is also weighing in, calling for Brown’s resignation.) “She beat us to the punch.”
Me: “You guys, I’m not going to do this tonight. I’m willing to fall on my sword tomorrow, if that’s what caucus wants. But I have been getting conflicting messages. I spoke to [MPPs] Toby. I spoke to Ross. I spoke to others. Having said that, you guys are making it pretty clear to me. I will always do what is best for the party. [Inaudible] give me the dignity to do this properly tomorrow. Here’s Mike; you want to say something too.”
Richmond: “It’s pretty clear listening to this where caucus is, and we all see what is going on here. I know you all, I know you are all great people I know you all put yourself in (Patrick’s) shoes to some extent and recognize that after politics a young guy has to make a living and find something else to do — whenever that after-politics is. I’m asking you a favour as what I consider friends, let him do this his way so he still has a chance of doing something with his future. Please. Just out of pure decency.”
Jones: “He could have a good future when he beats the allegations in court but we’ve gone past the public opinion, that’s the problem, Mike.”
Yakabuski: “Mike, when you say on his terms, what do you mean on his terms? Like 10 o’clock tomorrow morning? Like, like, this can’t go on. Like, it can’t be after tomorrow.”
Richmond: “Give him some time to write a statement or a speech and do it in the light of day not in the cloak of darkness which is embarrassing, itself.”
MacLeod: “We didn’t embarrass ourselves, okay? We were all just at work and coming home for supper when all this broke, Mike.”
Vic Fedeli says that if Brown going to resign, then caucus needs to show it is decisive.
Vic’s remarks came as a surprise to me. His was the biggest betrayal because I always thought I treated him well. I recall Fedeli sucked up to me non-stop with compliments like, “You’re the best leader we ever had,” and, “So proud of the work you’re doing in northern Ontario, you inspire me…” He’d lay it on thick; it was over the top at times.
Most of these people I thought were with me, my colleagues. And suddenly, to hear them viciously attack me was devastating.
Smith: “And listen, as far as Patrick having the opportunity to defend himself and tell his side of the story, trust me, the media is going to want to cover that. But we have to rip that Band-Aid off tonight if that’s the decision that’s going to be made. Patrick will have every opportunity tomorrow with the biggest media throng that he has ever seen to tell his side of the story and to defend his own reputation. It’s not as if we are taking that away from him. That is going to happen. But as far as we’re concerned, for the good of the party, I think we have to put out a statement at midnight tonight [that] after a thoughtful and heartfelt conversation with caucus, the leader came to the decision that this is the right thing to do [and] he will be holding his own press conference at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning.”
Rebecca Thompson begins to argue about the news cycle, saying it begins at 6:00 a.m. Caucus doesn’t need to put out a statement before 6:00 a.m.
(Jones asks Rebecca to confirm that the resignation statement will go out at 5:45 am the next morning.)
Hillier: “Caucus should put out a statement now, saying that Patrick Brown will be announcing his resignation tomorrow morning.”
Thompson: “No, no. Again, again, again, for the sake of…” Rebecca Thompson tapers off. “He’s been your leader for the past three years for the sake of ensuring that…”
Hillier: “For the sake of the party, it needs to be done tonight.”
Thompson: “Randy, for the sake of the fact that he can have a dignified release about this.”
“He can still have that,” a male MPP says.
Thompson: “He can still have that without caucus pushing down the pedal on this.”
Hillier: “We’re giving you the option to do it now.”
Richmond: “… human being for five … let it be his decision, not yours. Don’t execute him. You don’t need to execute him. Please.”
Thompson: “By the way, you’ll make the story worse.”
Hillier: “If you drag it out.[”]
Caucus members finalize the details of the release; they want Brown to focus on his resignation, not to use the opportunity to defend the allegations of sexual impropriety.
I would let Rebecca draft something, but I would say no to any draft. That’s what I would do. I wanted to talk to caucus face to face. I needed to buy some time; I needed time to think. At this point, things were moving quickly, and all I felt was shell-shock. Everything was a blur. I was not about to make big decisions on the spur of the moment.
By now I was exhausted — emotionally, physically, mentally and in every other possible way. I just wanted to get off the line and have some time to think and plan my next move in light of the fact that these allegations were lies.
Walied Soliman gets on the line and asks for a thirty-minute break. The caucus will reconvene at midnight.
Wynne’s Tweet 11:12 p.m. January 24, 2018: "It’s a difficult and brave thing to do to come forward in the way these young women have done tonight. My government and I have been clear on the issue of sexual harassment and assault. In fact, our policy and our ad were called “It’s Never Okay.”
I went back to my room with my sisters. So much to process. That call was a punch to the gut.
I shouldn’t have been surprised and I wasn’t by the reaction of a number of caucus members. I knew that Lisa MacLeod was humiliated three years ago when I beat her in the leadership and by a country mile in own riding. She was always a difficult person who had issues with everyone. Her reaction was no surprise.
Randy Hillier was a hard-right caucus member who detested the moves I had made on the party on inclusion, on the environment, on gay rights and on Islamophobia. He was the definition of the angry white man. I had warned him on numerous occasions not to be drunk at party functions. He hated me, and he was jumping at this opportunity to take me down. I had also muzzled Hillier on a bunch of issues. His position now was also no surprise.
We were also investigating allegations that Randy Hillier had physically accosted another candidate, Goldie Ghamari, now the MPP for Carl[e]ton. This was reported by multiple news sources when Ghamari took her complaints public. There was a good chance the way the investigation was going, that Hillier would be taking sensitivity training or have been booted from caucus. Not surprisingly, after I was no longer leader the investigation disappeared.
I believed that Hillier and MacLeod had been the ring leaders that night.
But there were surprises for me. As I mentioned, the biggest surprise for me was Fedeli. Fedele is the Italian word for “faithful” or “loyal.” In this case, Fedeli was anything but. In my view, his interest in forcing my resignation had less to do with the allegations against me and more to do with personal ambition. Why else would he be actively campaigning for party leader when the television set was still warm from the CTV 10 p.m. national newscast? I saw it as opportunism and betrayal.
In retrospect, I believe that Fedeli was pissed at me for recruiting two high-profile candidates who could rival him for the position of finance minister: Peter Bethlenfalvy and Rod Phillips. Bethlenfalvy served as the chief investment officer at C.S.T. Consultants Inc., which offers a registered education savings plan. He has also held various other senior financial roles: senior vice-president of financial regulations at Manulife Financial; co-president of DBRS Ltd., the bond-rating agency that downgraded Ontario’s long- and short-term debt ratings in 2009; and he had been the senior vice-president of Toronto-Dominion Bank in New York. He was a big catch.
So was Phillips. He had served as chief of staff to Toronto mayor Mel Lastman. He had been Jean Charest’s federal chair in 1997, and president and CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, Postmedia and of a Toronto organization promoting the city’s urban agenda called CivicAction.
Fedeli had always expressed that finance was his dream posting. He also lobbied some of my friends for that position. But, despite having made him finance critic, a mutual friend Cam Milani told me that Fedeli was petrified that I had recruited Bethlenfalvy and Phillips, each of whom could also have been finance minister. The fact is that I hadn’t made any decisions about whom I would put in the role of finance minister if we had won the election. And I suppose that would have angered Fedeli, who believed he should be the heir apparent. But my philosophy is that you don’t measure the drapes before you get the office.
At the same time, I always believed that Fedeli was a very competent guy. I felt he could have handled the cabinet position very well. But I really wasn’t settled on who would be finance minister. I believe he knew that, and that it petrified him.
I was also very hurt by Yurek’s comments. I always thought I had treated him very well, too; however, as I played back the discussions in my mind, I realized that his concerns were not personal. His constituents had not accepted the 2014 decision by the then-leader of the PC Party, Hudak, to announce the 100,000 job cuts. He was likely worried that if caucus didn’t step in immediately, it would trigger a similar reaction from his constituents. However hurtful, Yurek’s remarks were more about fear than they were about betrayal.
And I was really hurt that my deputy leaders, Sylvia Jones and Steve Clark, were calling for my resignation on the phone. I thought we worked well together, and that they might have at least sought to hold a separate call with me first.
Becky and Richmond became more despondent with time and began sharing their concerns with my sisters. Becky was now convinced that I couldn’t survive. And, both Richmond and Becky were concerned that there was a movement afloat to remove me that went far beyond these allegations. In fact, the allegations were the result of this movement. CTV had given them wind. These accusers had been part of a bigger scheme. And if I didn’t step down as leader, whoever was behind all of this would bring out more ammunition. They threw out the possibility that the next concocted story about me [might] be criminal. What if their brother ended up in jail? My sisters were horrified at these scenarios, yet they were still adamant that I should ignore all advice to resign.
Walied called my mother and asked her to convince me to resign. She was pissed and refused to do so.
Becky went into the side room to work on my draft resignation. I told everyone remaining that I didn’t want to resign at 6 a.m. I didn’t want to cave to a lie. Everyone left the room, and I was alone with my sisters.
A second call with caucus took place at about midnight. It was short, but I wasn’t on it. I only discovered after the fact what had occurred. I was with my sisters in my bedroom and hopeful that a draft resignation letter might distract caucus sufficiently to buy me some time. I had no interest in approving its release.
I later found out that on that call, Walied read the resignation letter that Thompson and he had drafted. Hillier apparently had concerns that it was not clear enough.
I was told that Walied erupted at that point. “Is there anyone else besides Randy who doesn’t understand what I just read out?”
No one else came forward, and the short call ended.
After the call, I walked into the side room. It was then that the bottom fell out of my world. Becky told me that the statement of resignation, the one that had been read to the caucus, “was gone.”
It had been sent out to the world over Twitter, my Twitter account, to be precise. And the resignation statement was also posted on the PC Party website.
Becky had gone ahead, without my approval, and sent out the resignation. I freaked: “What do you mean, it’s gone?”
She told me she was doing this to protect me. She told me that someone had to protect me. Walied appeared utterly defeated — shell-shocked. He was out of it. He confided that when Becky sent out the statement, he had assumed she had my go-ahead. He told me that he was surprised when I looked surprised.
Wow. Again, something very big was sent out without my approval. The first time it was the famous sex education letter, promising to abolish the curriculum during the Scarborough-Rouge River by-election. But this one was fatal.
Feeling sick and light-headed with shock, I went back into my bedroom and collapsed onto my bed. With my sisters by my side, I burst into tears. What had just happened? In just seven hours, I had been gutted like a fish.
Published on January 25, 2018:
These allegations are false and have been difficult to hear.
However, defeating Kathleen Wynne in 2018 is more important than one individual.
For this reason, after consulting with caucus, friends and family I have decided to step down as Leader of the Ontario PC Party. I will remain on as an MPP while I definitively clear my name from these false allegations.
Over the past three years I have led a major transformation of our party taking it from 12,000 to 200,000 members, fundraised more money than any provincial party in Canadian history, and recruited some of the most qualified and diverse candidates in the history of our party. I have developed a pragmatic and winning campaign platform after a historically comprehensive policy process.
These important building blocks are essential for defeating Kathleen Wynne this year and her tired government that has repeatedly made reckless decisions and put insiders ahead of the people.
I’m confident the president of our party and caucus will convene an expedited process to elect my successor who I look forward to working with.
Did I think of revoking the resignation? Yes, I did. But I also thought: What a shitshow this already had become. How ridiculous would the party have looked once it had been put out on Twitter that I was revoking it? Rebecca Thompson controlled my Twitter account. So how would it look that I put out a statement on Twitter and five minutes later, I am revoking it? How could I possibly survive this, now that a resignation has been put out in my name?
To this day, I believe that Becky believed she was trying to protect me, but she didn’t. She was convinced that more women would be coming forward. None did, even a few weeks later, after I threw my hat in the ring to get my old job back. To this day, as I write, not one other woman has come forward.
After my resignation had been sent out, it hit me: What do we do as a party, if I am not the leader? Who was going to pick up the torch for a moderate, inclusive PC Party with me gone? At about 2 a.m., Walied announced that Caroline Mulroney was on the phone and wanted to talk to me.
She was almost in tears and told me that the sole reason for her involvement in politics had been because of me. I recruited her, and she believed in what I was trying to achieve. She told me she was devastated at what had happened, and that she knew this was not something I would do. Caroline couldn’t believe what had been done to me. Finally, she also told me that she was being advised by her staff to put out some “vanilla” statement on the matter, but that she was conflicted and didn’t know what to do.
I told Caroline that she really needed to take the torch and lead the party, and that I would help her through it.
GG had arrived outside the apartment at midnight and had waited until she saw Bob Stanley, Rebecca Thompson and Walied Soliman getting into a cab. She then knew it was safe to come up to the apartment. When she arrived upstairs, the only people there were me and my sisters, Fiona and Stephanie. Everyone else who had been there was gone.
GG didn’t leave my side for the next three weeks. She took a leave of absence from work, as she didn’t want me to be alone.
There had been many women who came on to me during the course of my political career. I always wondered whether they were interested in me for who I was as a person or because they thought I was about to be premier or MP, or councillor, and because I was getting a lot of media attention. I never knew what their real intentions were.
It’s hard for people to understand that power and media attention are tremendous aphrodisiacs. You expect to see that sort of attention with hockey players or millionaires, not with politicians. But guess what? It does happen, especially when you are a young politician who has ambition.
It’s tough to explain until you actually see it. My sisters found the attention I got quite abnormal. They thought it was ridiculous that people would just line up to talk to me. But politics is not a normal world.
Anyway, I was always skeptical about women. They would be there on the good days, but would they be there on the bad? Now here I was, ruined — at least that was what I felt at the time.
Bam! And then it hit me. The people I treated very well, people who traded on my name and power as party leader and who made a living off me, had ruthlessly abandoned me, and worse, they had hung me out to dry.
But here was this wonderful person who had been hidden away from the world, from the media, shunned by my political team and taken for granted by me. In my worst possible hour, and despite my not going to bat for her throughout the relationship, there she was waiting for me outside my apartment until 2 a.m., when it seemed like it was all over for me. GG would be there for me for the next three weeks — perhaps the worst three weeks of my life.
She showed a level of maturity during the course of these events I didn’t expect, but I really appreciated. I saw in her everything I could possibly want to see in a life partner. I loved her deeply, and I knew that she loved me. Funny how clearly I was seeing this now, even though everything else seemed blurred.
I opened the door, and GG walked through. Sobbing and exhausted, I collapsed at the apartment that night with her. My sisters set up beds on the floor in the kitchen. The next day, I left Toronto and went back to my home in Barrie. Screw them all.
“My thoughts turn immediately to the women who came forward, knowing how difficult it is, it can be … uh … to salute them for their courage and their leadership.” — TV statement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Five months later, Trudeau would face his own #MeToo allegations. Interestingly, he reflected somewhat differently on these. As Kelly McParland of the National Post explained: “Trudeau is giving himself a #MeToo exemption from his own standards … zero tolerance, it appears, only applies to others."
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