The dangerous ambition of Patrick Brown
On March 13, Patrick Brown announced his intention to become the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and the country’s 24th prime minister.
He did so in a speech that lasted 24 minutes, delivered with the uplifting promise of a seasoned politician.
Brown vowed to “make life more affordable, Canada more secure, and more united.” He said “a leader needs to work hard, and no one works harder than I do.”
He also told supporters not to believe what they might have heard, after “the media tried to make me cancel culture’s latest victim.”
For residents in the City of Brampton who have watched Brown carefully since they bought what he was selling while trying to salvage a political career smouldering in the ruins in the fall of 2018, the recent words might have resonated as a warning to the rest of Canada.
After taking over the mayor’s office in a city that wasn’t even listed as his place of residence when he registered for the race (during the campaign Brown refused for weeks to answer questions about how long he had even lived in Brampton) he operated like a man on a mission—one that had zero concern for Brampton’s future.
His political future, on the other hand, would be served by City Hall.
As Ontario PC leader, when the Party’s nomination process became a three-ring circus so Brown could get the candidates “I want”, observers in all three major parties were shocked by the utter disregard the man had for our democratic traditions.
Even Doug Ford committed to clearing the “rot” created by Brown and his unrelenting ambition.
After dusting himself off from the provincial scrapheap, Brown walked into Brampton City Hall as if he owned the building.
He immediately had the top bureaucrat, Harry Schlange, fired (the city’s taxpayers are still covering his annual $300,000 severance cheque) and other senior officials were removed, fearing they might not be loyal to his worship, like the staffers who betrayed him during the “political assassination” that had aimed to end his career, as Brown described it in his reckless memoir.
Men who were singled out by the Ontario Ombudsman for their alarming behaviour in Niagara Region were recruited by Brown to turn City Hall into his war room, from where his return to a much larger stage would be plotted.
He needed a slogan to take advantage of his time as mayor, one that could help him on the national platform.
He promised to freeze taxes, knowing it would play well when he was ready to make the move upward.
He slashed infrastructure spending so severely that money needed for a desperately needed new hospital, redevelopment of the crumbling downtown and to keep the transit system operating, was slashed from the budget.
Brown has repeatedly claimed he will find it somewhere else. Meanwhile, Brampton, where the term hallway healthcare was popularized, still doesn’t know how it will pay its share to get a second hospital built. The downtown is withering away, and transit growth has been stunted. All so Brown can get his campaign slogan.
To push his destructive agenda, Brown hired David Barrick to be the City’s chief administrative officer, a man with zero experience running even a small municipal department, who was run out of Niagara by citizens there who were appalled by his disturbing conduct while managing the local conservation authority when he was also a regional councillor.
Protestors in Niagara calling for David Barrick's firing.
(Doug Draper/Niagara at Large)
Brown is connected to the man through Conservative political circles and has tried to mislead the public about Barrick, claiming he was not one of the people implicated in the Ontario Ombudsman’s scathing “Inside Job” investigation report.
After he was fired in Niagara, Brown gave him carte blanche inside Brampton City Hall. He handed hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money to contacts of his and Brown. Allegations of serious wrongdoing, including Brown’s direction to have senior City staff secretly work for Peter MacKay during his own CPC leadership bid in 2020, were brought forward by Gurdeep (Nikki) Kaur, a director with the City who provided evidence of corruption by Brown and Barrick, and was fired by Barrick the same day she released her damning allegations, before council insisted she be rehired.
Brown would not answer questions trying to confirm that he had gone to Kaur’s house right after she sent her allegations in a detailed email to members of council, the media and others.
During his recent launch speech, announcing his bid to become CPC leader, Brown said: “a leader must humbly address concerns that people might have about them.”
For three years, he has refused to address such concerns.
He won’t explain why he misled the public about COVID testing rates in Brampton early in the pandemic; he was called out by public health experts when he wrongly claimed no viral transmission had occurred in Brampton bars and restaurants (as he lobbied to open them up during the middle of the pandemic); he refuses to explain why he used senior City staff to campaign for Peter MacKay; he has misled the public when asked about why he hired David Barrick, claiming the man was not involved in the Niagara scandal; he has failed to answer questions about why his close political associates have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in City contracts, which council members didn’t even know about, and what the City received in return.
Residents were appalled when he referred to the City of Brampton as “Browntown” during a speech that was supposed to celebrate Black students who won scholarships for their outstanding work, then refused to admit it or apologize, despite repeated requests from organizers and others in the Black community who said the event was marred by Brown’s remark.
He claimed, “Conservatives care about protecting the environment and lowering greenhouse gas emissions. I certainly do.” Brampton residents have pointed out that under Brown’s leadership the City’s environmental plans have been forgotten in pursuit of his budget freezes. With him sitting at the head of the council table, the City of Brampton declared a climate emergency in 2019—in the same meeting they put their support behind the sprawl-inducing, greenhouse gas creating GTA West Highway.
Patrick Brown is already using his recurring tax freezes as a feather in his cap on the campaign trail.
In 2022, the City is spending more on a single local roadway than it is on all its environmental initiatives combined. Brown has also bragged that he was the person who put the GTA West Highway near the top of the PC agenda while leading the party into the 2018 election. He has refused to answer why, as mayor, he continued to aggressively push the developer-led effort to build the environmentally disastrous highway, while claiming to support action to address climate change.
Brown said in his CPC leadership announcement speech that, “I have made sure we were Canada’s first city with a fully electrified public transit system.” This is not true. The vast majority of Brampton Transit buses run on diesel and a recent test project for a handful of electric buses was funded by the federal government after it first explored the plan before Brown was mayor. He has not put forward any funding or long-term strategy to electrify the system since becoming mayor. Even though staff made clear that the emission reduction targets he approved will not be met without investments to green Brampton Transit, Brown has not put forward one cent toward these needed investments. This is unparalleled in big cities across Canada, including Mississauga, which has committed hundreds of millions of dollars in recent budgets to transition its transit system to green technology.
His environmental hypocrisy will not stop Brown from saying anything to win votes.
It’s part of his larger lie to Canadians: I will simultaneously slash budgets and invest in your future.
Mayor Patrick Brown announces his bid for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. His speech was filled with questionable claims about his accomplishments in Brampton.
(Photo from Anukul Thakur/The Pointer files)
Brown has decimated the City’s finances while attempting to mislead residents about the negative impacts, even once trying to convince the public the capital budget was increasing when everyone could see that it was going down, dramatically.
The final straw for a majority of councillors was Brown’s conduct a few weeks ago, when they attempted to finally fire Barrick, who for two years acted as the mayor’s pawn, serving him instead of Brampton residents.
The majority group declared democracy was “under siege” in the City under Brown’s heavy-handed rule, after he attempted, as chair of council meetings during closed door in camera sessions when the public could not see what was going on, to block motions from coming to the floor for a vote.
It didn’t matter, with a majority of members finally secured, Barrick was fired on February 11 and the group has since taken steps to undo the damage Brown has done during his brief stop in Brampton to salvage his political career (he refuses to take a leave of absence and despite not attending legislative meetings or even taking votes, refuses to relinquish his mayor’s salary while campaigning across the country to become CPC leader, instead insisting he is donating it to charitable causes).
After his reckless budget freezes, failure to fund healthcare expansion and affordable housing, scrapping of Brampton’s downtown revitalization plan, and contradictions about Brampton’s 2040 Vision to move the city into the future—despite promises he made during his campaign to become mayor—a majority of councillors have seen enough.
With Brown now seeking to lead this country, it is critical to understand the damage he has done as mayor of Canada’s ninth largest city.
At the start of 2018, Brown was mere months away from becoming premier of Ontario.
Brown had planned his political career for such an opportunity, to become a major Canadian Conservative figure.
President of the PC Youth Association at the age of 19. Elected to Barrie city council in 2000 barely out of university, then Barrie area MP in 2006, then MPP and PC leader in 2015.
He made close connections with Conservative insiders, at both the provincial and federal level, every step along the way.
There were concerns from the beginning.
His frequent unofficial trips to India as an MP raised red flags among some in the Conservative government, and Brown even describes in his book the frustration of former prime minister Stephen Harper over Brown’s skirting of conventions.
Patrick Brown with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Brown, who has never officially held a foreign post, has nonetheless gone on numerous unofficial trips to India without explaining the reason. Brown often claims Modi calls him his "little brother".
Brown had cozy ties going back almost two decades to at least one organizer in the South Asian community with a badly checkered past. Snover Dhillon was convicted of fraud, but that didn’t stop Brown from using him to gain support in the politically active Punjabi-Canadian community early in his career. Dhillon paid for some of Brown’s travel to and inside India while he was an MP. Dhillon was at the centre of allegations of widespread nomination fraud while Brown was PC leader.
In a shocking twist, Dhillon was implicated two weeks ago by Indian police for allegedly masterminding the murder of a semi-professional athlete and is now wanted under an extradition effort.
Brown worked closely with Dhillon, elevating his profile in India as an MP and then to sign members to the PC Party while leader. He did this despite Dhillon’s conviction and jail term in 2011 for fraud. Brown publicly claimed that he had distanced himself from the man, but clear evidence shows this was not true as the two continued to work together closely.
Financial issues began to dog Brown.
Allegations were brought forward in 2015 by senior Ontario PC members, including current Minister of Health Christine Elliott (who was running against Brown for the leadership), claiming he did not report hundreds of thousands of dollars in fundraising to the Party, which he denied.
After sexual misconduct allegations led to his fall from the Party, reporting in 2018 showed alarming spending by Brown on his MPP office.
Following his departure an Ontario Integrity Commissioner investigation found he broke ethics laws when Brown failed to report a loan from a man who received a PC Party nomination ahead of the 2018 election, and income he had received through other sources.
The investigation revealed Brown took $375,000 from Jas Johal, the PC candidate for Brampton North. The money was used to pay for a $2.3 million waterfront property in Brown’s Lake Simcoe area riding at the time.
"When the leader of a political party is substantially indebted to a candidate for election as an MPP for that party, the interests of transparency require that the indebtedness be made known so that people have an appropriate context to assess the relationship between the leader and the candidate," the integrity commissioner wrote in his finding, which recommended that if Brown had not stepped down as leader already, he should have been punished.
Political observers across Ontario, including many in the PC Party, were shocked by Brown’s conduct, including evidence that showed he had attempted to control who would be nominated to run in the 2018 election. At least one lawsuit was filed alleging the Party under Brown’s leadership engaged in corrupt conduct around the nomination process (it was later withdrawn). A police investigation in Hamilton suggested there were irregularities but not enough evidence could be found to pursue criminal charges.
Rumours about Brown’s private life have swirled around the Barrie area and at least one official who served in former prime minister Stephen Harper’s administration said allegations about Brown’s alleged sexual misconduct, which he denies, came forward before media reports.
As an MP, Harper grew frustrated with Brown’s conduct during his time as a back-bencher in Ottawa, when he would miss legislative sessions while travelling on unofficial business to places like India. Brown admitted in his own book that the prime minister had become increasingly annoyed and he seemed to brag about skirting procedural rules Harper expected to be followed.
After his leadership of the PC Party came to an abrupt end, as senior members made it clear he had no future among them, Brown entered the Brampton mayoral race on the final day nominations were being accepted, after initially indicating he would seek the role of chair of the Region of Peel.
Numerous sources told The Pointer he had wanted to run for mayor of Mississauga, but ultimately was convinced Bonnie Crombie would not likely be defeated.
“It’s a little bit like coming back to my roots,” Brown told reporters outside Brampton City Hall, claiming his family had been doing business in the city for 40 years. He said he had officially moved to the city but would not answer questions around details of his residence.
Residents were desperate for change after two decades of ineffectual leadership in a city usually only featured in larger media outlets for its crime, political scandals or decaying social fabric.
Brown campaigned to make the community safer, to invest in features to get Brampton back on track, and to freeze property taxes.
He never explained how he would build things such as a promised “world class cricket stadium” and a new hospital while refusing to raise any revenues.
It became clear early on that Brown would always play different levels of government off each other: The Region of Peel should pay, or the federal government or the province. He seemed unaware, or unconcerned, that funding for required infrastructure to move Brampton forward would demand a local share contribution to trigger external investment.
It didn’t matter. Enough voters were willing to give the cheerleading politician—who played identity politics effectively, appealing to whatever pet issues each ethnic community in the city gave voice to—their support.
In the October 2018 election, Brampton residents gave Brown the political redemption he so desperately needed to salvage his failing career, carrying him to a four point victory over former mayor Linda Jeffrey.
Patrick Brown celebrates his 2018 election victory to become Brampton’s mayor.
(Photo by Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer files)
“I’ve got so much hope in my heart for what lies ahead for Brampton. You know why? I know we can turn this around. I know that Brampton is going to be back, Brampton is going to become an economic engine, Brampton is going to be the place where you want to be,” Brown said in his victory speech, speaking over a crowd of mostly South Asian-Canadians shouting his name.
“I can tell you, Brampton is going to be the envy of Ontario again, the envy of Canada.”
“A leader also needs to know how to build and empower a team…I will grow our strong caucus by recruiting hardworking, principled, and diverse candidates.”
How did Brown build his team of allies and close advisors that he surrounded himself with?
His book, which described the Political Assassination of Patrick Brown, detailed his version of events that surrounded the night of January 24, 2018, when the allegations of sexual misconduct shattered his world. He became obsessive, admittedly, about the people that would be allowed near his inner political circle, after feeling maddeningly betrayed by those he believed were behind a conspiracy to ruin him.
He described how, according to him, the strategy to get past the allegations was doomed.
“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,” Brown wrote in his book.
His press secretary, chief of staff, campaign manager, campaign advisors and chief strategist—his closest confidants as PC leader—all quit.
Brown wrote in his book that he would never let this happen again.
After his swearing in as mayor in late 2018, Brown quickly worked to surround himself with people he could control.
When it was clear that Brampton’s CAO at the time, Harry Schlange—brought in by Jeffrey to clean up out of control spending and staffing problems within City Hall—was not going to follow his lead, he was fired. He wasn’t the only one.
The City’s CAO, director of communications, commissioner of planning and development, the director of human resources, the director of economic development and culture and the director of strategic development—all senior positions within the City bureaucracy, responsible for a large number of key decisions and messaging coming out of City Hall—were all let go within Brown’s first two months in office.
The treasurer would be replaced as well as the head of IT, while key positions in control of purchasing, contracts, and procurements were all turned over. Plans for a new real estate and property management body were suddenly taken over by a long-time Conservative political ally of Brown.
Another close politcal confidante, Rob Godfrey (son of Post Media Chair Paul Godfrey and one of Brown’s closest advisors during the fallout from the sexual misconduct allegations) saw his firm receive a $500,000 contract to execute one of Brown’s failed plans, the now abandoned idea of creating Brampton University.
The mayor was firmly in control of finances, hiring, procurements and the entire budget process inside City Hall. To control the messaging, Brown had hired Jason Tamming, despite his corrupt conduct in Niagara, to take over strategic communications, culture and events.
Brown denied controlling the hiring and firing.
His staff said he “has no comment” when asked by The Pointer at the time.
Brown engineered the hiring of the man who would carry out his instructions, despite a municipal CAO’s obligation to serve the taxpayers through the entire council, not any individual member.
Enter David Barrick.
According to CAO Employment Guidelines developed by the Ontario Municipal Administrators Association: “CAO candidates must possess a progressive track record of success in a leadership role within a multistakeholder organization. The ideal candidate will have significant and varied leadership and executive experience.”
Brown ignored these guidelines.
Barrick was implicated in the 2019 investigation by the Ontario Ombudsman and the “Inside Job” report that was produced. It probed allegations of corrupt behaviour and delinquent hiring in a Niagara Region CAO search. The investigation revealed Barrick pressured a senior staffer to support his boss at the local conservation agency during the Region’s hiring process, and promised the employee that he would have influence with the new CAO if he supported the scheme.
Niagara councillors were also shocked by mismanagement at the local conservation authority when Barrick was briefly put in charge, with hundreds of thousands of dollars unaccounted for, promotions for his friends and lavish expenses such as car allowances suddenly approved at the small agency.
The situation there was so bad, the union took the highly unusual step of demanding his termination: “David Barrick was appointed to senior management without a competition three years ago, directly from the NPCA Board,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Three years of bad management is more than enough.”
Despite his involvement in the CAO hiring scandal, being fired from his job at the Niagara conservation agency, and having no experience running any municipal department, Barrick, a former Port Colborne councillor with direct Conservative ties to Brown, was hired as Brampton’s top bureaucrat under a process led by the mayor.
David Barrick (left) was fired in February following two years of abysmal leadership inside City Hall. He was chosen through a process led by Brown that kept other councillors in the dark about his questionable background and lack of experience.
(Photos from City of Brampton)
Barrick and Brown are linked through former prime minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff Guy Giorno. Giorno resigned as Brampton’s integrity commissioner after Brown’s election citing their close ties. Barrick hired Giorno to handle undisclosed legal work during his controversial time as head of the Niagara conservation agency.
Barrick and Brown are also linked to former Conservative Niagara-area MP Rick Dykstra, who was part of the same Conservative cabal as Barrick which citizens in the region fought to defeat, in an effort to push back against the scandals that had plagued Niagara. Dykstra was Brown’s close friend in Ottawa, when both were young MPs, and he served as the Ontario PC Party president when Brown was its leader.
Both stepped down from the Party when allegations of sexual misconduct against them came forward. They both deny the allegations.
Barrick joined Tamming, after both were involved in the alarming Inside Job scandal and both have links to Brown through Conservative circles.
Tamming, who was put in charge of all City Hall communications, secretly gave the questions and answers for Niagara’s CAO hiring process to one of the candidates, who was Barrick’s boss when he simultaneously served as a Niagara Region councillor and as a senior manager at the local conservation authority. Carmen D’Angelo eventually got the Niagara CAO job after the scheme Barrick and Tamming were behind.
Prior to his career in municipal government, Tamming worked in Ottawa as a Conservative staffer while Brown was a Conservative MP under Harper. Tamming’s boss at Niagara Region, former chair Alan Caslin, had close ties to Dykstra.
Barrick also brought in a third man who was tainted in the Niagara Inside Job scandal by his own corrupt behaviour, Robert D’Amboise, who while serving the Region as a policy director helped share the CAO questions and answers with D’Angelo, and was later brought to Brampton City Hall to work directly under Barrick as an advisor.
D’Amboise had previously been accused by Niagara officials of impersonating someone else to get confidential information from a municipal accountant.
Barrick, Tamming and D’Amboise have all been recently replaced (it was confirmed that Barrick was fired and he is now demanding $1 million in severance) following the dramatic move by six councillors to protect City Hall from Brown’s conduct.
When asked if he condoned their conduct in Niagara, which had been reported on extensively by the media since early 2018, Brown told The Pointer at the time he had not read the Ontario Ombudsman’s investigation report.
As the City’s top bureaucrat Barrick got to work eliminating crucial spending to deliver Brown’s tax freezes, despite dire infrastructure needs (what one councillor labelled a “ticking time bomb”), despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and despite the need to start saving for massive investments like a future LRT, the City’s Riverwalk project, a second hospital and Brown’s own university plan, which was abandoned after he failed to fund it.
The pair’s questionable behaviour extended well beyond budgeting.
Barrick handed a valuable contract to run a Municipal Development Corporation, which would be responsible for handling the City’s real estate portfolio, to an associate of Brown who had not even registered his consulting firm when the City reached out to him for the project in January 2020. He also handed $218,259.50 worth of City contracts to a man named Tony Quirk, one of his closest allies when the two served on Niagara Region Council together, without telling Brampton councillors.
Barrick also tried to take over key oversight and accountability functions from City Council, violating Freedom of Information legislation by illegally moving the function under his control.
Barrick also moved the internal audit function under his control, further compromising accountability and transparency in City Hall.
Brown routinely came to his CAO’s defence. After the news of Barrick’s background was released to the public, and questions were asked about how such an unqualified individual with a scandalous past could be handed City Hall’s top job, the mayor denied Barrick was implicated in any wrongdoing in the Niagara scandal.
In responding to a Facebook comment, Brown blatantly misrepresented the Ombudsman’s findings, claiming Barrick and D'Amboise had been “cleared”. This was false, no one was cleared in the Ombudsman's investigation.
“We deserve a government that actually helps Canadians and doesn’t saddle them with generations of debt and a heavy burden of new taxes.”
Like his recent claims when announcing his run for the CPC leadership, Brown made similar promises during his campaign to become Brampton mayor.
In an op-ed published in The Pointer ahead of the October 2018 election, Brown wrote:
“Our property taxes are now higher than the City of Toronto! Enough. Working with my council colleagues, we will put an end to the wasteful taxation and spending practices that have made Brampton among the most expensive cities in the GTA, pushing jobs and opportunities beyond our borders to neighbouring communities.”
Brown signalled in his book that tax freezes are a great way to win almost blind, widespread support, citing Hazel McCallion as his model.
What he has failed to acknowledge, is that McCallion was able to use tax freezes when huge revenues paid by developers for infrastructure needs were flooding into Mississauga’s City Hall coffers, and even McCallion has acknowledged it was wrong to force tax freezes when that revenue slowed down.
Brampton is not in the same fiscal position as Mississauga during the height of its growth under McCallion.
In the City’s 2019 budget, the first for Brown, tens of millions of dollars in approved capital investment were kicked down the road. This included investment in public works projects (parks and traffic calming), which were cut from a planned $148.3 million to $127 million. Capital works projects, such as road widening and resurfacing and improving active transportation infrastructure, dropped from a planned $113.9 million to $94.2 million. The installation of new library furniture was pushed off to 2021 despite a 2018 report that showed a quarter of the city’s library assets were in “poor to very poor” condition. Facility repairs and replacements were also delayed, with the budget dropping from $16.1 million to $13.6 million. Problems with the city’s stormwater ponds — crucial for handling runoff in big storms — were also put on the back burner.
To keep the freeze in place the following year, Brown and his team attempted to change the messaging, telling the public that while their taxes would remain the same, capital investment in much needed projects across Brampton was actually increasing. This was not true—one of Brown’s many misleading claims during his time as mayor.
“Council would not support decreasing our capital budget, we’ve got major infrastructure needs in the city,” Brown claimed following the first day of budget deliberations that year. Brown said finance staff had told council capital spending was actually increasing by $12 million in 2020.
It was a baffling claim, and when pressed, Brown refused to address the numbers in his own budget documents, which clearly showed capital spending would drop from $384 million in 2019, to the $222 million he was pushing to get his tax freeze in 2020, a $162 million decrease.
Brown, remarkably, was either unaware of his own budget document details or was intentionally misrepresenting them, when he said he didn’t have those documents in front of him when speaking with The Pointer over the phone after the meeting. That didn’t stop him from repeatedly making misleading claims.
Projects such as the massive Downtown Reimagined plan to revitalize the aging city centre were cancelled by Brown who gave area businesses and residents a series of excuses, refusing to admit that tax freezes designed to win him elections come with a severe cost, in this case the future of Brampton’s struggling downtown core.
Resident groups, businesses and trade organizations began appearing before council, expressing grave concern that the budgets prepared under Barrick’s leadership—and shaped by Brown’s desire for tax freezes—were sacrificing the future of Brampton.
“Brampton businesses are losing confidence in the City's ability to plan because of the shifting numbers that seem to shift very quickly,” Glenn Williams, a seasoned accountant speaking on behalf of the Brampton Board of Trade, told councillors late last year, ahead of the 2022 budget approval. He highlighted contradicting information in different reports, last-minute publication of documents and a capital funding shell game as some of the alarming concerns.
“The Board of Trade expects better,” Williams said.
Meanwhile, Brown’s claims of finding money for City-defining projects, like its Riverwalk plan, a future LRT into downtown, a second hospital and the first standalone university campus, have failed to come true, despite his election promises.
Even some supporters of his in ethnic communities that follow cricket like a religion are starting to wonder if Brown’s vow to build a world class stadium for them by the end of this council term in December (another election promise to secure votes from particular groups) was just an empty political pledge.
Brown had some $35 million for the plan that was supposed to go in the 2022 budget, removed and kicked down the road.
“The Conservative Party I am fighting for is one that is principled AND inclusive.”
Elected mayor of a city whose population is almost 80 percent non white, it’s clear Brown has the ability to connect with diverse populations. It’s a significant asset for elected leaders in a multicultural country like Canada. But too often those promoting these ideals do so as little more than public relations moves, and rarely make the time, or take the actions required to effect real change in systems that can be oppressive to vulnerable populations.
Mayor Patrick Brown during one of his many trips to India.
(Photo from Patrick Brown-Twitter)
Brampton council’s motion opposing Quebec’s Bill 21 is a perfect example. Although well outside his municipal jurisdiction, Brown spent an outsized amount of time on the Bill in 2019—and is still pushing his opposition on the CPC leadership campaign trail.
It supports a position held by many in the country; a poll in January showed 55 percent of Canadians opposed the ban on the wearing of religious symbols at work. The motion was labelled as a “PR move” by fellow councillor Gurpreet Dhillon, a turban-wearing Sikh who said if Brampton council was really serious about issues of diversity and inclusion, it should take a look inside the walls of City Hall.
“I hate to ruin a good PR day for you, but parents come to me asking why their kids don’t get a job in spite of being qualified,” Dhillon said. “This is just one of many examples [of how] Brampton lacks in truly reflecting its diversity in different jobs.”
The same was said by organizations like the World Sikh Organization and the Peel Coalition Against Racialized Discrimination.
Always with an eye out for good publicity, Brown ignored these statements from his own community members and charged ahead with a motion to contribute $100,000 of Brampton taxpayer money to support the legal challenge of Bill 21.
He is now using the action funded by Brampton taxpayers as a major platform plank in his campaign to win the CPC leadership, hoping it will help him sign members in Quebec and beyond.
If Brown cared deeply about these issues, he had four years to fix glaring inequities inside City Hall. They have been clearly pointed out to him.
A 2019 audit completed by the Centre for Diversity and Inclusion found that only 37 percent of the city’s workforce identify as racialized, much fewer in senior positions; only 15 percent of the city’s Corporate Leadership Team (CLT) were racialized according to the study, although there has been large turnover within the CLT since the start of the assessment.
While Brown was busy overlooking deserving visible minority candidates who actually had the qualifications, he brought in people like Barrick and Tamming who never even lived in Brampton and knew next to nothing about its unique and complex demographic dynamics.
“Over the years, our organization has heard from individuals who represent religious minority groups who said it is very hard to get on with the Brampton Fire Department. It’s great to help people in Quebec, but it seems pretty empty if you’ve done little to help people right in Brampton,” Ranjit Khatkur, the co-founder of the Peel Coalition Against Racialized Discrimination, told The Pointer when Brown drew national attention for his move.
Fixing hiring practices inside Brampton City Hall, or changing policies to avoid nepotism in City departments, are not as sexy as wading into the national debate that Bill 21 had created.
The former certainly wouldn’t have landed Brown on CP24 to be seen by thousands of people—which his letter on Bill 21 immediately did. For a man whose ambitions to win higher office have been no secret since Brampton voters saved his career, expecting him to work for them, the move reeks of a man trying to score political points with voting blocs, not the work of a leader with a track record of action on equity and inclusion.
Brown says he is fighting for a Conservative party that is “principled”.
The world has already seen what a serial liar in the White House has done to America.
In our current environment, Brown would be a dangerously divisive force for Canada.
There is no doubt Bill 21 goes against basic Canadian values and much of the national identity that has been shaped over the past few decades, but alienating people in Quebec, creating further division, instead of finding effective ways of bringing people together hardly sounds like leadership.
Scoring cheap political points at the risk of inflaming tensions hardly seems principled.
Under Brown’s leadership Brampton declared a climate emergency in 2019, when he stated, “We have to do our part; we can’t wait for leadership at the federal and provincial levels… Unfortunately there is too much hot air on this topic, not enough action.”
He has done nothing to enhance Brampton’s environmental plans, and continues to support the GTA West Corridor, one of the most environmentally destructive projects Ontario has seen in decades.
As Brampton continued to deal with its ongoing healthcare crisis, early in his tenure, Brown said, “This may be the most atrocious negligence in the province.” Council declared a “healthcare emergency” in June of 2019. It’s 2022 and Brampton is still without significant movement on Phase II of Peel Memorial, to hopefully have it converted to a full-service hospital. Brown has refused to support a levy to raise the required $125 million-local share to move the project forward and he wasn’t even at this week’s committee debate on the matter. An 8-1 vote in favour of the levy, which will come before full council this coming Wednesday, took place with Brown absent as he continues to campaign across the country for the CPC leadership.
During the pandemic, instead of fighting for healthcare in the city, he attempted to spin a rosy picture of Brampton’s COVID situation, not wanting negative publicity as the mayor of one of Canada’s worst hit municipalities.
“We have now tested more people in our hospital than anywhere else in the province, the number one testing hospital in Ontario is our very own William Osler Health System,” Brown stated in a video posted to his Twitter account in 2020.
On the video he released, as he utters those words, text flashes below the mayor: “52,000 Tests”. But the figure and Brown’s claim were blatantly misleading. The number he used was not for Brampton, it was for the total testing done by the William Osler Health System across its three screening sites, only one of which was in Brampton, while the other two were in Etobicoke. The true number for Brampton was closer to 9,000 tests, making Brampton one of the worst municipalities in Ontario for testing rates at the time, the opposite of what Brown claimed.
Just before the pandemic, when the city’s ongoing hallway healthcare crisis was creating negative publicity, Brown publicly claimed Premier Doug Ford had committed to building a badly needed third hospital in the city. The premier’s office corrected his false statement, pointing out that Ford’s remark had referred to his support for the already-planned expansion of Peel Memorial, which is not a full-service hospital.
Near one of the worst infection peaks in the city, when rates in Brampton were almost five times higher than the provincial average, Ford appeared in one of his regular announcements.
“Something is broken when you have 3 percent of the population with [almost] 40 percent of the cases. I need to sit down with the mayor,” Ford said of Brampton. He tried calling Brown three times prior to addressing the province on September 4, 2020 to “find out what’s happening,” but couldn’t get through.
“I am really concerned about what is happening in Brampton,” he added.
Beyond jeopardizing healthcare in order to avoid bad publicity, Brown has misled the public on other crucial issues.
Brown’s attempt to have his cake and eat it too with the controversial GTA West Highway, which he pushed, was singled out for the damage it would do to the local ecosystem and broader air quality across the region, while contributing to global temperature increase. He tried to convince residents that the Province was on board with Brampton’s proposal for its “boulevard” design where the GTA West Highway would run through Heritage Heights—a proposed idea through the development master plan that would see the future 400-series highway bottleneck down to only a couple lanes—despite the fact the Province clearly stated this would not work and rejected the idea.
When confronted with this information Brown insisted the Province was on his side, to come up with an alternative solution. But when The Pointer again returned to the Ministry of Transportation, officials again repeated that what Brown was claiming simply was not true.
The farce was just another way to say two different things to two different groups about the same issue: Brown continues to tell developers and supporters who want more highways built, that he is firmly behind the 413 plan; while telling those vowing to vote based on progressive environmental policy that he is committed to an alternative, one he knows would never work.
“With me, our caucus will have a leader that will listen, that will give the glory to the team and not to myself, take ownership for mistakes, and heal the fractures that have erupted over the past three years.”
Nearly 285,000 people have viewed Patrick Brown refusing to admit his mistakes. In August of 2020, Rebel News caught the mayor at the Earnscliffe Recreation Centre preparing to play hockey, despite public health restrictions at the time that did not allow this.
When confronted by Rebel News reporter David Menzies, Brown, who had a nervous look on his face, claimed he was not there to play hockey, only to “check out our facility” despite standing next to a bag filled with hockey equipment and his name on it.
Players had already said, on camera, that Brown regularly played in the game at the same time and place each week since June of that year, despite rules that prohibited such use.
A screengrab from the Rebel News report showing a bag of hockey equipment with Patrick Brown’s name on it.
(Screengrab from YouTube/Rebel News)
When it was clear Brown had been playing pick-up hockey games there with friends during the pandemic he provided a statement and responded to a question from The Pointer.
“Our arenas have been open for rentals since June 24th when we entered stage 2. It took us 5 days to prepare but by June 29th the city was operational,” he wrote in a message. “I have been playing once a week since then. Under stage 2 it was limited to training and drills.”
In the video, Brown denied he was there at the rink that day to play hockey. But when asked about it, one player who was approached before Brown arrived, contradicts Brown’s claim of being there only to check on the facility.
Unlike his claim in the video that he was there to “check on our facility”, which seemed odd to many who commented that Brown does not inspect recreational facilities, he told the Brampton Guardian he went to say “hi to friends” at the end of the scheduled pick-up game, arriving around 5:50. But the digital clock in the arena visible in the video when Brown is first shown shows the time was 5:25 and he arrived before that.
Minutes of a council meeting that was taking place at the same time show Brown left early, apparently leaving to play hockey when he wasn’t supposed to, while the business of the city was being conducted inside City Hall.
Being there just to say hi to friends was a violation of pandemic rules for use of indoor arenas, which stated there is no lingering allowed. It’s also unclear why a taxpayer-funded staffer, seen throughout the video, would drive and escort the mayor inside just for a social visit.
His story kept changing, instead of just telling the truth.
Brown told The Pointer he had played the day before, and had the camera crew been there they would have seen him skating.
The mayor told NewsTalk 1010, referring to the day the video was shot, “I wasn’t able to play that day” and that he does play “once a week” with his buddies, again contradicting claims he was there for different reasons.
It’s not the first time Brown has been caught in a lie.
Just after his expulsion from the PC caucus in 2018, when the Ontario Integrity Commissioner’s report from Queen’s Park found Brown breached the Member’s Integrity Act four times by failing to disclose certain rental income, as well as the loan he received from a Brampton PC candidate for $375,000, Commissioner David Wake found Brown’s omission was not an accident.
“It is clear to me that the non-disclosure was deliberate and not through inadvertence,” he wrote.
The Rebel News incident at the hockey arena was a highly publicized example, but not an outlier. It also showed Brown’s strategy when he is snared by the truth: Deny and deflect.
Patrick Brown fleeing from Rebel News reporter David Menzies.
(Screengrab from YouTube/Rebel News)
After telling Menzies he was there to “check out our facility” he attempts to turn the wrongdoing around on the journalist.
“You’re not supposed to be here,” he says, immediately making his way toward the exit. “I don’t know why you are harassing people in the City of Brampton, but you shouldn’t be.”
Menzies did not appear to be harassing anyone.
Brown then leaves the facility without saying another word, despite Menzies’ repeated questions.
Mayor Brown has refused to answer questions from The Pointer for more than a year, and throughout his time in office has avoided difficult questions on a number of issues, including his own expenses (such as $44,000 in legal fees he won’t explain despite The Pointer’s repeated attempts to get answers). After being told by his communications staff that questions could only be posed during his regular press conferences, which are supposed to deal with the pandemic, he also stopped calling on The Pointer’s reporters during the weekly virtual press conferences.
In his first interview following the events of January 2018, Brown told Global News, “to grow up in politics is something different.”
Brown is entering his mid-40s, and in one form or another, has been in politics for more than half his life.
He misleads his constituents.
He abuses the public purse and neglects the need to use taxpayer dollars responsibly, the way they’re meant to be spent.
He refuses to take accountability for his actions, even when caught.
He works with corrupt and compromised individuals to do his bidding.
He divides communities, exploiting their cultural, religious and ethnic identities.
He is no friend of the environment.
He has secretly taken money from a candidate.
He refuses to explain exactly what he does when going on foriegn trips and meeting officials abroad.
And his alarming conduct in Brampton, which prompted a majority of councillors to make the stunning public statement that democracy in the city under Brown is “under siege”, show why he should never be allowed to sit in the prime minister’s seat.
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