Patrick Brown speaking at College Boreal in Timmins, February 2017. Frank Giorno for The ONE
By Frank Giorno
The spectre of Patrick Brown, the man who was the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party as recently as January 25, 2018, is still haunting the party with the election a little over five weeks away.
Brown’s meteoric rise from an unknown to the upset winner of the 2015 party leaders over Christine Elliott, has been matched by his equally rapid flame-out 18 months after becoming PC Leader. The PC party now has had three leaders in four years.
On Thursday, April 26, 2018 The Honourable J. David Wake, Integrity Commissioner, released his report into a complaint regarding Patrick Brown, MPP for Simcoe North. The complaint was filed by PC Randy Hillier, MPP Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, under section 30 of the Members’ Integrity Act, 1994.
But David Wake’s findings yesterday does not mark the end Brown’s troubles.
Hamilton police have been investigating Brown for alleged fraud and forgery as a result of complaints by members of the Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas PC riding association who are accusing him of personally directing his top party officials to “get me the result I want” in the riding’s nomination to select a candidate for the June 7, 2018 election.
The former Progressive Conservative leader emailed specific instructions to Bob Stanley, then the party’s executive director, and Rick Dykstra, then PC president, five days before the nomination meeting in Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas.
“Let them all fight it out. And get me the result I want. But no disqualifications here. Kitchen is too hot,” Brown said in a May 2 email exchange that is now in the hands of Hamilton Police.
“Got it,” replied Stanley two minutes later, in a message that was also sent to Dykstra and another unidentified senior Conservative
The outcome of the Hamilton police investigation is potentially more serious than the hand slapping by the Integrity Commissioner.The inquiry was held according to under s.31 of the Act.
Commissioner Wake concluded that:
1. There was insufficient evidence on the allegations that Brown failed to disclose gifts of travel to the Integrity Commissioner contrary to section 6 of the Act.
2. However, the Commission did find that Brown failed to disclose a source of income to the Integrity Commissioner in his private financial disclosure, contrary to section 20 of the Act . Brown twice breached the Act in failing to disclose rental income from his personal residence in 2016 and 2017.
3. Commissioner Wake, also found that Brown twice breached the Act in failing to disclose a loan from Jass Johal in 2016 and 2017.
On the matter of the loan from Mr. Johal Commissioner Wake said:
“I can say categorically that if I had been made aware of this Loan that I would have included it in Mr. Brown’s public disclosure statements for each of 2016 and 2017. 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. Simply put, the public has a right to know.”
The Commissioner emphasized the importance of all MPPs understanding the requirement to be truthful in their annual submissions of financial information to the Office.
“It is imperative that members take their disclosure obligations under section 20 of the MIA seriously,” he wrote in the report. “When they do not there should be consequences.”
To the question of penalty, under s.34 of the Act the Commissioner can recommend:
a) that no penalty be imposed;
b) that the member be reprimanded;
c) that the member’s right to sit and vote in the Assembly be suspended for a specified period or until a condition imposed by the Commissioner is fulfilled; or
d) that the member’s seat be declared vacant.
The Commissioner has recommended that Mr. Brown be issued a reprimand related to Issue 2 and Issue 3.
Commissioner Wake noted however, that Brown is not running in the June 7 election.
Any further steps on the matter rest with the members of the Legislative Assembly. Section 34(3) of the Act reads: “If the Commissioner recommends that a penalty be imposed, the Assembly may approve the recommendation and order that the penalty be imposed, or may reject the recommendation, in which case no penalty shall be imposed.”
Though Brown is not running in the June 7, 2018 he is the MPP for Simcoe North until the legislative session comes to an end after the election.
“I appreciate that the Assembly may not have sufficient time to consider this report before the 41st Parliament comes to an end,” the Commissioner wrote. “I understand that the report will remain as a sessional paper of the 41st Parliament and can be brought forward by a future Parliament for debate should there be any desire to do so.”
The full report can be found at www.oico.on.ca under MPP Integrity, Commissioner’s Reports.
The Office of the Integrity Commissioner has five key responsibilities: members’ integrity, ministers’ staff ethical conduct, lobbyists registration, disclosure of wrongdoing (whistle-blowing) and expenses review for Cabinet Ministers, opposition leaders, and selected agencies. An Officer of the Legislative Assembly, the Integrity Commissioner is independent of government.