Patrick Brown stepped down early Thursday morning amid allegations that he sexually assaulted two teenage girls.
Brown was the leader of the province of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party, and his resignation came just four months before an election where Brown was expected to give the long-entrenched Liberal government a run for their money.
In a statement given Thursday, Brown said, “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.”
His resignation came on the heels of the departure of six of his top aides, including his campaign manager and chief of staff, who all resigned following a bizarre press conference that took place just hours before.
In that first conference, Brown appeared briefly before the media, categorically denied all allegations and rushed off before taking any questions. It seemed clear at the time that Brown intended to stay on as leader of his party and to fight these allegations in court. His party had other ideas.
The departing aides released a statement: “earlier today, all three of us became aware of allegations about Patrick Brown. After speaking with him, our advice was that he should resign as Ontario PC Party leader. He did not accept that advice.” What ensued was the aforementioned exodus of his staff, followed by a “tense conference call” with high ranking members of provincial parliament after which Brown changed his mind and resigned.
The accounts of assault are available here, but I’m not going to go into them in any detail. These women gave detailed retellings to CTV News which deserve to be read in their entirety. I would feel irresponsible taking pull quotes in what would only be a cynical exercise in validating their stories. Suffice to say the accounts are lurid and repellent.
Brown, even if he is not found criminally guilty of sexual assault, has clearly abused his power and position to force himself on young women in his employ. There need be no further inquiry into his ability to lead a party, let alone a government.
That all being said, the reason I am taking this foray into Canadian regional politics is to point at the shining example of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. They have responded to allegations of sexual misconduct in the only appropriate way, and for that, I must give begrudging kudos.
The Republicans of the north have this figured out, so why does it still elude conservatives in the states?
For those unfamiliar with the Canadian political landscape, there are three major parties: Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic. While there is a differentiation to be made from the federal Conservatives and provincial Progressive Conservatives, they represent essentially the same base and core values.
Like Republicans, Canadian conservative parties represent the entire right wing of the political spectrum as the other two parties represent the center (Liberal) and far (New Democratic) left. If you’re a right-leaning person in Canada, the (Progressive) Conservatives are the only game in town.
As such, a Canadian conservative politician has a much wider base to draw from than their competition, and so you would think could get away with more good ol’ boy antics and misbehavior. However, Patrick Brown’s resignation is proof that this is definitively not the case.
Though the allegations are unproven, though Brown himself denies them categorically, the party has deemed him unfit to lead. They understand that any level of sexual misconduct, regardless of criminal conviction, removes a candidate from moral availability for office.
They understand that to appeal to voters they must side with accusers, with the people risking their reputations to break a silence. They understand that when women come forward with allegations they are not doing so in vendetta, they are mortgaging their future to do what is right.
I was heartened by the outpouring of support for the women and the condemnation of Brown in the Canadian press this morning. The Globe and Mail (Canada’s paper of record) ran a scathing editorial criticizing Brown’s blundering before his resignation, saying that it had done more harm than anything to the party’s chances in the coming election. Maclean's magazine (a kind of halfway point between Variety and Time) also ran a piece praising the Progressive Conservatives for removing Brown and stressing the importance of drawing this line in the sand.
Noticeably absent from the conversation were any defenses of Brown.
Canadians, it appears, regardless of political affiliation could not be more of one mind on this subject. So, what is different in the water that makes the American conservative able to swallow Roy Moore and Donald Trump with such ease?
It is a symptom of a diseased organism, one which clings to power and office above the principles with which they intend to govern. It is this disease which has stratified American politics and led to such entrenched partisanship.
Brown’s misconduct may well cost the Progressive Conservatives the election, but in the long term, the voters of Ontario will remember a party who did the right, not the politically convenient thing.
Republicans would do well to take note.