Patrick Brown’s quest to lead Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives ended Monday with the Barrie, Ont., politician saying the leadership race had taken a toll on his family and distracted from the party’s ultimate goal of defeating the Liberals in the spring election.
Brown’s short-lived leadership campaign, which was triggered by his resignation as party leader last month amid sexual misconduct allegations, was marred by internal party accusations of corruption and misconduct.
“It has become increasingly evident that my participation in this democratic race has, for some, become a source of distraction from the real goal of replacing this tired Liberal government with a pragmatic, moderate, fiscally responsible alternative,” Brown wrote in a four-page letter posted on social media.
“I am calling on the remaining leadership candidates to put thoughtful, considered, affordable, pragmatic public policy first,” he said.
Four candidates now remain in the leadership race — former legislator Christine Elliott, lawyer Caroline Mulroney, former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford and parental rights advocate Tanya Granic Allen.
Brown said his friends were “subjected to attacks” after he announced he was entering the race.
“Shots were fired indiscriminately against anyone associated with me — friends within the party, business colleagues in Barrie, great people who worked with me at Queen’s Park. They didn’t sign up for this,” he said.
Brown’s departure plunged the Tories into chaos, exposing a deep rift between the party executive, which kicked him out of caucus, and the base.
Interim Ontario PC Leader Vic Fedeli thanked Brown for quitting the race, calling it the right decision for the party and himself.
“He is right to focus on clearing his name,” Fedeli said in a statement.
Mulroney, who last week repeatedly called for Brown to back out of the leadership race, welcomed his decision in a statement released shortly after his announcement.
“I know what it means when political involvement takes a toll on the people you care about the most,” she said. “Now, more than ever, we need to move forward without these distractions. Patrick has done the right thing.”
Doug Ford said he’s not focused on Brown, but instead thinks people should be paying attention to their opponent in the election — Premier Kathleen Wynne.
“I don’t care who’s in the race,” he said. “I’m focused on (Wynne) and making sure that we turn this province around.”
Christine Elliott did not directly mention Brown’s departure from the race in a statement on social media, but urged unity.
It’s not immediately clear if Brown is eligible to receive any, or a portion, of the $100,000 in deposits he paid to enter the leadership race.
Tory members are set to begin voting online for the new leader on March 2 and the winner will be announced on March 10 in Markham, Ont.
Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press