Last night’s TVO interview of Patrick Brown was a huge disappointment.
The new Mayor of Brampton was invited into the studio to talk to Nam Kiwanuka about his new book, “Takedown: The Attempted Political Assassination of Patrick Brown”.
Instead of detailed forensic questioning he was given the kid glove treatment.
The defining characteristic of Patrick Brown’s leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party was low ethical standards. But at no point in the interview was this issue addressed head on. Instead Brown was allowed to burble on about being unfairly targeted when he says he was just ahead of his time, dragging the old, white, rural based PCs into a more vibrant, tolerant and diverse future.
This is complete hogwash. The PC Party under Brown was deeply corrupt. Nomination meetings were rigged. Voting fraud took place on an industrial scale. There are two active police investigations currently running. Membership numbers were (and possibly still are) inflated.
Rooting out the rot
And yet, last night, here he was again telling us there were two distinct sets of membership numbers in 2018 and no way of knowing which one was correct. Apparently, it all depends on who you believe. Brown or Vic “Rooting out the Rot” Fideli.
“When I first announced my intention to run for the Party leadership there were 10,000 Party members. It wasn’t diverse. It was largely rooted in rural Ontario. By the time I was removed as Leader the number was either 15 times or 20 times that depending on what numbers you believe. We were at a record membership either way…”
Whose numbers should we believe? How many PC members are there? Does anyone know?
Since candidates are (at least theoretically) selected by the membership, the number of members in total and by riding seems pretty important, at least to me.
But the gaping hole in the interview concerned the 26 April 2018 report from the Integrity Commissioner, Mr Justice Wake, who found that Brown had misled him and had deliberately concealed the truth about a $375,000 loan used to finance his new home.
“On all the evidence it is clear to me that the non-disclosure was deliberate and not through inadvertence.”
The Commissioner recommended that Brown be reprimanded formally by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for his failure to comply with the Members’ Integrity Act 1994.
This, of course, never happened. Brown was dumped. There was an election and Brown’s ethical failings became part of ancient history.
But does that mean Brown’s low ethical standards no longer matter? That we should just look the other way?
In Takedown, Brown writes:
“…I heard that one of my friends, (Jaswinder) Johal, was also a personal mortgage broker. At the time, Johal was not running for any nomination for the PC Party, nor had he expressed any interest in running. Johal offered either to buy my share in the restaurant (Hooligans in Barrie) or give me a loan in the form of a second mortgage on the house. I preferred to take out a loan with Johal, and officially registered the title of that second mortgage. But I didn’t report it to the Office of the Integrity Commissioner. Mistake.”
He also didn’t declare the rent. He admits that was another “Mistake.”
I am left wondering if he bothered to include this information in his tax return. We shall never know.
The Integrity Commissioner tells us:
“Of the four breaches of the (Members’ Integrity) Act, the most serious are those related to the non-disclosure of the loan from Mr. Johal. On all the evidence, I found that the non-disclosure of the loan, as with the rental income, was deliberate, and not through inadvertence.
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.”
In Takedown, Brown says his friend Johal – the man who secretly loaned him $375,000 - decided to run for the Brampton North nomination in November 2016. Before then Brown apparently had no inkling that his friend harboured Parliamentary ambitions. But Johal told the Integrity Commissioner that he mentioned to Brown in 2015 that he was interested in running as a PC candidate.
So, who do we believe? And at the end of the day does it matter?
In the long run, would it have been better for the health of our politics and for good public administration for Patrick Brown to have been reprimanded by the Legislature last year?
And if so, would TVO have found the time to ask Brown what it felt like?