BRAMPTON, Ont. — Months after sexual misconduct allegations forced him to step down as leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives, Patrick Brown made a political comeback on Monday — this time as a city mayor.
The embattled politician defeated Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey, a former provincial Liberal cabinet minister who was backed by several high-profile politicians, including some of Brown’s former colleagues.
“I’ve got so much hope in my heart for what’s ahead for Brampton. You know why? I know we can turn this around, I know Brampton is going to be back, Brampton is going to become an economic engine,” Brown told a cheering crowd.
He also issued a warning to federal or provincial politicians — including those in the party he once led — who may seek to woo the city of more than 600,000, a popular Toronto-area campaign stop.
“As any leader visits Brampton, I want to have a very clear message: you want to visit Brampton, we deserve investment that comes with that visit,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s the Liberals in Ottawa or the Conservatives at Queen’s Park, my party is the people of Brampton and I want results.”
Jeffrey, who called Brown a political opportunist during the campaign, appeared shocked at her loss.
“Tonight’s results were not what, I think, any of us expected. We fought a hard and challenging race,” she said in her concession speech. “I can confidently say that our city is in better shape than when I found it.”
The municipal election in the city northwest of Toronto was Brown’s latest attempt at resurrecting his political career after his dramatic resignation in January amid allegations he has vehemently denied.
As the party sought to choose his successor, Brown threw his hat in the ring, only to withdraw before the vote. Doug Ford, who became Progressive Conservative leader after a turbulent party convention, took the Tories to a majority win in the spring provincial election but blamed his predecessor for some of the issues the party faced during the campaign.
Brown then ran a short-lived campaign to become chair of Peel Region, an elected position that Ford abruptly turned into an appointed role just three months shy of Monday’s municipal election.
The 40-year-old politician has also taken legal steps in an effort to move past the scandal that erupted when CTV News reported the allegations made by two women. The former Tory leader is suing CTV News for defamation, although the broadcaster has said it stands by its reporting and will defend itself in court.
Brown is also writing a tell-all book about what he has described as his “political assassination.”
But his days at the provincial legislature remain under scrutiny, and a government document leaked to the media just days before Monday’s vote has drawn criticism about his spending.
The document showed Brown spent nearly $300,000 on support staff and office operations after resigning as leader and being turfed from Tory caucus, though he defended the move in a statement, saying the expenses were in line with legislative rules and involved severance payments to staff.
Brown — who represented residents of Barrie, Ont., municipally and federally before becoming a provincial legislator for an area north of the city — recently moved to Brampton with his newly wed wife.
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press