Look, I’m going to level with all of you. I am blessed with living outside Ontario so I try to maintain a blessedly spiteful indifference to its inner mechanics as much as possible. So I genuinely don’t know how to make heads nor tails of this Ontario PC Party leadership business. I’ve seen some pretty wild shit happen in provincial party politics during the course of my short adult life, but I won’t pretend to have any trenchant insight into what’s happening in Queen’s Park. I just want to openly marvel at how fucked up all this appears, to me, from a distance.
I mean: wow. Where did they find this Patrick Brown guy? First he’s in, then he’s out, then he’s in again because he secretly never dropped out the first time, then he’s definitely 100 percent for sure in it to win it, and now he’s (apparently) announcing his resignation again this afternoon. I don’t know what his deal is, but he seems like an asshole.
I can appreciate that the Ontario PCs have to accomodate roughly the same uncomfortable mix of ideologues as their cousins in the rest of the country. Blue Liberals, rural populists, libertarian cranks, Christian theocrats—the works of them, crammed together behind a united but deeply dysfunctional electoral front. And I get that losing to the post-McGuinty Liberals was probably deeply humiliating.
So I understand that Patrick Brown was some kind of palatable compromise candidate that’d be enough to secure victory against the widely unpopular government of Kathleen Wynne. Or maybe he had that Harper-esque ability to command and mobilize people despite being a black hole of charisma? The world will never know.
So, OK, sure. The end of January 2018 rolls around and a bunch of high-profile conservative politicians resign in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations. On the same day that Nova Scotia PC leader Jamie Baillie resigned over harassment complaints, Brown preempted the evening news to reveal that anonymous allegations of sexual predation were about to be made against him by CTV, but that he would stay on as leader and clear his name. Then he abruptly quit via Twitter in the middle of the night anyway. Brutal.
(Jen Gerson has the transcript of the first of two caucus calls Patrick Brown took that evening posted at Maclean’s. It is a fun time. I can’t wait for one of the several other party insiders who very obviously hate Patrick Brown to leak more tantalizing gossip to the national press.)
It’s a dramatic upheaval, but it’s not the end of the world. The Tories got to whip up a quick leadership contest before the next election and everyone else got to enjoy a lot of Caroline Mulroney fanfiction in the newspapers. They had a debate and it seemed lacklustre at best but life moved on.
But then—what, Brown returns? He was going to sue CTV and get back into the race? Except he wouldn’t be getting back into the race because he never actually resigned? And maybe he’s going to resign again? And everything is communicated in a conflicting series of anonymous leaks to the media so it’s impossible to tell what’s actually going on?
I don’t know, man. I’m from Newfoundland and Labrador—weird politics are our calling card. The opposition Liberals melted down under the pressure to replace leader Yvonne Jones right before the ramshackle 2011 provincial election. The NDP tried to depose their leader in 2013 but then the party imploded instead. And in 2014, the governing PCs held two leadership races to replace premier Kathy Dunderdale. All three candidates from the first race were either ejected or quit—including Frank Coleman, who by the end had been running unopposed for months.
Utter dysfunction is really normal in my part of the world and yet even I’m blown away by Patrick Brown. He is pulling down the pillars of the PC party like the Samson of (alleged) Sexual Impropriety. Caroline Mulroney or Christine Elliott could be Delilah in this metaphor. Or maybe it’s the emails he wrote encouraging campaign workers to allegedly commit fraud. I’m not sure honestly. Like I said, I don’t really follow Ontario politics. I’m only here to gawk at the trainwrecks.
Follow Drew Brown (no relation, thank Christ) on Twitter.