Patrick Brown has officially announced his bid for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada.
At a news conference today in Brampton, where he currently serves as mayor, Brown asked everyone to "help me fight for this future as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada," and said he was more than ready for this fight.
Brown thanked the residents in Brampton and said he would donate his paycheque as mayor during the leadership contest to the Osler Foundation, Khalsa Aid and Humanity First organizations.
Brown acknowledged there were “fractures” in the Conservative Party over the last three years and he would heal them by uniting members and listening to anyone, including those with differing opinions.
Brown said he would address climate change and religious freedom, as he has done as the mayor of Brampton. He said he will fight for religious freedom and end the “Liberal Party practice of tokenizing diverse Canadians.” If elected to an eventual prime minister's seat, Brown said he would end Bill 21, which prohibits Quebec citizens who work in public service from wearing religious symbols while fulfilling their civic duties.
In him, Brown said voters would get someone who knows how to win.
"I know what it takes to keep fighting when everyone is against you, and still win," said Brown. "When the media tried to make me cancel culture's latest victim by smearing me with false allegations, I fought back and won."
Brown was referring to Wednesday's announcement that he and CTV had reached a settlement in the lawsuit he had filed against the media company that stemmed from sexual misconduct allegations that forced him to step down in 2018 as the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.
That settlement to an $8-million defamation lawsuit saw no money exchanged, but rather an apology and public statement from the media company.
The Conservatives are in the midst of a leadership race to replace Erin O'Toole, culminating with the announcement of the new party leader Sept. 10. O’Toole was ousted last month following a leadership vote by MPs.
Brown, 43, is a former Barrie city councillor, first elected in 2000 at the age of 22 and then re-elected in 2003. He also served as Barrie MP and Simcoe North MPP, and was one-time leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party. He has been Brampton’s mayor since 2018. He and his wife have a young family.
Among those already vying for the leadership are Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre and former leader of the federal Progressive Conservatives and former Quebec premier Jean Charest. Conservative MP Leslyn Lewis (Haldimand-Norfolk) and independent Ontario MPP Roman Barber (York Centre) have also said they plan to seek the leadership.
Leadership contenders will have until June 3 to sign up new members and voting will be done through mail-in ballots.
Earlier this week, Brown told BarrieToday he was considering taking a shot at the run at the Conservative leadership. Brown said the model of conservatism he’d like to see is that of former Ontario premier Bill Davis.
“He reflected the decency and pragmatism and big-tent conservatism that I think would hold a bright future,” Brown said.
When asked if an example from Ontario would resonate with Conservative members in other parts of the country, Brown replied: “I think that decency and thoughtfulness is a value that holds water everywhere in Canada.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first took the Liberals to victory in 2015 with a majority government followed by successive minority governments in 2019 and 2021.
In that time, there have been a succession of Conservative leaders. Rona Ambrose stepped in temporarily to replace former prime minister Stephen Harper in 2015 until Andrew Scheer won the leadership race two years later. He was then replaced by O’Toole in 2020. Bergen is now interim leader until the new leader is selected at the end of the summer.
— With files from Marg. Bruineman