Activist company

Patrick Brown knew company was paying for campaign work, whistleblower says

Patrick Brown at the Conservative Party of Canada leadership debate in English in Edmonton on May 11.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

A former Patrick Brown campaign organizer says the disqualified Conservative leadership candidate knew a company was paying her for her campaign work, which is illegal under federal election laws.

Debra Jodoin, a longtime party activist, released a statement on Thursday evening, saying she was the whistleblower who informed the Conservative Party that Mr Brown had encouraged her to work for him when she was under the auspices of a private company.

“In April 2022, I agreed to join the Patrick Brown Leadership Campaign at Mr. Brown’s request to help as a regional organizer,” she said. “Mr. Brown told me it was permissible for me to be employed by a company as a consultant and then have that company volunteer me for the campaign.

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Ms. Jodoin said Mr. Brown connected her via text message with a third party, whom she did not identify.

“I trusted him, but over time I became more and more concerned about the arrangement and suspected it wasn’t right,” she said.

In June, Ms. Jodoin said she personally asked Mr. Brown that the campaign pay his expenses. Mr Brown said he was surprised the expenses weren’t covered and said he was “on it”, she said.

Shortly after, Ms Jodoin said, “a company paid me and paid my expenses, not the Brown campaign.”

The Conservative Party has not revealed any details about why it disqualified the mayor of Brampton, other than saying it was for campaign financial irregularities.

Chisholm Pothier, spokesperson for Mr Brown’s campaign, responded to the story with a tweet, writing that the party’s leadership committee had raised Jodoin’s issue with the campaign and, in response, he wrote a letter to the committee on June 30.

Mr. Pothier tweeted part of the letter. He does not name Ms Jodoin, but says Mr Brown believes the case was linked to an anonymous person who was seeking employment opportunities with the campaign. As none were available, Mr. Brown referred the individual to a friend who ran a business. The anonymous individual ended up volunteering for the campaign, but the letter says Mr Brown understood that the voluntary work was done outside of company work.

According to the excerpt from the letter tweeted by Mr. Pothier, Mr. Brown was prepared to reimburse the business owner and the company for all funds involved, estimated to be less than $10,000.

Jason Beitchman, Ms Jodoin’s lawyer, said his client shared her concerns with the Conservative Party.

“It was at her request that the party endeavored to keep the identity of Ms. Jodoin confidential. She is a private citizen, not a public or political figure, and has many friends and colleagues across the countryside. She didn’t want to be in the middle of a political issue,” he said.

However, Ms. Jodoin’s name leaked and she decided to come forward as a whistleblower, he said.

“Its primary interest is to ensure the integrity of the democratic process and respect for the rule of law. Based on this, she felt it was her duty to raise her concerns and leave it to others to determine what further action, if any, to take.

Mr Beitchman said Ms Jodoin provided the text messages between her and Mr Brown to Ian Brodie, who heads the party leadership election organizing committee (LEOC). Mr. Brodie did not share the details of these text messages or his identity with other LEOC members.

Mr Brown has denied any improper action. He was kicked out of the race over what the party called “serious allegations of wrongdoing”. Five candidates remain in the running, the winner of which will be announced on September 10.

Mr Brown’s national campaign co-chairman said an appeal had been made against his disqualification. John Reynolds, a former Tory MP, said legal action would be taken if necessary.

Former Conservative Party leader Dimitri Soudas has expressed concern that the Brown campaign will try to destroy the reputation of Ms Jodoin, a woman he has known for 20 years.

“His actions are a testament to his integrity and high ethical standards,” he said.

Mr. Brown has retained the services of Marie Henein, a prominent criminal defense lawyer whose former clients include former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi and former Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant, to act for him as he seeks to overturn the disqualification.

On Wednesday, the Toronto lawyer and her partner, Alex Smith, sent letters to Mr. Brodie, the president of the LEOC, and to the party’s Dispute Resolution Appeals Committee.

In a letter, the legal pair say they are appealing Mr Brown’s disqualification.

“To be clear, Mr. Brown committed absolutely no fault. Your refusal to elaborate on the allegations underlying your recommendation demonstrates this,” they wrote. This Kafkaesque process has led to a politically motivated and predetermined outcome and is not in line with the values ​​that this party should stand for.

Lawyers also said tens of thousands of Canadians — “in particular, new Canadians” — whom Mr Brown brought into the party were disenfranchised by his disqualification.

In a second letter, the lawyers say that because Mr. Brown’s disqualification may be subject to “advance litigation”, they are asking the party to ensure that all documents and records associated with the disqualification are kept.

Party chairman Robert Batherson said it was too early to say whether the party was preserving the records, as he is awaiting legal advice on the matter as well as the appeal.

“The party is extremely confident in our legal position and, more importantly, extremely confident that we have done the right thing,” he said. “We have given Mr. Brown and his campaign a good part of the week to come into compliance. We asked detailed questions. Unfortunately, Mr. Brown and his campaign team failed to provide us with the answers we needed to sustain his candidacy.

Meanwhile, Elections Canada is being urged by a Liberal MP to launch an immediate and independent investigation into allegations of potential financial crimes in the current Conservative leadership race that could have benefited the Conservative Party.

In his appeal to Acting Election Commissioner Marc Chénier, MP Adam van Koeverden, who is also Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, linked the need for an investigation to the party’s decision to disqualify Mr Brown from the race in management this week.

“Given the nature of the Conservative Party’s leadership rules and party membership fees, serious questions arise as to whether the party itself may have benefited from the alleged illegal actions of the leadership contest.” , wrote Mr. van Koeverden.

The MP for Milton said the benefits could be a monetary boon to the party from membership fees sold by the candidate or leadership fees paid to the party by the candidate, or from in-kind donations such as labor or services that ultimately furthered party political interests, but were paid for by third-party entities.

“Given these potential illegal benefits accruing to the Conservative Party, any investigation should not be limited to an individual leadership contestant, but should follow the money if there was a potential benefit to the party as a whole,” he wrote.

Michelle Laliberté, spokeswoman for the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections, said Thursday that her office had received both Mr. van Koeverden’s letter as well as a submission of documents from the Conservatives on the issues surrounding Mr. Brown.

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