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All eyes on Brown as Ontario legislature resumes ahead of spring election

All eyes on Brown as Ontario legislature resumes ahead of spring election

When legislators return to Queen's Park on Tuesday, all eyes will be on former Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown - if he shows up to take a seat as an independent after being kicked out of caucus.

But despite the obstacles, Brown remained defiant Tuesday, promising to continue his fight.

"We have an agenda that really does resonate with the people of the province".

"We are fighting for the people of Ontario", the 39-year-old politician told a crowd of supporters on the weekend.

The NDP leader said the party is nonetheless ready for the election campaign and to tackle hospital overcrowding, long wait times for health care, and other issues.

Brown, who is running for re-election in the riding of Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, has said he helped grow the party to unprecedented levels since becoming leader in 2015, so he should be the one to lead it through the spring election.

Brown says it's important for the Tories to be united ahead of the June 7 election.

"I trust the process", he said.

"They have a lot of messes with nominations and the internal problems inside the party, but I don't think the public is going to pay attention to that by the time you hit the campaign", he said.

Some Tory officials acknowledged the complicated vetting process has caused some confusion inside and outside the party.

The party membership will vote electronically for its next leader between March 2 and March 8, with results to be announced on March 10.

Brown's abrupt resignation plunged the Progressive Conservatives, who had been leading in the polls, into turmoil, triggering the kind of infighting rarely seen in Ontario politics. As of Tuesday morning, however, there was confusion about whether Brown would in fact be cleared to run for leader.

In the first question period of the legislature since December, interim PC leader Vic Fedeli took Premier Kathleen Wynne to task about job losses last month, but his efforts were overshadowed by the conflict in his own party. "This small group of insiders will stop at nothing in their attempts to derail us".

Angely Pacis, the PC candidate for Mississauga Centre who joined Brown onstage, said she doesn't believe the allegations of misconduct will deter voters from supporting the party. The Canadian Press has not independently verified the allegations.

Brown has alleged that the two women who accused him of sexual misconduct were lying and may have been manipulated by his political enemies.

"This includes bank statements, mortgage information, legal documents, all of which is legally protected and personal information", he said. "So the grassroots members may very well turn on the party elites and try and send in Patrick Brown", he said.

"What you and every member should know is that no leader in any political party is involved in the collection of membership fees", he said of Hillier's allegations that $700,000 from party memberships is "missing". "He should be allowed to speak but won't be allowed to because he will speak the truth".


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