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Photo Credits: The Ontarion

Last Wednesday, January 24, two women anonymously came forward with similar charges of sexual misconduct against Patrick Brown, former leader of the Progressive Conservative (PC) Party in Ontario. One of these women recounts being 19 years old and going to a party with Brown, drinking a lot and later ending up in his bedroom. He tried to kiss her, but she was immediately put off and asked to be taken home. Both women who came forward were much younger than Brown, who was 35 years old at the time. The women claim this factor led to an abuse of power. Less than a day after these allegations came out, Patrick Brown resigned as leader of the party.

The subsequent events have caused quite the stir, considering the PC’s attempts to minimize the damage. Given the connections to the #MeToo movement, it has also ignited a debate as to whether or not he has been treated fairly. After all, the media backlash has been swift and unforgiving, and within a short period of time Brown was forced to resign under pressure from the public and his party.

Politically, the allegations against Patrick Brown may have very dire consequences for the party’s chances in the upcoming provincial election. In the last couple of months, the PC Party looked primed for a win against the Liberal Party and Kathleen Wynne on Thursday, June 7. All throughout last year Wynne has had abysmal approval ratings ranging from 12 per cent to 17 per cent. As a result, the PC Party seemed to be in a strong position to gain their first victory in Ontario since 1999. However, with the bad press received over this incident and the loss of their leader, the PC Party will need to work quickly to regain the momentum they had up until now. They have currently elected Vic Fedeli as interim leader and are going to hold a leadership race that must conclude before Saturday, March 24, which puts even more pressure on the potential candidates. Some such candidates include Caroline Mulroney, Doug Ford, and Rod Phillips.

Complaints have been put forward in the press against the manner in which the PC Party handled the incident. The PC caucus completely abandoned Patrick Brown despite his claims to innocence. Whilst he made his speech on the falsity of the accusations and his determination to stay as leader, his party had already decided that they would force him to resign. It was so severe that when he declared that he wouldn’t resign, three of his leading campaign staff quit on him. This in turn forced Patrick Brown to resign.

Though this may seem like a cruel move by the PC Party, it may also be construed as a pragmatic political maneuver. With the election only a couple of months away and the #MeToo movement still in the news, it would have been political suicide for them to keep Patrick Brown on while he fought this case in court, especially without any assurance that he is indeed innocent. To add to this, MPP Lisa MacLeod has claimed that rumors about Brown existed before these allegations came out, which sets a potentially precedent for his behavior towards women. A last reason for why the PC Party might have acted as they did is because of the animosity felt by many PCs towards Patrick Brown because of the direction he was leading the party. Brown’s campaign, based on the promise not to alter any of Wynne’s key policies, has essentially been more centrist in tone than many PCs are willing to accept. This animosity has even led some to speculate on whether these allegations are in part an inside job, though there has yet to be any serious evidence in support of this claim. 

Although it may be said that the PC Party’s move to abandon Patrick Brown made sense, it may not address the larger concerns over the #MeToo movement. Is this another example of the #MeToo movement finding due justice for women, or is it rather an example of the movement going too far? These questions are becoming increasingly relevant as more and more men are being negatively impacted by the movement. Should the allegations of two anonymous women be able to completely ruin someone’s career, especially given that their allegations could be false? Some have argued that given the rumors surrounding Patrick Brown and the high stakes that comes with being a politician, the PC Party had every right to force him to resign. This view does seem to hold true in this specific case. The rumors surrounding Patrick Brown have come forward aplenty, with PC MPPs, among others, coming forward. As well, given the potential cost of defending Brown and keeping him as leader, it doesn’t seem to be an instance of the movement gone awry. 

Though Patrick Brown most likely deserved the consequences he was dealt, the event still leaves a looming shadow over many other politicians and celebrities. Just as with Anziz Ansari, whose career was massively impacted by the anonymous account of his supposed sexual misconduct towards a woman on a date, the power of the #MeToo movement is concerning. Still, the movement has shown itself to bring good, as has been the case with truly vile men like Harvey Weinstein. However, it is also showing signs of the destruction it can reap in controversial cases of potentially, or at least somewhat, innocent men, like Ansari. Women hold a lot of power, and if the #MeToo movement hopes to continue to have a positive impact in the future, it must be handled properly. The Patrick Brown incident teeters on a fine line. Though it is understandable in these specific circumstances, the allegations of two women should not be able to wreck someone’s career, even if it is a political one, before due process has been undergone. Respect for the court system and proper standards of evidence must be encouraged in order for the movement to have the longevity it needs and deserves.

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