Patrick Brown steps down as Ontario PC leader amid sexual misconduct allegations

Patrick Brown says he will step down as Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leader while he fights to clear his name after sexual misconduct allegations were brought against him by two women.

“After consulting with caucus, friends and family I have decided to step down as leader of the Ontario PC Party. I will remain on as a MPP while I definitively clear my name from these false allegations,” Brown said in a written statement issued early Thursday morning.

He said that while the allegations are false, “defeating Kathleen Wynne in 2018 is more important than one individual.”

Deputy PC Party Leaders Sylvia Jones and Steve Clark said in a written statement they learned of the allegations Wednesday evening. They said “in the interest of the Ontario PC Party we unanimously agree that Mr. Brown cannot continue serving as the leader.”

“Mr. Brown is entitled to a legal defense and due process, but he cannot lead us into an election as a result of these allegations,” Jones and Clark wrote.

They said the PC caucus will be consulting with party officials and members on the “best way to move forward to defeat the Wynne Liberals.”

Sources previously confirmed to Global News Brown began working on a resignation letter following late night calls between Brown, PC caucus members and members of the party’s executive.

Brown’s decision follows a last-minute news conference at Queen’s Park Wednesday evening where he denied the allegations.

“A couple of hours ago I learned about troubling allegations about my conduct and my character,” Brown said.

“These allegations are false, categorically untrue — every one of them. I will defend myself as hard as I can with all means at my disposal. It’s never OK, it’s never OK, for anyone to feel they’ve been a victim of sexual harassment or feel threatened in any way.”

Brown said he rejects “these accusations in the strongest possible terms.”

“It’s not my values, it’s not how I was raised, it’s not who I am,” he said.

WATCH: PC Leader Patrick Brown says ‘I’ll be at work tomorrow’ after denying sexual misconduct allegations

He didn’t take any questions from the media but said he would be back at work Thursday morning.

CTV news published a report saying two women came forward accusing Brown of sexual misconduct.

CTV said one of the allegations are from over 10 years ago and involved a high school student, while the other incident involved a woman working for the MP in then-prime minister Stephen Harper’s government in 2012.

The women haven’t been named, and the allegations haven’t been proven in court.

One woman, who’s now 29 years old, said Brown propositioned her during a tour of his home while she was still in high school. He allegedly asked her to perform oral sex, which she did for a short while before leaving.

WATCH: Patrick Brown denies sexual misconduct allegations. Kamil Karamali reports.

A second woman said she was working for him as an MP when he invited her and another person back to his place after a party. When they were alone, he allegedly kissed her and “got on top of her,” CTV reported. She described it as sexual assault.

“The next thing I know, he’s kissing me. Sitting beside me kissing me and then I was, I just kind of froze up. He continued to kiss me and he laid me down on the bed and got on top of me and I remembered consciously trying to not move my mouth,” she said.

CTV reported the second accuser said Brown stopped when she asked him to. Both women told the broadcaster they were inebriated at the time.

“That scenario of a very inebriated, young employee in the bedroom of her boss alone with him, who hasn’t had a drop of alcohol night – that’s just an intimidating situation — and I was not sure what to do about it,” the second accuser said.

READ MORE: Ontario PC staffers resign following sexual misconduct allegations against Leader Patrick Brown

Brown did not directly address the allegations by CTV during his press conference, instead describing them as “categorically untrue.” He said he instructed his lawyers to ensure that the allegations are addressed in court.

Following the press conference, three senior Ontario PC staffers released a joint statement resigning from the party.

Campaign manager Andrew Boddington, Chief of Staff Alykhan Velshi and Deputy Campaign Manager Dan Robertson said in the statement that upon discussing the allegations with Brown, they’d advised him to resign.

“Earlier today, all three of us became aware of allegations about Patrick Brown. After speaking with him, our advice was that he should resign as PC leader. He did not accept that advice,” read the statement.

Shortly after, Ontario PC Party Press Secretary Nick Bergamini and Deputy Campaign Manager Joshua Workman tweeted they would also resign amid the allegations.

Premier Kathleen Wynne issued a brief statement late Wednesday on Twitter and expressed support for the women who raised the allegations.

“It’s a difficult and brave thing to do to come forward in the way these young women have done tonight,” she wrote.

“My government and I have been clear on the issue of sexual harassment and assault. In fact our policy and our ad were called ‘It’s Never Okay.’”

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath also issued a statement saying she is “disgusted and disturbed” by the allegations and called for Brown to step down.

“My thoughts are with the brave young women who have spoken out to describe horrible, degrading and unsafe experiences they say happened at the hands of Patrick Brown,” she said.

“Patrick Brown must resign, immediately. He deserves his day in court, but no person can lead a political party in this province with allegations like these hanging over his head.”

The allegations have not been proven in court.

Sean Simpson, vice president of Ipsos, said the allegations against Brown could pose a challenge for the Ontario PC party heading into the 2018 provincial election.

“This probably doesn’t change the minds of most Ontarians who say they want a change in leadership in the province, but it might change who they look to for that change,” Simpson said.

“We know that Andrea Horwath is already preferred by Ontarians as the best Premier, but she runs significantly ahead of her party. So if people are still keen on change, it likely increases her stock and the fortunes of the NDP.”

Patrick Brown was elected as the Ontario PC Party leader in 2015.

Before this, he served as a Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Simcoe North. He worked as a lawyer in Barrie before running for office.

— With files from Leslie Stojsic

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