2 min

Patrick Brown’s fall will give social conservatives hope to rise again in Ontario

The homophobic elements of the Progressive Conservatives are lying in wait

Patrick Brown addresses a crowd in this February 2016 photo from a by-election in Whitby-Oshawa, Ontario. Credit: Facebook

The reckoning could be measured in hours or in years.

By the time most people left work on Wednesday evening, Patrick Brown was safely ensconced as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party and was the likely next premier of Ontario. But even before the earliest risers embarked on their morning commutes the next day, he had been defenestrated by his own party.

For those of us watching from the outside, it seemed to happen in a flash. Despite his teary denial and a promise to fight any allegations, Brown couldn’t weather the mass resignations and caucus revolt.

For the women who Brown is accused of assaulting, the wait has been much, much longer.

The allegations, reported by CTV News, that Brown sexually harassed and assaulted two teenagers, including a former staffer, are repugnant, but not surprising. Like any profession bathed in power and prestige, it’s a certainty that Canadian politics is full of sexual predators.

The man now accused of using alcohol and authority to sexually coerce teenagers built his career as an MP voting against gay marriage and promoting a social conservative agenda. (I’m sure I’m not the only person for whom Roy Moore comes to mind).

So it’s depressingly ironic that his downfall could have profoundly negative consequences for LGBT Ontarians.

Ever since Brown concluded his hostile takeover of the Progressive Conservatives, he has attracted the ire of social conservatives. They view him as a traitor who courted their votes in the leadership and quickly threw them under the first Pride float he could.

Brown’s opportunism was evident to anyone who was even a casual observer of politics. Despite his Damascus conversion, it has remained an open question whether he would actually be an ally to LGBT communities once in office, especially because his slipperiness worked in both directions.

His recent embrace of extreme Hindu nationalists like Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, who has publicly called for the slaughter of Muslims, proved that he wasn’t a reconstituted egalitarian.

But Brown’s support for LGBT rights, however symbolic, was a major step forward for the PCs. It was not very long ago that the Progressive Conservatives were fighting GSAs tooth-and-nail and using homophobic messaging to attack Ontario’s first lesbian premier.

Had he been elected premier, homophobes and transphobes in Ontario could have lost their only viable political vehicle for good.

So it’s no surprise it was the social conservatives who were the first out of the gate to denounce Brown and demand his resignation.

Charles McVety, a prominent social conservative activist, quickly came out with a statement.

“For years we have been hearing about Patrick’s coercion of women,” he wrote on Twitter. “Save the Party and save the province.”

And Randy Hillier and Sam Oosterhoff were reportedly the two first MPPs to call for their leader’s ouster.

In the coming days, the PCs will decide who will lead their party into the next election. It’s certain that socially conservative elements will try to flex their muscles again — after all, it wasn’t that long ago they were able to propel a homeschooled teenager to victory over a party stalwart.

The turmoil within the party will give them another opportunity to reassert their homophobic, transphobic agenda. Even if someone like Monte McNaughton doesn’t become the next leader — by no means a guarantee — the increased clout of social conservatives may mean that LGBT rights in this province could come under threat if the PCs win the upcoming election.

The reckoning that began with Brown will hopefully not stop with him. And it was heartening to see PC staff and MPPs refuse to back him despite his protestations. But this won’t be the only moral test they face in the coming days.

They need to be vigilant against the explicitly misogynist, homophobic and transphobic elements of their party gaining an opportunity to rise again.

After all, a lot can change in a day.