Brown’s top aides also resign after two women publicize incidents
TORONTO (Reuters) — The leader of the main opposition party in Ontario said early on Thursday that he would step down from his post, a few hours after broadcaster CTV News reported allegations of sexual misconduct that he strongly denied.
By resigning as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party, Patrick Brown ended his high-profile campaign to unseat Ontario's Liberal party Premier Kathleen Wynne in a June election. He was ahead in early polls in Canada's most populous province, home to Toronto and the nation's capital, Ottawa.
Brown said he would retain his post as an Ontario lawmaker while working to clear his name "from these false allegations."
"These allegations are false and have been difficult to hear," Brown said in a statement on the Ontario Progressive Conservative website. "However, defeating Kathleen Wynne in 2018 is more important than one individual."
The party's deputy leaders said in a separate statement that while Brown was entitled to legal defense and due process, "he cannot lead us into an election as a result of these allegations."
Brown announced his resignation as head of the party just hours after promising to report to work on Thursday, vigorously defended himself at a dramatic, hastily called press conference. He did not take questions from reporters while making a statement a few minutes before CTV aired the report in its 10 p.m. Wednesday newscast.
The CTV report included allegations from two women who said he made sexual advances toward them in separate incidents at his home several years ago.
CTV did not identify the women or show their faces. Reuters was unable to verify the claims.
One of the women told CTV she met Brown in a bar more than 10 years ago when she was in high school, that he invited her to his home, provided her with alcohol, even though she was under the drinking age, exposed himself and asked her to perform a sexual act.
The second, who said she worked for Brown in his office when he was a member of parliament, described an incident in which he kissed her when she was drunk.
Pressure for Brown to step down mounted quickly as five of his aides said late on Wednesday that they had resigned after learning of the allegations earlier in the day.
In the United States sexual misconduct allegations have been made against prominent entertainment, politics and the media, inspiring a widespread #MeToo social movement by victims of sexual harassment or abuse. Many of those accused have been fired, forced to step down or dropped from creative projects.