Matt Galloway interviews Hannah Thibedeau on her unprecedented interview with Patrick Brown. Check it out here.
"You want to get answers on this, Patrick Brown was the leader under this whole group of people," Ford said during an event earlier this month in Baysville, Ont., when questioned about a private company's claim that data belonging to 60,000 customers had been breached.
The company, 407 ETR, runs a toll highway. Simmer Sandhu, who worked for the company for nine years, recently quit as the PC candidate in Brampton East over what he called allegations "pertaining to both my work life and my nomination campaign."
Brown has kept a relatively low profile since stepping down as leader in January after CTV News reported that two women were accusing him of sexual assault.
Brown has denied the reports and is suing CTV for $8 million. CTV News says it stands by the story.
But Ford's repeated claim that Brown left the party in ruins has drawn him out. Hours before the three major party leaders gathered Sunday night for the final debate of the election, Brown sat down with CBC News to talk about how the PC campaign is going so far — and to suggest that Ford is dropping the ball.
[The Progressive Conservatives] have snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory before, but never with a lead this big.
—former Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown
"You know, Doug may not have wanted to say, 'Talk to Patrick Brown,'" he said. "Because the facts tell a very different story.
"When I left we had a 20-point lead in the polls, a massive financial advantage, the largest membership, the most diverse membership in the province of Ontario. And we were winning by-elections left, right and centre."
That early advantage for the PCs seems to have evaporated over the course of the campaign. On Jan. 13, less than two weeks before Brown's resignation, the CBC Poll Tracker gave the PCs a lead of 12.5 points over the governing Liberals; the NDP was trailing in third, at 22 per cent.
On Mar. 11, the day after Progressive Conservatives elected Doug Ford as their leader, the party held a 20-point lead over the Liberals. The New Democrats trailed far behind at 24 per cent.
PCs' election to lose
On Monday, the day after the final leaders' debate, the PCs were at 35.9 per cent to the NDP's 35.2 per cent in the CBC's polling average.
"This is the Progressive Conservatives' election to lose," Brown said, adding that — given the substantial head-start the party had going into the campaign — anything short of a majority PC government would look like failure.
"[The Progressive Conservatives] have snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory before, but never with a lead this big. Never with an advantage this big. The PCs had a slight lead in previous elections and it evaporated, but never anything like this."
Sandhu's resignation and lingering questions about 407 ETR data aren't the only dark clouds hanging over Progressive Conservative candidate nominations during this campaign. In February, the party overturned two nominations in Scarborough Centre and Ottawa West-Nepean following reports of voting irregularities.
More recently, Ford himself was accused of interfering in a local party nomination race by signing up bogus members to help a candidate of his choice. The Liberals released documents and an audio recording of Ford that they claimed show him suggesting the fees would be paid by others — a violation of party rules.
"It was so frustrating," Brown said. He called on Elections Ontario to run party nominations to avoid allegations of manipulation of memberships.
"A party run by volunteers isn't adequately equipped to run nominations because they can be enormous affairs," he said.
"When the stakes are the opportunity to become an MPP and the opportunity to be part of a winning team, people will go to extensive lengths to win those nominations. And we've seen in some cases inappropriate lengths to win those nominations."