What Patrick Brown Knew, and When He Knew it.
Is Patrick Brown telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
On August 10, Queenie Yu formally registered as a candidate with Elections Ontario. This is the first of two steps to become an official candidate. Within hours of registering, Queenie was contacted by a very concerned Nicolas Pappalardo, Chief of Staff to Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown. The next day, on Friday, August 12, I accompanied Queenie to a friendly meeting at a Tim Hortons near Queens Park. This meeting was at the request of Pappalardo.
Brown's Chief of Staff expressed concern that both PAFE and Queenie had such a dim view of Patrick Brown's waffling on s/x-ed. He loyally defended Brown's record on parental rights.
While I understood his concern, I explained it was a bit late in the process- Queenie had just registered as a candidate - but Pappalardo seemed sincere in his desire to clarify Brown's position. He invited me to send to him my suggestions of possible commitments that Brown could make which would satisfy PAFE and its supporters, and which we could accept as being in the interest of Ontario parents and children. Pappalardo committed to relaying these commitments to Brown.
On August 13, I forwarded my suggestions. Soon after, Brown's Chief of Staff got back to me and told me that he, Patrick Brown, Monte McNaughton and others had just gotten off a conference call to discuss what they falsely categorized as my "demands". The involvement of McNaughton was, one might suppose, related to McNaughton's high-profile efforts on behalf of parents in the winter of 2014-2015. Monte is still considered an advocate for parents in parliament.
I was somewhat surprised with the reactions from Patrick Brown and the group when the Chief of Staff conveyed some of the feedback. I was told that Brown seemed overwhelmed by my list and asked "Is Tanya serious about working with us or not?"
One particular "wish list" item that drew special mention from Patrick was my suggestion that retired MPP Garfield Dunlop have nothing to do with the education portfolio. I have no idea as to whether or not he became an employee of either the PC Party or the Ontario Legislature after he resigned his Orillia area seat to make way for Patrick Brown last year. But I do recall that Dunlop was, early on, an outspoken advocate for the PC Party to support the Wynne sex- ed curriculum. My request was simply that Dunlop be removed from any role on the education file and that he be replaced by an MPP - any MPP - who was a Wynne s/x-ed opponent.
According to the Chief of Staff, PC Leader Brown was particularly outraged by this suggestion. I was told Patrick referenced a lesson taught to him by Brian Mulroney himself: to reward loyalty. To that end, Garfield Dunlop was going to stay.
After a number of other conversations, emails, and texts, the Chief of Staff and I continued our discussion, but things seemed to be going nowhere. I had heard nothing from Brown's people for four days. All the while, the deadline was looming to get Queenie to complete the 2nd and final step to become a candidate - filing her nomination papers. The deadline was Thursday, August 18, and Queenie filed her papers on the morning of Wednesday August 17- a day early.
The Elections Ontario website demonstrated that Queenie had completed the final step aon Wednesday afternoon. That evening (and several days after I had emailed him my suggestions for commitments), I finally received a copy of a draft letter from Pappalardo- a letter that, supposedly, Patrick would later issue to the public; a letter that included a number of statements that constituted Brown's new, strengthened position on the s/x-ed issue.
I didn't reply right away to Brown's Chief of Staff. The next morning, though, in an email to PAFE supporters, I forwarded the good news that Queenie had completed the process of becoming a candidate. I also stated that "Brown continues to backpedal on statements he made last year". This email went out at 6:03am on Thursday, August 18.
As reported in various media outlets, and unbeknownst to me until recently, Pappalardo then contacted Queenie directly, at 7:40am, complaining about my lack of response to him regarding the Patrick Brown's draft statement of the previous day. He shared with Queenie "the statement Patrick was prepared to make", and proceeded to complain about my email to PAFE supporters.
Brown's Chief of Staff contacted me again early in the morning on Thursday August 18th. I explained to him that a promise to "repeal" the Wynne s/x-ed curriculum would be the absolute bare minimum to get my attention, and even with that, Brown would always have a credibility problem with PAFE supporters. Many Ontario parents had already lost confidence in the Ontario PC leader. In any case, the letter that the Pappalardo had sent had made no such commitment. There was no promise of a "repeal" of Wynne's curriculum.
Throughout the day, Brown's Chief of Staff and I went back and forth, with what I was led to believe was direct input from Patrick Brown on language. I am told that Brown and his team again enlisted the help of one-time s/x-ed opponent Monte McNaughton.
Brown's Chief of Staff Pappalardo was able to get back to me with an amended letter. There was still no mention of the world "repeal" which I had requested but, instead, the new draft contained the forceful word "scrap." According to Brown's Chief of Staff, it was Patrick's personal preference that "scrap" be used instead of "repeal" in reference to the Wynne s/x-ed curriculum. The rest of the letter was virtually identical to the previous draft.
Pappalardo was particularly concerned to know what I would say if this "scrap Wynne's s/x-ed" letter was released to the public. I could provide him no such details. "You release whatever you deem appropriate," I assured him, "and I will respond accordingly. Every time Patrick Brown has had something to say about the s/x-ed issue, PAFE has done its best to issue a fair comment." Brown's Chief of Staff was not satisfied with this: he wanted a clear commitment on the contents of what I would say. As the head of a large organization, I must be accountable to my supporters- not political staff- so I wasn't prepared to divulge what my commentary would be, let alone with a still unpublished letter. This was simply not going to happen.
I heard nothing more from Patrick's office for a week. Then at the noon hour of Thursday, August 25 when, like Queenie Yu, I received, from Brown's Chief of Staff, a "courtesy copy" of that now infamous letter, along with the commitment that this letter would be distributed in Scarborough-Rouge River over the coming weekend. This published letter, like the previous draft of a week earlier, contained the word scrap. This time, though, the letter came with the authority of Patrick Brown's signature. I was cautiously optimistic.
The next day, this letter made its appearance in the media and in the riding. My public response? I said nothing. Why? Understandably, my confidence in Patrick Brown being able to hold to such a position without backtracking was lacking. What's that expression? Once bitten twice shy? I wanted to wait just a couple of days to see how Patrick would respond. Sure enough, Brown's ensuing verbal gymnastics and obfuscation on this issue confirmed my worst fears.
The rest of this narrative you have followed in the news or in my emails to you.
I give Nicolas Pappalardo full credit for doing his job: throughout this drama, his boss, Patrick Brown, was keen on winning in the byelection, and Nicolas successfully helped Patrick find language that would appeal to many of the voters in that riding, and Ontario. Many voters went to the polls believe Patrick Brown would scrap the s/x-ed curriculum. In fact, A PAFE supporter witnessed first-hand how people at the door were convinced that Patrick Brown was FOR scrapping the s/x-ed because they received a letter in their mother tongue from Patrick Brown.
So where does that leave PAFE and Patrick Brown? I don't understand how Patrick Brown can say that that he didn't know about the letter. I don't know how Patrick Brown can say that the August 24 "scrap" letter somehow originated in Scarborough, when all my dealings with this letter were with people who keep offices at Queen's Park and are in regular contact with Patrick Brown.
At the end of this affair, Patrick Brown ultimately revealed himself as a supporter of the Wynne s/x-ed agenda. This came as no surprise to me and to many of PAFE's supporters. But that Patrick Brown insists he only found out about this final draft - the one with the word "scrap" - after its public release, is not consistent with my understanding of what happened.
It is my understanding that this letter originated with involvement and co-operation of Patrick Brown, and his office.
And if you don't believe me, just ask Monte McNaughton.
Tanya Granic Allen,
Parents As First Educators (PAFE)