Barrett sticks with Brown in leadership race
Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett
Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett says he is sticking by his wish to see Patrick Brown reclaim the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party to fight the next provincial election – even though he believes he is paying a price for his loyalty.
“I ride for the brand,” Barrett said in an interview Thursday in which he used a traditional cowboy and ranch metaphor.
“You sign up for a ranch, you’re loyal to the ranch.”
Brown is vying for the leadership against former MPP Christine Elliott, ex-Toronto councillor Doug Ford, rookie PC candidate Caroline Mulroney, and anti-sex-education crusader Tanya Granic Allen.
As he talked about Brown being cleared to run as one of five candidates for the top job, Barrett recounted that he joined the controversial political figure’s first leadership race two years ago and travelled with him a number of times in pursuit of votes.
“I got to know Patrick very well and I know him to be a just and upright man,” Barrett said. “He’s a workaholic. I have a great deal of respect for workaholics.”
Barrett said he sees Brown’s fall in the face of sexual misconduct allegations and other attacks as mainly a quarrel within party ranks, in which Barrett has also been catching flak.
“There seem to be a group of people trying to do anything they can to keep Patrick out of this leadership race and who don’t want him back even if he’s cleared to run,” Barrett said.
“These salvos have continued for a month now. During that time, I have spoken to hundreds of people in my riding. Overwhelmingly they believe this is purely and simply a political takedown of Patrick Brown.
“Certain people did not want him to be the leader and worked to take him out.”
Barrett said his own political troubles began in caucus about a month ago. He was caucus chairman when a CTV story broke on Jan. 24 about allegations raised by two women against Brown. A few hours later, Brown resigned as leader.
At a caucus meeting Jan. 26, Barrett said he made his position clear that he wanted a leadership race with the full party membership allowed to vote.
“I said then ‘they paid $10 to be members and they deserve he right to help choose our leader,’” Barrett recalled.
The caucus chose MPP Vic Fedeli as interim leader and called a leadership race with the winner to be declared March 10.
Very soon after that, Barrett said he was demoted.
“I was removed as caucus chair. I was no longer on the policy and priorities committee. I was no longer chair of the private member’s bills committee.”
And back in the Legislature, he discovered that after 22 years of sitting in the second row, whether the Tories were in power or in the opposition, his seat was moved to the back row.
“That bothered me. When I found that out, I felt it was an attempt at humiliation,” Barrett said.
“I take my place in that chair not as Toby Barrett, but as the representative for the people of Haldimand-Norfolk.”
Fedeli’s office had no official comment on Barrett’s statements Thursday.
Fedeli named Lisa Thompson the new caucus chair. When he did that, he said “MPP Thompson will play an integral role in implementing the plan I announced…to strengthen our workplace violence and harassment policies.”
And while some critic positions were shifted with Fedeli at the helm, Barrett remains the PC agriculture critic.
Barrett said he is not going to let the sting of those actions bother him.
“This is not about me. None of this is my doing. These are not my decisions,” he said.
“I was concerned that everything be done in a democratic way. But I will turn the other cheek. I will soldier on.”
Then he added that he is under no illusion about one thing: “Now that we’re fully in the leadership race, I know the attacks will continue.”