Like The Hub?
Join our community.

Despite disqualification from Conservative leadership race, Patrick Brown vows not to quit the party, declines to endorse Charest


It was poised to be a sleepy week for the Conservative Party leadership race following the Canada Day long weekend. 

Then on Tuesday evening, Ian Brodie, chair of the Conservative Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC), released a statement announcing candidate Patrick Brown had been disqualified from the contest. 

Brodie’s statement revealed the committee voted 11-6 to disqualify Brown following allegations his campaign violated financial provisions of the Canada Elections Act. Furthermore, the statement read that the Brown campaign had failed to satisfy the committee’s concerns when asked to respond to the allegations. 

This is not the first time a candidate has been disqualified from a Conservative leadership race but never before has a high-profile candidate like Brown been expelled, especially in the closing stages of the contest. 

As of Thursday, Brown is appealing the disqualification

Brown’s disqualification leaves Pierre Poilievre and former Quebec premier Jean Charest as the two presumed leading contenders in the leadership race. According to Brown, 44, it was Charest who first interested him in Conservative politics as a teenager, and the two remain friends despite being rivals in the race. 

Speaking with The Hub on Thursday, Brown said it was premature for him to discuss endorsing Charest if the attempt to appeal his disqualification fails.

Despite accusing the Conservative establishment of sabotaging his candidacy, Brown said he does not plan on leaving the party. 

“I still hold out hope that we can build a modern, inclusive Conservative Party,” said Brown in an interview with The Hub on Thursday. “If the party is insistent on giving Pierre Poilievre’s extreme brand of conservatism a coronation, that doesn’t mean I give up on the party.”

These remarks stand in contrast to others he gave last month, where he stated he would not run as an MP under the Conservative party banner if Pierre Poilievre won the leadership, but would consider it if either Charest or Leslyn Lewis emerged victorious.

Brown, the current mayor of Brampton, has also previously stated his intent to run again in Brampton’s mayoral race this fall if he lost the Conservative leadership contest. “If it looks like Pierre is going to win, I would prefer to continue to serve municipally, rather than being a part of what will be an electoral train wreck of the Conservative Party,” Brown said in an interview last month.

On Wednesday, five Brampton city councillors penned an open letter expressing their concern with Brown’s leadership and urging him not to seek another term.

As to the nature of the allegations against Brown’s campaign, after the news of the disqualification broke on Wednesday the National Post reported that a source close to the LEOC revealed the committee’s concerns included a private company paying the salaries of a number of Brown campaign staff. 

Later that day, the Globe & Mail reported that Elections Canada was in possession of text messages related to the alleged violations that caused Brown’s disqualification. The details of the allegations have not yet been revealed to the public, which has led to criticism of the Conservative Party regarding the transparency of its decision. 

Brown went on a media blitz after his disqualification, stating his campaign was not given a fair chance to contest the anonymous allegations (which have since been attributed to a regional organizer on his own campaign) that he denies.

“Simply put, there was no due process provided in this decision, and an unprecedented reverse onus was applied to our campaign,” read a Brown campaign statement. “This decision has disenfranchised over a hundred thousand Canadians from BC to Nova Scotia that chose to join the party…” 

The Conservative leadership campaign has resulted in a record 675,000 Canadians holding party memberships, with Brown’s campaign claiming to have signed up 150,000. Pierre Poilievre’s campaign has self-reported signing up roughly 312,000 members. 

Brown accused the Conservative party establishment of rigging the contest in favour of Poilievre. However, Conservative Party president Rob Batherson stated that the allegations had come from inside the Brown campaign and disagreed that Brown was not afforded due process in responding to the allegations. 

Reactions to the disqualification varied, with some commentators agreeing with Brown’s charge that the Conservative Party establishment wanted him out of the picture and accusing the party of corruption. Others commended the party for taking the allegations seriously and felt the disqualification was an ethical decision.

Hub contributor and University of Manitoba professor of political science Royce Koop disagrees that the LEOC is biased against Brown and says that the relatively lengthy leadership race was to Poilievre’s disadvantage, who entered as the front-runner in February

“It’s to be expected that if a candidate is disqualified, he will call into question the impartiality of the governing body,” wrote Koop over email. “But there’s no evidence the LEOC is biased against Brown or biased in favour of Poilievre.” 

Throughout the leadership race, Brown positioned himself as a moderate against Poilievre, who is widely regarded as the more conservative candidate. Relations between the Brown and Poilievre campaigns deteriorated early in the race, with both teams trading rhetorical barbs for months. 

Koop says there is a belief that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is vulnerable, and that the winner of the Conservative leadership race can reasonably expect to become prime minister, resulting in a more intense contest. 

A Poilievre victory in the leadership race was now described as a near certainty with Brown out of the race. 

“If anything, this episode has shown that the CPC is different from the Liberals,” wrote Koop. “It’s difficult for an entrepreneurial outsider to swoop in and remake the party in their own image.” 

With thousands of paper ballots already mailed out to Conservative Party members, Brown’s name will still appear on the ballot for the leadership election. Any first-place selections for Brown on the ranked ballots will be disregarded by party officials, and those voters’ subsequent ranked choices will be counted once a candidate is eliminated from the ballot.

The leadership election is expected to take place in Ottawa on September 10.

From Syria to Antigonish, Tareq Hadhad’s journey has a sweet ending


Any sweet-toothed Canadians looking for some patriotic treats for this year’s Canada Day celebration could do worse than the Go Canada Go bars sold by Nova Scotia’s Peace By Chocolate.

The bar sports a Canada flag wrapper with the slogan “Go Canada Go” emblazoned on the top. Inside the milk chocolate treat is a maple cream filling. Even the most red-blooded, flag-waving, hockey-watching Canadian might think it’s a little over the top.

But for Tareq Hadhad, a Syrian refugee who fled his country’s civil war to Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and quickly set up a family-run chocolate shop, the message perfectly reflects his own feelings.

“Whenever someone eats one of our chocolates, I think they’ll become proud Canadians to think how great this country is that opens the doors for us,” said Hadhad, on Thursday’s episode of the Hub Dialogues.

Hadhad’s story of going from refugee to massively successful chocolatier has been turned into a feature film, entitled Peace By Chocolate, which premiered last year in Canada after appearing at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

To say the Hadhad family’s life has been cinematically harrowing could be an understatement. In 2010, Hadhad’s father was making ambitious plans for his Syria-based chocolate company and, by 2012, the company’s factory was destroyed by an airstrike. His extended family was soon scattered around the globe, in 26 different countries, as they joined the millions of refugees fleeing the war.

“The whole experience of becoming a refugee was (that) we did not know what tomorrow is going to bring us,” said Hadhad. “We did not know what the future is holding for our family, and we did not know if we will get that chance to immigrate, or if we can go back to our homeland. There was so much uncertainty, so much adversity.”

Hadhad arrived in Antigonish in 2016 and agonized over whether he should pursue a medical career, before eventually deciding to reopen the family’s chocolate business. Peace By Chocolate has been a smashing success, shipping products globally, opening a new location in Halifax, and raising money for causes close to the family’s heart.

In 2018, when Peace By Chocolate was experiencing its first, modest success the company donated some proceeds to the Canadian Red Cross’s wildfire relief efforts in Fort McMurray. Hadhad also sees the company’s job creation in Nova Scotia as another way to give back to his new home and to counter the idea that refugees won’t contribute to the community.

“That’s why the movie, for example, has conflict within the family and conflict within the community, and how people, sometimes, have fears against newcomers, and then all the fears dissolve after newcomers prove themselves that they are here as givers and not takers,” said Hadhad.

Hadhad and his family particularly wanted to give back to the small community in Antigonish that had sponsored them as refugees through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees program.

That PSR was a pioneering innovation when it was created in 1979 in response to the arrival of Vietnamese refugees to Canada. The program proved to be a remarkable success and, after only six months in existence, 5,457 groups across Canada had applied to sponsor refugees. For every privately sponsored refugee under the PSR program, the government matches this by sponsoring a refugee themselves. The program has been pivotal in giving Canada a refugee program that is internationally recognized as fair and generous.

Hadhad said that before he arrived in Canada he knew it as a welcoming country that had taken in refugees from Vietnam, Iraq, and Rwanda, among others. Hadhad said he knew Canada as a country of immigrants, dedicated to continuously building the country in the same way that immigrants before them had.

“I think we were very similar to a lot of former immigrants in that we believed we have to be laser-focused on our mission. We have to be laser-focused on building a Canada that is better for our kids, leaving this country better for our kids and grandkids than we found it,” said Hadhad.

In building a better country, Hadhad believes there are few better ways to do it than providing a steady supply of chocolate, whether it’s a patriotic chocolate bar or not.

“Everyone who eats chocolate would be happy. No one who eats chocolate will ever be sad,” said Hadhad.

“We wanted to do something remarkable, something unique, and that’s when he realized that chocolate is the best path. It was the product that makes everyone happy.”