Roundup: Conference call confidential

Over the weekend, Jen Gerson got a big scoop for Maclean’s, which was the first of the two Ontario Progressive Conservative caucus conference calls that eventually led to Patrick Brown’s resignation. (If you haven’t read the piece, do so now because I’m going to spoil it a bit). When it turned out that Brown himself was listening in, along with some of his remaining staff, it turned into a bunch of pleading (and whinging) while those caucus members who were on the call (about 20 of the 28 in total) were united in the fact that Brown had to step down right away, or they were going to publicly call for it, and Brown kept insisting that for the sake of his dignity, he wanted to meet them all the following morning and resign afterward. None of the caucus were having this because they were already being blasted over social media, and by the time everyone from caucus could get to Toronto and meet the following day, it was going to be too late for the sake of the party’s image in the run up to an election.

This is an interesting point, but I think this is an instance where the credibility of allegations comes into play. While CTV did have to walk back on a couple of the details, the core allegations remain intact and as soon as they were published, reporters from various outlets began remarking that this was an open secret, and that they had all been working on their own stories about Brown but that CTV had beaten them to the punch. That most of Brown’s campaign staff immediately jumped ship also indicated that there was a certain credibility to the allegations – this had to be more than just “fake news” and baseless allegations designed to get him out of the way. That context matters in the wake of the social media discussion.

This tension, which I talked about not only in my Maclean’s piece but also in my book, is part of the problem with the way parties are run these days, where the elected members of caucus are treated as afterthoughts to the leader, even though they have very real concerns of their own. While none of the discussions recorded on this call seemed to have ventured into the territory of “we can’t do this because the members elected him,” that became the narrative once it happened by those who resented caucus making the push. Granted, several of Brown’s MPPs started tweeting that they were calling for his resignation before he pulled the plug, and usually it only takes one or two caucus members to go public before a leader with any modicum of shame does the right thing, though I’m not sure that Brown had quite enough shame to want to go out with enough dignity, and his pleading to be given until the next day was likely an attempt to forestall the inevitable. It’s all fascinating how it played out, but remains part of the object lesson in why our leadership selection needs to change.

Good reads:

  • PMO disputes Jaspal Atwal’s claims that he’s friendly with Justin Trudeau.
  • The CBC’s Evan Dyer takes issue with some of the pack journalism commentary of the India trip, and contrasts it with what his experiences were on the ground.
  • The next round of NAFTA talks gets underway in Mexico under the time crunch of Mexican elections, while new American steel tariffs threaten more chaos.
  • Today in budget leaks, we are hearing more concrete details of the five-week use-it-or-lose-it parental leave for second parents.
  • Here’s what Morneau’s critics and stakeholders are looking for in tomorrow’s budget.
  • The Correctional Investigator wants better rules around medical assistance in dying for terminally ill inmates, and is calling for it to happen outside of prisons.
  • The Bloc’s “Parliamentary leader” Gabriel Ste-Marie is renouncing his position after clashing with the party leader (who doesn’t have a seat) Martine Ouellet.

Odds and ends:

Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant won her nomination challenge.