Former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown is under investigation by the province’s integrity watchdog over his financial affairs.

Integrity Commissioner David Wake announced on Monday that he is conducting an inquiry into Mr. Brown in response to a complaint filed by Randy Hillier, the Progressive Conservative MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington.

Mr. Hillier says in his complaint that “disconcerting patterns” related to Mr. Brown’s finances require explanation, including whether he has failed to disclose gifts, “lavish” travel and other sources of income in addition to his salary. Mr. Hillier is backing former Tory MPP Christine Elliott for the leadership of the PC Party. Ms. Elliott is one of five candidates, including Mr. Brown, in the race.

Mr. Hillier’s complaints cites, among other issues, a Globe and Mail report that documented a proposed deal whereby Mr. Brown was to sell an interest in a restaurant he partly owns and some Aeroplan miles for $375,000 to Jass Johal, a Brampton paralegal who went on to become a Tory candidate.

According to a copy of an affidavit shown to The Globe, Mr. Johal says he agreed to purchase two million Aeroplan miles and an ownership interest in Hooligans restaurant in Barrie from Mr. Brown. The affidavit is dated June 11, 2016, and signed by Mr. Johal.

Mr. Brown told The Globe in an e-mail that “no deal was ever done.”

Other documents seen by The Globe, including bank statements, show that Mr. Brown deposited $375,000 into his account at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce on July 11, 2016. That same month, property records show he purchased a waterfront house on Lake Simcoe’s Shanty Bay for $2.3-million. He took out a mortgage of $1.72-million from Toronto-Dominion Bank, according to public mortgage documents.

When asked about that, Mr. Brown, who earned $180,886 a year as the leader of the Official Opposition, responded in the e-mail: “Like many people in Ontario, I received help from my family purchasing my home.”

After The Globe published the story, Mr. Brown tweeted out a picture of an affidavit dated June 16, 2016, that he says proves there was no deal. Mr. Johal was acclaimed as the Tory candidate for Brampton North on Nov. 21, 2016.

Mr. Brown posted his response to the Integrity Commissioner on Facebook on Feb. 22. “Mr. Hillier’s complaint was intended solely to distract the public from the discussion I am having with Ontarians about how to make life more affordable,” he says. “It is unfortunate that Mr. Hillier, a legislator who claims to represent hard-working taxpayers, has opted to usurp the resources of a taxpayer-funded institution such as the Office of the Integrity Commissioner to fight an internal Party leadership race.”

Regarding suggestions that the Shanty Bay house was beyond his means, Mr. Brown said in his letter to the Integrity Commissioner that his after-tax income was approximately $120,000, leaving him with $30,000 in annual income after his mortgage payments. His calculations did not include property taxes or utilities.

The Toronto Star has reported that the Integrity Commissioner was also asking Mr. Brown why he had not declared rental income on his Shanty Bay house. Those questions arose before Mr. Hillier filed his complaint.

By Karen Howlett – The Globe and Mail

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