Q&A: New Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown on what he stands for (and what Snoop Dogg thinks of him)
Editor’s Note: In private text messages that were leaked to the Globe and Mail, Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown claimed that, in this article, Toronto Life had misquoted his responses to questions about same-sex marriage and sex education. After double-checking the tapes, we are confident that his quotes here are accurate.
You emerged from relative obscurity to win the Ontario PC leadership in a landslide. Get us up to speed: who are you and where did you come from?
I’ve been a Conservative party soldier at various levels for the last 22 years. I got my law degree in Windsor, spent two terms on Barrie council and then three terms in the House of Commons. I was so frustrated after the Ontario PC party’s defeat that I decided to get involved.
Your dad ran federally for the NDP; your mom was a schoolteacher. How did you wind up a diehard Conservative?
I wrote a letter to Brian Mulroney in grade school about acid rain. He responded, and I liked what he said. I told my parents, “I think I agree with the Conservative party.”
They didn’t try to sway you to the left?
No. They were just happy that I took an interest in politics. In fact, my dad has since become a Conservative.
Who is your Conservative patron saint?
It’s hard to pick just one. If I could patch together various Conservative qualities, I’d say Jean Charest’s passion, John A. Macdonald’s nation-building, Narendra Modi’s ability to link education to employment, and Thatcher’s boldness.
You attended St. Michael’s College for high school. Are you religious?
Not really. I was more into hockey.
I saw a photo of you in which you have frosted tips. Confirm or deny.
Oh, man! I tried to have those photos burned. Unfortunately, we’re in an age when nothing is ever really erased.
You recently released an ad featuring you running a marathon. Did no one tell you that running is Wynne’s thing?
I was running long before Kathleen Wynne became premier. I used to do 10 half marathons and two fulls a year. The most gruelling was along the Great Wall of China: 30-plus degrees and heavy smog, but beautiful.
You met Snoop Dogg recently. What did you talk about?
He told me I look like a young Steve Nash. That was about it. I didn’t think he was interested in discussing public policy.
Are you a fan of the Doggfather’s oeuvre?
I wouldn’t say I have his complete discography, but I did enjoy his cameo in Old School.
You promised your grandmother you’d marry and have kids by age 40. You’re 37 now. Any updates for Nana?
None, unfortunately, but the pressure is on.
How does your bachelor status play with the party’s family-values base?
It isn’t an issue. They care about my ideas, not who I’m dating.
Which is to say…
Haha. No one. I want to marry and have kids, but I’m wedded to my job.
I’ve got a few friends who are big fans, but I haven’t used it.
In 2005, you attended a rally opposing same-sex marriage, and as an MP you voted to reopen the debate over the definition of marriage. You’ve since said you won’t revisit the same-sex marriage debate, but it’s important for Ontarians to know where you stand: should same-sex couples be allowed to marry?
Yes. My thinking has evolved over time, and I now support same-sex marriage.
You’ve objected to the Liberals’ proposed sex ed curriculum. What about it offends you?
I’m not going to get into specifics.
My suspicion: in 2011, you voted against adding gender identity to the Human Rights Act. That term is in the new curriculum. Do you believe that a person’s gender identity may not match his or her physiology?
I’m comfortable with teachings on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Then how do you explain the vote in 2011?
It was a long time ago. And many of my constituents felt that bill pushed special instead of equal rights.
If you were premier tomorrow, what’s the first thing you’d do?
I’d make Ontario a more attractive place to invest by reducing red tape, and open up transportation corridors to the Ring of Fire.
Technically, that’s two things.
What can I say? I’ve got big plans.