A visibly shaken Mr. Brown called reporters to the provincial legislature to deliver a brief statement Wednesday night to call the allegations “categorically untrue.” He vowed to defend himself “with all means at my disposal.”
“I reject these accusations in the strongest possible terms,” he said, his voice quivering with emotion. “It’s not my values, it’s not how I was raised, it’s not who I am.”
But hours later, after meeting with party leaders, Mr. Brown said he would quit as party leader while staying on as a member of Ontario’s Provincial Parliament.
“After consulting with caucus, friends and family I have decided to step down as leader of the Ontario PC Party,” he said. “I will remain on as a MPP while I definitively clear my name from these false allegations.”
Three of Mr. Brown’s top aides had quit on Wednesday after urging him to resign.
His party’s press secretary also resigned, as did his deputy campaign manager, Joshua Workman.
In Canada, the divisive and heated debate about predatory male behavior erupted into the public consciousness before the current #MeToo movement after several women in 2014 accused Jian Ghomeshi, a well-known radio host, of sexually assaulting them.
He was found not guilty after a widely covered criminal trial. Nevertheless, the finger pointing and soul searching over the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault, and the inability of the country’s criminal system to address these issues, have continued unabated.
Earlier this month, one of the country’s most powerful theater directors, Albert Schultz, resigned as leader of the theater company he built after four actresses filed a civil lawsuit against him alleging that he had sexually harassed, groped, touched and repeatedly propositioned them over 13 years.
Ontario’s premier, Kathleen Wynne, called the two women accusing Mr. Brown “brave” on Twitter.
“My government and I have been clear on the issue of sexual harassment and assault,” she said.
Although young, Mr. Brown is a veteran politician who was first elected to municipal government 18 years ago, when he was a law student.