Ontario Progressive Conservatives wore yellow and gold ties in the legislature Thursday in solidarity with a finance minister denying sexual misconduct claims levied by the party's former leader.
Vic Fedeli, who sports a yellow tie every day as an homage to his former days as a mayor, is facing calls from New Democrats to step aside over allegations in a controversial new book by former PC leader Patrick Brown.
Brown, who resigned as leader in January amid misconduct accusations that he denies, takes a number of shots at old foes in his memoir "Takedown: The Attempted Political Assassination of Patrick Brown." He was recently elected mayor of Brampton, Ont.
In one passage, Brown criticizes Fedeli's "holier than thou attitude" after his resignation "given that he knew full well that he may have dodged a bullet himself."
Brown alleges Fedeli was accused of "inappropriate behaviour" by a party staffer last December, but the complainant was "adamant" she did not want an investigation. Brown also alleges the woman was let go after Fedeli became interim leader, but was kept on the legislative payroll.
"Some say it is the reason why [Fedeli] never did run for leader of the party," Brown wrote.
Fedeli fired back by calling the allegations "categorically false and without any merit" and threatening legal action.
Ford: 'I have 100 per cent confidence in Minister Fedeli'
In question period Thursday, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the matter raised questions about the "premier's standards for cabinet ministers." Veteran MPP Jim Wilson resigned from Premier Doug Ford's cabinet earlier this month ahead of revelations that he is facing misconduct allegations.
Horwath asked Ford to call an independent investigation into Fedeli and direct his finance minister "to step aside" while it's underway. Horwath noted that Ford has said he would have zero tolerance for sexual misconduct of any kind.
"I have 100 per cent confidence in Minister Fedeli. I stand beside him, shoulder to shoulder," Ford shot back, sparking applause from his benches. "He's a man with honour, he has integrity."
The premier said a third-party investigation took place and found "zero evidence" against Fedeli. He criticized Horwath for taking Brown seriously when he has "zero credibility."
Watch the exchange from question period:
Ford also repeatedly referenced how the former PC leader's book targeted Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod, who has been open about mental health challenges. Brown wrote that party organizers believed she "made up the mental health issues" to garner public support, a charge MacLeod called disgusting and cruel.
"You would actually believe a person like that? You would actually take that person's side?" Ford said to Horwath. "That is absolutely disgusting that you would side with someone like Patrick Brown."
When Horwath called again for an independent investigation, the premier charged that his NDP rival was "playing politics" with Fedeli's life.
Later Thursday, Fedeli revealed his first major fiscal update as the province's finance minister. In trademark fashion, he wore a yellow tie.
Speaking to reporters later, Fedeli denied behaving inappropriately with the staffer and said he has held himself to a high ethical standard throughout his career.
"There is no validity to any of these accusations. These accusations are false and malicious," he said, adding that Brown wrote his book to pursue personal grievances.
The finance minister said he has retained a lawyer and is prepared to take action.
With files from The Canadian Press
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