Allegations of fraud continue to swirl in Conservative leadership race
Questions surrounding alleged fraud in the Conservative leadership race continued to swirl on Monday, with at least one candidate now calling for the expulsion of any leadership hopeful caught cheating.
After a week of back-and-forth accusations, and confirmation from the party on Friday that there had indeed been a bulk-buy of 1,351 memberships in violation of the rules, Lisa Raitt said she was “deeply concerned.”
WATCH: Raitt calls for party to root out cheaters in Tory leadership race
Anyone holding a valid Conservative Party membership by March 28 is eligible to help choose the next leader and chart the party’s course forward.
“Today I am calling for the expulsion of any candidate found to have broken the #cpcldr rules and authorized this type of activity,” Raitt tweeted shortly after 9 a.m.
It was businessman Kevin O’Leary who first accused an unnamed competitor of vote rigging last week, and his allegations were largely laughed off until the party confirmed he was actually on to something.
The 1,351 memberships cancelled by the Conservative Party last week were purchased on its website, through just two IP addresses, and not paid for by each individual as required under party rules.
“All we have are IP addresses,” explained Cory Hann, the party’s director of communications, in an email. “Without (a) court order, we have no method to determine who is behind these.”
Maxime Bernier, who according to reports was the subject of O’Leary’s original accusation, called his rival a “loser” and denied any wrongdoing.
WATCH: Membership fraud uncovered at Conservative party
But the plot thickened over the weekend when The Globe and Mail obtained a sworn affidavit, signed by six Sikh-Canadians, that alleges that Ron Chatha — president of the Conservative Brampton East Riding Association and a staunch supporter of O’Leary — offered to pay for their Conservative Party memberships.
Bernier’s camp is now using that affidavit to support its own claims of voter fraud against O’Leary. The reality TV star has denied any wrongdoing, saying Chatha has only signed up his family members.
“This is really important. We just keep peeling the onion … let’s shine the light of transparency and make sure this election is built on the pillar of integrity,” O’Leary said at an event in Toronto on Monday, adding that he wants the party to vet every vote cast.
“This is old-style politics. I’m not going to stand for this stuff.”
Calls for deeper probe
With just over two months to go until the May 27 leadership election, there are still 14 candidates in the race and only a few days left to register as a party member.
Raitt’s tweet on Monday came about 24 hours after fellow candidate Brad Trost sent out a fundraising email calling the membership suspensions “only a first step.”
Trost called on the organizing committee and the party to dig further and identify the culprit behind the membership bulk-buy.
Kellie Leitch, meanwhile, fired back at O’Leary on Twitter Sunday night and called for a “full investigation” into the Brampton affidavit.
Hann said the party had not received that affidavit, or any other, as of Monday to support allegations of fraud.
As for the bulk memberships purchased on the website, he said the party’s regular review process should catch any future attempts to snatch up hundreds of memberships from the same IP address.
“We have a variety of measures that we use to regularly review membership,” Hann explained.
“We’re not going to describe every protective measure we take, but one example is calling members directly.”
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.