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United Conservative leadership candidates could fork out up to $100K to run

Click to play video: 'UCP announces leadership race rules'
UCP announces leadership race rules
WATCH ABOVE: The contenders for the United Conservative Party leadership say they're looking forward to clarity on the rules of the race. Tom Vernon reports. – Sep 1, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story written by the Canadian Press stated the fee to run in the leadership race is $75,000. However, the entry fee has not yet been set.

With the vote to choose the first leader of the United Conservative Party now less than two months away, those vying for the job still don’t know definitively how much it will cost them to have their name on the ballot.

An e-mail to Jason Kenney supporters pegged the amount at $75,000.

“Until this fee is paid, I won’t be considered an official candidate by the party,” Kenney wrote in the message sent Wednesday night.

READ MORE: Jean, Schweitzer pay up for names of United Conservative members

Brian Jean and Doug Schweitzer have paid $10,000 to access membership lists. The party has said that money would go toward their fees for joining the leadership race.

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“We will be making the final installment as soon as the party has created and sent us the necessary paperwork and forms that we need to complete with the balance,” wrote Brian Jean spokesperson Matt Solberg in a statement to News Talk 770.

However, the chair of the UCP leadership election committee said the fee required to get on the ballot hasn’t been finalized yet.

“Right now, we have not confirmed the entrance fee,” Robyn Henwood said. “We have provided our candidates with some information about which way we are leaning, just to keep them in the loop and appraised of all our decision-making processes.”

“We are looking at an entrance fee of $75,000 to $100,000 without any additional percentage of contributions.”

Henwood said in other leadership races, like the most recent PC leadership race, candidates were asked to contribute a lower entry fee while being expected to remit a percentage of contributions they raised from donors.

“The winner of that particular race paid $253,423 on top of their $30,000 entrance fee because of that 15 per cent [remittance],” Hanwood said.

READ MORE: UCP leadership candidates ‘fear mongering’ over education, says Alberta deputy premier

“We know there’s going to be a high entry fee, and we’re getting ahead of this,” said Kenney’s director of communications Blaise Boehmer when asked about starting to fundraise for the entry fee before it had been finalized. “With that said, we’re quite impressed with how [the e-mail sent Wednesday night] has performed already.”
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Candidates might also be required to contribute a “compliance bond.” Henwood said the number of $25,000 has been in the public but has not been set in stone yet. The intention is to make that money fully refundable so long as candidates remain in compliance with the rules of the campaign.

“We were taken aback when we first heard what the zone was for this leadership race,” said candidate Doug Schweitzer. “We’ve got a strong team [and] we’re confident we’ll be able to raise the money.”

The most recent candidate to make a UCP leadership bid said he’s hearing from grassroots members the financial threshold for someone to join the race may be too high.

“The grassroots have been telling me that they would have liked a lower number because they think there should be an open leadership race that actually allows the various campaigns to get out and get their messages out there,” Jeff Callaway said.

“Setting an entry fee at this level sends the wrong message to Albertans,” said Schweitzer.

“We got to these numbers in consultation with our campaigns,” Henwood said. “I feel as though we definitely want to ensure anybody can walk in as soon as we drop this race and apply. We are not in any way wanting to limit it to the four candidates who have already put their names forward.”

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“I feel that this number is fair once it gets decided and will be a reasonable, manageable number for these campaigns.”

Meanwhile, Callaway is concerned that not all the details surrounding the leadership vote have been worked out yet.

“We still don’t even know what the actual campaign rules are going to really be and here we are less than 60 days from starting to vote on this leadership race,” he said.

“We are working as quickly as we can by both ensuring that it’s done right and we do get it out right away,” Henwood said. “I do believe you’ll see something shortly, all the rules, the voting process [and] the final numbers shortly.”

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