Thousands of Ontario PC members may not be able to register in time for leadership vote

Patrick Brown withdraws from Ontario PC Party leadership race
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With the deadline fast approaching for Ontario Progressive Conservative Party members to register to vote for Patrick Brown’s replacement as leader, serious problems with getting members signed up have forced the party to extend a key deadline.

Global News has learned that 10,000 party registration letters were delayed by six or seven days in being mailed out, which means thousands of members who paid a $10 membership fee may not be able to vote in the leadership contest.

In an email sent at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday to the head of the leadership committee (LEOC), the CFO of the Christine Elliott campaign called the situation “patently unacceptable.”

READ MORE: Ontario PC Party leadership candidates face off in final televised debate

“Sadly, the delay may result in some members being disenfranchised or unable to register in time to vote. If only we had known sooner the extent of the situation,” Jeffrey Kroeker wrote in an email obtained by Global News.

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“Campaigns were informed that the direct mail vendor had in fact placed these letters into the Canada Post mail system on or about Feb. 20 and/or 21 … the letters were placed into the mail some six to seven days late.”

The early morning email followed a decision by the LEOC late Tuesday to extend the deadline to register to Monday from the original deadline of Friday. Voting will be done remotely between March 2 and March 8 as previously planned.

That decision was initially opposed by the Elliott campaign, which complained it was akin to ‘moving the goalposts.’ It asked to have the change in registration deadline overturned. A spokesperson for the campaign said that was before it learned about the delay in mailing out so many registrations.

In an attempt to ensure members are who they say they are, everyone who is a fully-paid PC member receives a PIN in the mail and then registers online using both ID and the PIN.

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On Wednesday, Doug Ford also added to concerns about voting problems in the leadership campaign. He issued a statement calling for any membership purchased with a pre-paid credit card to be removed from the list of eligible voters.

READ MORE: Ontario PC leadership candidates to debate in London, Ont.

“We were surprised and disappointed to hear of the large-scale use of ‘pre-paid’ credit cards to pay for new memberships — a clear violation of the membership rules,” Ford wrote.

When contacted by Global News, LEOC head Hartley Lefton said he had not seen the statement by Ford. However, he said pre-paid credit cards were a valid way of purchasing a party membership.

Caroline Mulroney issued her own statement on Wednesday and she also expressed concern over so-called ‘burner’ credit cards and mail out delays.

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“I remain concerned about the potential for fraudulent memberships. The party has already removed almost 500 “highly suspicious” members from the list and I believe they should continue to investigate individual suspicious cases,” she said.

The Ontario PC Party will announce the new leader on March 10.

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