OTTAWA — Patrick Brown's leadership campaign is the latest to raise concerns about what it calls "misleading" emails sent to party members by his main rival.
Brown's national campaign co-chair John Reynolds sent a letter Thursday to the party's leadership election organizing committee requesting it investigate emails sent by Pierre Poilievre's campaign ahead of last month's deadline to sell $15 memberships to supporters.
To vote for the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, the party had said supporters needed to be signed up as members no later than June 3.
Poilievre's campaign has said it alone sold nearly 312,000 memberships through his website, including some 119,000 in Ontario.
But Reynolds' letter alleges Brown's campaign received a "number of complaints" from members who said they purchased new memberships after receiving what appeared to be an "official-looking warning" from Poilievre's team that their membership status was incomplete.
The email specifies it is from Poilievre’s campaign.
A spokesman for Poilievre's team said the email in question went to people who, "according to our own records," were not members.
"We would gain no advantage in signing up a person who is already a member," wrote Anthony Koch. "They would still only get to vote once."
Poilievre has also requested the party release numbers for how many members his team signed up, which it has so far declined to do.
Party spokesman Yaroslav Baran confirmed Thursday that Brown's complaint had been received and would be assessed to see if it warrants an investigation.
In the meantime, he said the main focus at the moment is on validating the memberships sold by the six candidates running in the race.
Conservatives are bracing for having a possible voting base of more than 600,000, which would be record-breaking for the party.
To compare, in 2020, when former leader Erin O'Toole was elected in the Conservative's last leadership race, the party boasted an eligible voting base of 270,000.
Baran said "there is a small army of people" working to validate memberships that have been sold for anything that would render them non-compliant.
He said the party remains on track to keep its promise that a "preliminary voters' list" would be provided to campaigns soon. The date for that to happen had been set as July 4.
When it comes to duplicate memberships, Baran said that is a lesser concern because it's easy to identify. If someone has bought two memberships, he said, the party will simply count the additional one sold as another year of membership.
The campaign of fellow MP Leslyn Lewis, who finished third in the 2020 leadership race, previously raised concerns about the possible existence of "tens of thousands" of duplicate memberships and believes the email from Poilievre is a contributing factor.
Another factor is the party’s processing delays for membership sales, said Mike Coates, chairman of former Quebec premier Jean Charest's leadership campaign.
In his own letter to the head of the party's leadership election organizing committee, Coates said some who bought a membership bought a duplicate because they did not receive a timely confirmation.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 23, 2022.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press