The Conservative Party has reversed its position on allowing prepaid credit cards to buy party memberships, after the campaign for leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre insinuated potential legal action.
The party’s executive director Wayne Benson made the announcement in a memo sent to campaigns on April 14, reported Global News. Benson said it would be applied to both membership purchases and donations.
Poilievre’s campaign asked that any memberships purchased with prepaid cards after the ousting of former leader Erin O’Toole on Feb. 2 be cancelled, a policy the party has now introduced.
“Soon we will be issuing instructions to campaigns on a collaborative plan to resolve legitimate memberships that are cancelled as a result of this retroactive change,” Benson’s memo reportedly says.
A previous memo sent by Benson on April 11 had said that prepaid credit cards would be accepted, but the purchases would be watched closely. The day after, Poilievre’s campaign sent a letter from its lawyer to the party, alleging that unnamed rivals might be using prepaid credit cards to sign up fake members and insinuating potential legal action if this was not corrected.
“[O]ur candidate is concerned that the leadership might be won by a candidate who has openly acknowledged cheating, and appears unconstrained by integrity and rules in his pursuit of political offices,” says the letter.
The letter reportedly does not include any evidence of fraud, but quotes a book written by rival former Ontario PC leader and Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, in which he said buying memberships for supporters was a common practice and likened it to “jaywalking.”
After some media outlets reported on the letter, Brown’s campaign said it was abiding by the rules of the race and accused Poilievre of previously skirting ethics, referring to the MP having been found in non-compliance of the Elections Act when he made a non-monetary contribution to his party in 2015.
In response to the party rule change on membership purchases, Brown’s campaign spokesman said they were not accepting memberships using pre-paid cards.
“The Poilievre campaign will be disappointed to know they will not be able to disqualify any of our sign-ups,” Jeff Silverstein wrote in a statement to Global News.
“Patrick Brown’s campaign is focused on signing up thousands of new Conservative Party members as opposed to Team Poilievre, who are looking for ways to disqualify Canadians from participating.”
The cost of a one-year party membership is $15 and prospective members have until June 2 to sign up if they want to be able to vote for the new leader.
The vote will take place late in the summer and results will be announced on Sept. 10.
The party said on April 12 that three candidates have been officially verified so far, including Poilievre, Conservative MP Leslyn Lewis, and former Quebec premier Jean Charest.
Other confirmed candidates include Conservative MP Scott Aitchison, Ontario independent MPP Roman Baber, former Ontario MP Leona Alleslev, Conservative MP Marc Dalton, and Saskatchewan businessman Joseph Bourgault.