Over 1,300 people have had their membership revoked from the federal Conservative party after accusations made by Kevin O’Leary that one of the other leadership contenders had been rigging the vote.
The announcement came last Friday, the same day many of O’Leary’s rivals within the leadership race dismissed his claims with insults, such as Maxime Bernier who called the candidate a “loser.”
When asked last week to provide evidence, a spokesperson for Kevin O’Leary said they had turned it over to the Conservative Party.
““What we’ve heard from some people that approached our campaign and some people who have noticed this in person is there’s been a series of prepaid credit cards that a specific campaign has been using and … they’re going through the provincial members list in Ontario and signing up members that way,” said Ari Laskin.
Soon after O’Leary made his allegations, Bernier attacked him online.
“Kevin O’Leary is a loser. I’m a winner,” said Bernier in an e-mail to his supporters, borrowing the rhetoric of U.S. President Donald Trump. He knows my campaign has raised more money, signed up more members, has more supporters and more volunteers. He’s a bad candidate. Instead of trying to win people by putting out a platform, he’s throwing mud to try to save his campaign.”
He went on to accuse O’Leary of not taking the race seriously, spending time in Florida trying to market his a blend of his wine, all the while Bernier has been building “an army of supporters.”
The party decided to perform a review after O’Leary’s public allegations, and found that the celebrity businessman was onto something. They discovered well over one thousand of their members were in fact fake, signed up with pre-paid credit cards in an effort to manipulate the leadership race.
The 1351 memberships were all purchased by two IP addresses, clearly violating party rules that an individual is only eligible for one membership.
Party spokesman Cory Hann said it would be impossible to determine which of the candidates or their campaigns was behind the fake memberships, as they were all purchased anonymously through the party website.
Other candidates also attacked O’Leary for his allegations. Rival Kellie Leitch said it was ridiculous for O’Leary to “to cast aspersions on the other candidates in this race without a shred of evidence,” while he himself had been previously fined by the party for refusing to attend a bilingual debate.
Brad Trost challenged O’Leary to provide evidence of his allegations, without which would remain merely as a “publicity stunt.”
“If this is nothing but a publicity stunt and Mr. O’Leary has no evidence, then he should be sanctioned to the greatest extent possible by the party,” said Trost.
With approximately 100,000 members in the federal Conservative party, a group of over 1,300 fake members could have had an impact on a particularly close race. Luckily, the party was able to catch this well ahead of the May 27, 2017 leadership vote.