Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Kevin O’Leary says there is “widespread vote rigging” and “fraud” in the race to become the next leader of the official opposition and, potentially, prime minister.
Viewed as a front-runner by many political observers, O’Leary is not walking away with the contest. One of his closest rivals, former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier, has been increasingly critical of O’Leary’s lack of political experience and dismissed O’Leary’s fraud claims on Friday.
In a statement Thursday night, the “Shark Tank” star and cross-border entrepreneur blamed “backroom organizers” of using prepaid credit cards to sign up “fake members.”
“It has been brought to my campaign’s attention that there are backroom organizers who are committing wide-spread vote rigging and potentially breaking our electoral and financing laws to try to buy a Leadership victory,” O’Leary said.
“In an attempt to protect against this kind of fraud, the Party has strict leadership rules in place requiring all memberships to be purchased by individuals using either personal cheques or personal credit cards. However, we have been informed that to get around these rules, campaign activists are using untraceable prepaid credit cards to sign up fake members, possibly without these individuals even knowing about it.”
O’Leary says the alleged vote buying “is completely immoral, and extremely unfair to the tens of thousands of real Party members that will have the impact of their votes weakened.”
O’Leary said his team has raised the issue with the Conservative Party and has been reassured that an investigation is underway, but he wants the party to go further. O’Leary also tweeted-out his accusations:
It’s my duty as a Leadership candidate to shed light on the fact that backroom organizers may be vote-rigging in this election. 2/3 pic.twitter.com/DwvXGp9538
— Kevin O’Leary (@kevinolearytv) March 17, 2017
“One thing the party must do now is state categorically that it will not accept any memberships that have been purchased with a prepaid credit card, and that any already submitted will be removed from the membership list, and will not be sent a ballot,” he said.
Cory Hann, director of communications for the Conservative Party, said he is assessing the allegations through the party’s “verification process.”
“Any memberships obtained contrary to the rules will be struck from our membership list and ineligible to vote,” said Hann in a statement.
“Our leadership race is and will continue to be fair for all candidates. Our rules are clear, any person looking to join our party must do so by paying the membership fee out of their own pocket, and we will ensure that principle is followed.”