After Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Kevin O’Leary called the party’s leadership contest “rigged” the party has purged the membership list of 1,400 people.
The cross-border business tycoon and “Shark Tank” star made headlines this week with accusations that some Conservative leadership campaigns had purchased blanket memberships for people who didn’t even know they had become members of a political party.
Speaking on Saturday with The Daily Caller, O’Leary commended the party for acting so quickly to assess the membership list; but he cautioned that the list is “a moving target” and needs to be validated at the end of the leadership campaign and before the members elect a new leader.
O’Leary says he has no regrets about “shining the light of integrity” on the party membership because “as in business, compliance and integrity are crucial to an operation.” He called the fraudulent memberships “a breach of trust” and emphasized that “we can’t taint the process” of electing a new leader because that choice will then have to suffer the consequences.
On Thursday night, O’Leary emailed his followers: “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…we have been informed that…campaign activists are using untraceable prepaid credit cards to sign up fake members.”
Now other campaigns are crying fraud.
O’Leary did not identify which campaigns he was accusing of improper vote buying. However, at least one media outlet suggested that O’Leary is pointing his finger at Maxime Bernier, a Quebec Member of Parliament, former foreign affairs minister and the candidate who is running neck and neck with O’Leary on first ballot support.
Bernier didn’t wait to be cited. On Friday, he dissed his leadership rival as “a loser.”
In a statement, Bernier said of O’Leary, “I’m a winner… He’s a bad candidate. Instead of trying to win people over by putting out a platform, he’s throwing mud to try to save his campaign.”
Bernier has repeatedly criticized O’Leary for the businessman’s political inexperience and weak French-language skills.
“It’s not unusual for losing campaigns to have people on the ground, who are not going to meet their targets, complain about the other guys,” he said.
Asked by The Daily Caller why Bernier responded so aggressively without his campaign even being identified as a possible source of the fake memberships, O’Leary responded, “I have no idea why Maxime reacted that way…no one knows who is responsible for this.”
Two other campaigns have raised the phony membership claim since O’Leary first went public.
Former House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer has spoken to the party bosses about alleged membership fraud.
On Friday afternoon, Conservative Party officials said they had just performed “an expedited review” of the party membership rolls and would be expelling 1,351 members from the list.