The Conservative Party is proposing to ban the use of prepaid credit cards to buy memberships after Pierre Poilievre warned they could be used to fraudulently buy leadership.
The party quickly reversed its stance on the use of prepaid credit cards on Thursday, after Camp Poilievre demanded they be banned and the party canceled all subscriptions purchased with them since Feb. 2.
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“The party (and the Conservative Fund) will not be accepting prepaid cards for membership or donations for this leadership contest,” wrote Wayne Benson, the party’s executive director, in a memo to leadership campaigns obtained by Global News.
Benson said the party would cancel subscriptions purchased with prepaid cards through Feb. 2, as demanded by the Poilievre camp.
“Soon, we will be instructing campaigns on a collaborative plan to resolve legitimate memberships that are canceled as a result of this retroactive change.”
It was a major turnaround for the party, which told leadership campaigns on Monday that it would continue to accept prepaid cards. Benson gave no reason in his memo for the reversal.
Reached for comment Thursday evening, Benson told Global News he had nothing to add to the memo.
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On Tuesday, Global News reported that the Poilievre campaign had sent a legal letter to the Conservative Party leadership warning of possible membership fraud through the use of prepaid credit cards.
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To join the Conservatives — and be eligible to choose their next leader — Canadians must submit a $15 check or credit card payment to the party. The use of prepaid credit cards to buy memberships is an ongoing concern, lest a leadership campaign buy “fake” memberships and tip the contest balance.
Poilievre’s camp offered no evidence of fraud, but strongly hinted that it was concerned about Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, who previously likened buying memberships to “jaywalking”.
A Brown campaign spokesperson said Thursday that they “do not accept subscriptions using prepaid cards” and that the move “does not affect our sales” of subscriptions.
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But Jeff Silverstein said the fact that the party is making “retroactive rule changes” at Poilievre’s request “is interesting.”
“The Poilievre campaign will be disappointed to know that they cannot disqualify any of our entries,” Silverstein wrote in a statement to Global News.
“Patrick Brown’s campaign is focused on signing up thousands of new Conservative Party members, unlike the Poilievre team, which is looking for ways to disqualify Canadians from participating.
It doesn’t appear that Poilievre was the only candidate concerned about prepaid cards, however. A Conservative leadership source, unaffiliated with Poilievre’s campaign, told Global News the move was “good news for election fairness and the integrity of the membership roster.”
Conservative leadership candidates have until the end of the month to submit $300,000 in fees and guarantees to end up on the ballot, and until June 2 to register members to vote for them. The next Conservative leader will be chosen on September 10.
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