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Canada Patrick Brown likely ‘inflated’ membership numbers — by 70,000, says Ontario PC official

08:16  06 february  2018
08:16  06 february  2018 Source:   nationalpost.com

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Patrick-Brown-1: Former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown boasted about his party's high number of memberships.© Ernest Doroszuk/Postmedia/File Former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown boasted about his party's high number of memberships.

It was just a few weeks ago that Patrick Brown, then leader of the resurgent Ontario Conservatives, made the announcement: the Tories had recruited an impressive 200,000 paid members.

The number dwarfed that of the governing Liberals, and was more “than we’ve ever had before,” Brown boasted at the time.

With Brown gone, his successor says the figure is actually far less — under 130,000 — and a party insider made a surprising admission about the discrepancy Monday, blaming it on creative exaggeration.

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“The membership number was likely inflated for communications purposes,” said the official, not authorized to speak on the record about the topic. “We’re not going to defend the actions of the previous administration … Now people have the facts.”

The revised Conservative statistic was divulged over the weekend in a memo from Vic Fedeli, who took over as the Tories’ interim leader following Brown’s sudden resignation last week. Fedeli has pledged to carve away “rot” within the party, and singled out the membership list as a particular focus.

But to further muddy the already contentious topic, another party activist said this week the figure is, in fact, even higher than Brown had estimated, not lower.

In an email sent Sunday, Thomas DeGroot, the party executiv’s chair of IT, tells Jag Badwal, party president, and Marc Marzotto, the membership chair, that, “as requested,” he had reviewed the memberships.

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“I can confirm to you that during Patrick Brown’s tenure, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario’s membership has grown to over 200,000, to be exact it has grown to 234,066 members,” he says in the missive, obtained by the National Post.

A party source said Monday evening the larger number includes all memberships sold under Brown’s leadership, some of which have expired; the smaller figure is the current, paid-up total.

Conservative dissident Jim Karahalios said Fedeli’s report of a third fewer memberships resonated with him, as the 200,000 number always seemed suspect.

“It was a flat-out lie,” charged Karahalios, a Cambridge, Ont., lawyer who was sued by the party and stripped of his membership over a clash with the former leader.

Regardless, even the new number easily bests the Liberals, who say they have about 20,000 current members.

The issue of Conservative memberships — and how they come about — has already sparked heated disputes at the riding-nomination level. And it’s likely to take on an increasing significance as the Conservatives’ shotgun leadership battle unfolds, with candidates rushing to enroll new Tories to bolster their support in the one-member, one–vote contest.

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Three candidates — Doug Ford, Caroline Mulroney and Christine Elliott — have declared they are running for the job after Brown quit in the wake of sexual-misconduct allegations. He has denied those charges.

The party has allowed new members to join only until Feb. 16, arguing time is needed to vet the applications and ensure they can take part in online leadership voting from March 2 to 8.

Jim Karahalios: “It was a flat-out lie.”

Organizers are taking steps to ensure the process is free of abuse, said Hartley Lefton, chair of a leadership rules committee that is monitoring the issue. But the surge of memberships puts pressure on the system, he said.

“We’re in the middle of the nominations process, there are a lot of people who are working aggressively to sign members in support of their campaign,” he said. “There’s an opportunity to expand the party, obviously. It also means our data entry can meet challenges, and I think that’s what we had here.”

The memo from Fedeli said a review of the membership database found 127,000 names. Officials also discovered 10,000 unprocessed applications in Excel format with incomplete payment, and 9,600 paper applications, the interim leader said. And another 4,900 members have been signed up since Brown’s resignation.

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That all comes before Fedeli’s promised audit of the memberships to ensure they are valid and not duplicated. A further updated number is expected to be released later this week.

Karahalios said he is concerned about those 10,000 Excel memberships — and others he says have been submitted in bulk by candidates — given the leadership vote will be electronic. If any are bogus, an unscrupulous organizer could collect the personal-identification numbers sent to “junk” members and cast numerous ballots online for a particular leadership candidate, he argued.

Jim-Karahalios: Jim Karahalios: © Handout Jim Karahalios: "It was a flat-out lie."

A traditional, in-person balloting process would make it easier to ensure each vote is cast by a real person, said Karahalios.

Meanwhile, another Conservative source offered a different explanation for the gap between 200,000 and 127,000 memberships, suggesting that many had simply expired and not been renewed.

“It’s not as big a deal as it appears.”

Patrick Brown says he's suing CTV over sexual misconduct allegations .
Patrick Brown says he's suing CTV over sexual misconduct allegations against him involving two young women — accusations he has called lies.“In the court of public opinion and among the many journalists I’ve spoken to, these allegations are now seen for what they are — fictitious and malicious,” the former Ontario PC leader posted Thursday on his Facebook page“… Right now, everyone is asking me two questions: 1) Am I suing CTV? And 2) What are my future plans,” he wrote.“To the first question, the answer is a resounding yes — I am suing CTV.“My lawyers are talking to CTV.

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