Ottawa PC riding president raises alarm over ‘suspicious memberships’

Justin Giovanetti - May 29, 2017

The head of a Progressive Conservative riding association in suburban Ottawa has repeated her call for party leaders to order a second nomination vote after what she described as new evidence surfacing of “voter fraud” at the first vote in early May.

Emma McLennan, the president of the Ottawa West-Nepean riding, said in an e-mail sent to the party’s president and executive director on Monday that there are hundreds of cases of suspicious party memberships in her riding.

“In light of the voter fraud that occurred at our nomination meeting plus the numerous suspicious memberships, I am asking that a new nomination meeting be called immediately,” Ms. McLennan said in the e-mail, which was obtained by The Globe and Mail.

The riding’s vote has been plagued with allegations of irregularities since the May 6 meeting, where candidate Karma Macgregor won the nomination with a margin of victory of 15 votes. According to a letter sent to the riding’s members on May 16, there were 28 more votes than registered voters at one of the ballot boxes. An additional 17 ballots were also removed “after all parties agreed they were the result of ballot-box stuffing,” the letter said.

The rival candidate in the riding, Jeremy Roberts, filed an appeal after the vote asking for a new meeting. His call was supported by local officials.

“The only way to resolve this is through a new meeting,” Ms. McLennan told The Globe. She did not refute the authenticity of her e-mail to the party.

According to the e-mail, the newest evidence of irregularities emerged after Ms. McLennan mailed the May 16 letter to the riding’s 1,466 members after the vote, informing them of the local executive’s decision to support a new nomination vote. Ms. McLennan only received an updated membership list from the party’s leaders after the vote was held. The letter was the first communiqué sent from the riding to the hundreds of new members signed up during the campaign.

In her complaint to the party, Ms. McLennan said that 200 of the letters to members have been returned to the riding office by Canada Post as undeliverable. After examining the new membership list, she told the party that she had discovered “many problematic membership entries” associated with a single building.

According to the e-mail, 73 members are listed as living at 25 Woodridge Crescent, a suburban apartment building on the western fringes of the city. Of the 73 letters sent to people living in the building, 69 have been returned by Canada Post. Only one of the memberships listed in the building has an apartment number and an Ottawa phone number associated with it, according to Ms. McLennan.

The party’s rules dictate that all memberships must have a name, full address, including an apartment number, as well as a telephone number associated with it.

“These memberships are highly suspicious and dubious. Are we witnessing membership fraud?” she asked the party in her e-mail.

Ms. McLennan also asked how the party, which was responsible for mailing out the vote notices, was not alerted by the return of 200 pieces of mail before the vote.

“A complaint has been filed and the party is looking into the matter,” Rick Dykstra, the party’s president said in a written response to questions about the e-mail.

According to Ms. McLennan’s letter, the PC Party’s executive will review the request for a new vote at a meeting scheduled for June 3. Her letter on Monday asked for a new meeting to be called immediately.

PC Party Leader Patrick Brown announced that auditors from PricewaterhouseCoopers would certify all future nominations after the allegations emerged in Ottawa West-Nepean.

Mr. Brown is leading in polls a year before the next general election and could unseat the long-serving Liberals under Premier Kathleen Wynne. However, before then, he has had to face unrest in at least three nomination meetings where allegations of electoral shenanigans and ballot-box stuffing have emerged. There have been allegations of fraud in Newmarket-Aurora and Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas.