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Conservatives investigating allegations of membership irregularities by Patrick Brown campaign

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Conservative leadership hopeful Patrick Brown takes part in the Conservative Party of Canada French-language leadership debate in Laval, Que., on May 25.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

The federal Conservative Party is investigating allegations that Patrick Brown’s leadership campaign has been reimbursing the membership fees paid by individuals who agreed to join the party.

The allegations have been detailed in a complaint filed by the campaign of Ottawa MP Pierre Poilievre, one of the leadership rivals to Mr. Brown, the mayor of the Toronto-area city of Brampton.

“We are investigating the allegations contained in the complaint and will not have anything more to say until our investigation has been concluded,” Wayne Benson, executive director for the party, said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

Chisholm Pothier, a spokesman for Mr. Brown’s campaign, said it will co-operate with any party investigation although it has not been informed of one.

“We look forward to refuting this transparent tactic from the Poilievre camp desperate to stop their loss of momentum,” he said in a statement.

“Our campaign is not paying for memberships and nobody acting with authority from our campaign is paying for memberships.”

The complaint is detailed in a letter from Mr. Poilievre’s campaign co-chair, Alberta MP Tim Uppal, to Ian Brodie, chair of the party’s leadership election organizing committee. It was dated June 10 and obtained by media Wednesday.

Mr. Uppal writes that their campaign’s Ontario co-chair has been approached by members of the community who claim to have been offered reimbursement of membership fees “and additional financial inducements” by the campaign of Mr. Brown.

The letter says there are WhatsApp messages and telephone recordings to back up the claims.

“The surreptitious reimbursement of membership fees is contrary to the party’s membership bylaw, which requires that membership fees be paid by the applicant,” said the letter, adding that the same rules are affirmed by the leadership election organizing committee that Mr. Brodie chairs.

Mr. Pothier disputed the veracity of the audio recordings.

The deadline for membership sales in the leadership race was June 3 as six candidates vie to become the party’s new leader.

Mr. Poilievre’s campaign has said that it signed up 311,958 new members by the deadline while Mr. Brown’s campaign says it has recruited more than 150,000 members. A record 269,469 people were eligible to vote in the 2020 race won by Erin O’Toole.

The other campaigns have declined to provide specific membership signup numbers. However, the campaigns of former Quebec premier Jean Charest and Mr. Brown have both disputed the membership numbers touted by the Poilievre camp.

Ontario MPs Scott Aitchison and Leslyn Lewis and Roman Baber, a former Progressive Conservative member of the legislature, are also in the leadership race.

The party has said that more than 600,000 voters may be eligible to vote for the next leader, but that the numbers must be verified, a preliminary voters list prepared and campaigns given a chance to challenge memberships.

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