Elections Alberta is investigating allegations of bulk buying of UCP memberships

The United Conservative Party faces another hurdle in the tumultuous build-up to its May 18 leadership review vote announcement.

A letter obtained by CBC News shows that Elections Alberta is investigating allegations of bulk purchases of UCP memberships.

In the letter, the investigator writes that “depending on how these purchases were funded, a violation of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act (EFCDA) and related Elections Alberta guidelines may have occurred. produced”.

In an email statement to CBC on Saturday, a UCP spokesperson said “we have not been contacted by Elections Alberta and are not aware of any investigation.”

The statement adds that membership purchases are accepted in three ways: with a person paying on a personal credit card for themselves or their family, by check or cash if the person signs a membership application confirming their identity. .

This photo from March shows Brian Jean after his by-election victory. An aide to Jean confirmed to CBC News that the campaign filed a complaint in late March with Elections Alberta over concerns that UCP memberships had been purchased in bulk. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

Brian Jean, a member of the UCP caucus and political enemy of Jason Kenney, raised concerns that some of the roughly 59,000 voters in the leadership vote may have registered without their knowledge and with their $10 entry paid for by someone else.

Vitor Marciano, an aide working for Jean, confirmed to CBC News that Jean’s campaign filed a complaint in late March with Elections Alberta over concerns that UCP memberships had been mass-purchased before the election. Bill 81 comes into effect. Marciano said he named the Kenney campaign as part of their complaint.

Marciano believes others have also filed complaints with Elections Alberta.

“I believe we weren’t the only ones, but I don’t know for a fact,” he said.

It’s unclear whether Jean’s campaign complaint is what spurred Elections Alberta’s investigation.

Elections Alberta did not respond to CBC’s requests for comment.

The Sticking Point

A major sticking point in all of this is the Electoral Statutes Amendment Act, or Bill 81, which was passed in December.

The controversial bill allows someone to buy memberships on behalf of other people without those people knowing about it.

However, Bill 81 did not come into effect until March 31.

The memberships in question which were purchased for voters to vote in the leadership review had to be purchased by the March 19 deadline.

Marciano alleges that there are approximately 4,000 new memberships that were processed by six credit cards.

“I don’t know who these credit cards belong to. I just know that someone was buying subscriptions for someone,” he said.

In a statement in early April, Jean said he had seen evidence from the UCP board and was confident that around 92% of the signatures were legitimate enough to pursue management scrutiny.

Marciano said they chose not to file a complaint internally within the party for arbitration because they feared it “could actually delay the vote and create an opportunity to sell more questionable memberships.”

A delay could have pushed the vote past March 31, when buying memberships in bulk would be allowed.

Suspicions raised

Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University, said Elections Alberta’s investigation would only deepen the lack of confidence in the outcome of the vote.

“If Kenney goes over 50%, whatever that number is, there will now be new suspicions that he cheated to win,” Bratt said.

“Basically it’s due to a lack of trust, a lack of trust in the process, a lack of trust between the party executive and many party members. And that could extend to a lack of trust on the result.”

The breach of trust stems from an ongoing RCMP investigation into election irregularities that date back to the 2017 leadership race, he added.

“There’s a reason people are suspicious of the review vote and they’re suspicious of the review vote because of what happened in 2017. They’re suspicious of the vote because of Bill 81,” Bratt said.

“This is not an internal party dispute that has no effect on non-party members or non-Albertans. This is also the government of Alberta.”