Election Watch examines supporter’s offer of interest rate loans for Manitoba PC Party memberships

Manitoba’s election guard is investigating a claim that a supporter of Ken Lee – who was disqualified as a candidate for the leadership of the provincial progressive conservative party – offered to buy other people’s memberships, which appears to be illegal.

Manitoba’s Electoral Financing Act describes the purchase of a membership as a contribution to a political party, and states that a person making a contribution must spend his own money.

“I do not think anyone in Manitoba believes you should be able to buy into the Prime Minister’s Office,” opposition NDP leader Wab Kinew told a news conference Thursday outside Tory party headquarters on Kennedy Street in Winnipeg.

“And I do not think anyone in this province wants to see who the next prime minister is determined by what may be illegal means.”

The Manitoba election commissioner told the NDP it was investigating the case, Kinew told reporters.

On Thursday, Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew called for the denial of any PC party membership purchased illegally. (Ian Froese / CBC)

Last month, a supporter of Lee said on social media that he offered to pay for people’s $ 20 membership to support the potential candidate, who was the former chief financial officer of the PC party and had expressed views against the COVID-19 vaccine.

When the Winnipeg Free Press arrived, the Lee supporter said he was told by the candidate’s team that he could not buy someone else’s membership, so instead he said he was offering a 100-year interest-free loan.

In its complaint to the Electoral Commissioner, the NDP said the special terms of the loan show that any recipient was not realistically expected to pay the $ 20 membership fee back.

Told supporter to drop offer: campaign manager

Lee’s campaign manager, Todd Dube, says he demanded that the individual stop offering to pay for someone’s membership shortly after the offer was made.

On Thursday, Dube forwarded a letter he sent to the PC party on September 15, the night the newspaper’s story was published online. According to Dube’s letter, the supporter said the loan was only extended to someone who said he represented a family of four who wanted membership.

Dube’s letter asked the party to reject these memberships if they were purchased at all. The party has not confirmed the number of potentially involved memberships.

The PC party said it complained to the election commissioner after becoming aware of the loan offer.

“The leadership selection committee has no competence to decide on the legality of this situation, but despite that, it is not prepared to approve or accept that kind of behavior,” a statement from a party said.

The party has recommended that the people involved be removed as members.

The current race for leadership of the ruling party was triggered when then-Prime Minister Brian Pallister announced in August that he was planning to resign.

The party elects its new leader – who will be Manitoba’s premier – on October 30.

Lee was eventually barred from running in the leadership race by the party, which elects either MLA Heather Stefanson or former Conservative MP Shelly Glover as the next Tory leader.

Under the PC party system with one member, one vote, each member has the same weight in the vote for the next party leader. Lee had signed up for more than 4,000 members, according to party members who spoke to CBC News.

Return money to ‘illegal’ memberships: NDP

Kinew called on the progressive conservatives to renounce any “illegitimate” membership and return the money.

“If these memberships were illegal, it means the PC Party is conducting illegal fundraising,” he said.

“It would be serious anytime soon, but the fact that the premier chair potentially hangs in the balance just gives it that extra haste.”

It appears that the supporter’s post on social media making the offer has since been deleted.

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