Over 600,000 CPC members expected to be eligible to decide party's future: sources

·4 min read
Composite illustration featuring Conservative leadership candidates Pierre Poilievre, top left, Leslyn Lewis, top centre, Jean Charest, top right, Roman Baber, bottom left, Patrick Brown, bottom centre, and Scott Aitchison. (The Canadian Press - image credit)
Composite illustration featuring Conservative leadership candidates Pierre Poilievre, top left, Leslyn Lewis, top centre, Jean Charest, top right, Roman Baber, bottom left, Patrick Brown, bottom centre, and Scott Aitchison. (The Canadian Press - image credit)

A record-shattering 600,000 Canadians are expected to be eligible to cast a vote in the Conservative leadership race this fall, multiple party sources tell CBC News.

It's an eye-popping figure for the party, which is embroiled in its third leadership race in five years. The 600,000 figure includes new members, those who have renewed memberships or existing members.

In a statement to CBC News, party president Robert Batherson said the party would not comment on any specific membership numbers put forward by the campaigns, but noted the party would "set a record for the largest number of paid members of any political party in Canadian history."

A final, accurate figure would not be announced until the party has gone through what promises to be significant logistical effort to process and verify the memberships, Batherson said.

The chief returning officer for the election must provide a preliminary list of voters to the candidates sometime after the cutoff, which was midnight last night. Candidates are able to challenge memberships on the list, and a final list must be provided no later than July 29, with the race culminating on Sept. 10.

In the 2020 campaign, it took almost two months between the membership cutoff and the party's official announcement that around 270,000 members were eligible to vote.

Pierre Polievre's campaign is urging the party to publicly release the data on exactly how many members the MP has brought into the party fold during the leadership election, arguing it is important to provide clarity on state of the race for the party's top job.

The Poilievre team made the call as it released details on how many members it says it has signed up to vote this fall. Poilievre is just the latest candidate to claim victory in the leadership sales bonanza, with almost 312,000 new members signed up through the campaign website, according to Jenni Byrne, Poilievre's key strategist.

Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press
Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press

A source close to Poilievre, who spoke to CBC News on the condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized to speak publicly, said the campaign had blown past its goal of selling 175,000 memberships across the country.

In particular, the source touted memberships sold in Quebec — anticipated to be rival Jean Charest's base of support. The campaign has sold 25,000 new memberships there and has at least 100 supporters in every riding, according to the source.

The source said the campaign believes it can win on the first ballot.

Brown, Charest both claim victory is near

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown was first out of the gate to claim victory in the leadership sales bonanza, saying Friday his campaign had sold more than 150,000 memberships.

"When this leadership race started, no one thought we had a shot. Now, we're on the cusp of victory," he said in a campaign email.

Charest was next to argue his sales put him on the road to a win, saying his campaign had added "tens of thousands" of new members and "re-engaged" thousands of former or lapsed members. The campaign did not provide a specific number.

Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press
Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press

"Based on our recruitment, we have the points we need to win the leadership race," Charest said in a campaign release.

The rules of the Conservative leadership race award 100 points to each of Canada's 338 ridings, with those points distributed proportionately to the percentage of the candidates' votes in the riding. A candidate must win the majority of points to secure the leadership.

The campaigns of Leslyn Lewis, Scott Aitchison and Roman Baber have not yet released any details on how many memberships they have sold.

Oseremen Irete/CBC
Oseremen Irete/CBC

Record-breaking total

The total membership far outstrips past leadership races.

By comparison, there were 269,469 members eligible to vote in the 2020 election that crowned Erin O'Toole — which, at the time, was a record that easily dwarfed the 127,000 Liberal members who were eligible to vote in that party's 2013 leadership election.

Speaking to CBC News Friday, the Conservative party did not confirm the a total figure and said it would take many days to determine a final count, since there was a process to challenge names on the list.

But "there is unprecedented interest in joining the Conservative Party of Canada," Batherson said.

The membership cutoff at midnight last night also marks a new phase in the campaign. Candidates will now have to persuade and engage what now makes up the new party faithful, instead of also working to expand the CPC ranks with Canadians sympathetic to their goals.

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