The United Conservative Party had a list of 59,409 members eligible to vote in the leadership review as of March 31, but CTV News has learned some people who appear on it didn’t purchase a membership.
Barinder Mali says he and his wife were shocked to find both their names on the eligible list of voters.
“I never applied for anything like that, and I never paid anybody for a membership so I don’t know how I got the membership, I was really surprised,” said Mali.
“It’s funny because I’ve been a Liberal all my life, it’s kind of weird. It’s also scary too because people are making memberships you don’t even know about.”
Mali was notified he was on the membership list by family friend Jamie Lall, who gave him a call and asked who he was voting for in the upcoming leadership review.
Lall says he’s working with a group close to the leadership review and was given an official voting list from the party. An official, partial copy of the list was also obtained by CTV News with Mali and his wife’s name on it.
“That’s a big red flag, so we asked Barinder, ‘are you positive?’ It said the membership was purchased in February and he hadn’t paid for anything,” Lall said.
“There are a lot of other people this is happening not just in Calgary, but all across the province and it’s actually very disappointing, to be honest, because it’s one of those things mostly happening to members ethnic communities.”
This incident follows allegations from UCP leadership candidate and Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Brian Jean, who claims thousands of memberships are being fraudulently created.
Jean filed a complaint Monday with Alberta elections claiming his team discovered eight credit cards used to purchase more than 4,619 memberships to the party.
“The investigation is real,” said Jean in a Facebook post.
“Who paid for these memberships? Do the people whose names are on them even know they are members?”
UCP RESPONSES TO VOTER FRAUD ALLEGATIONS
The United Conservative Party was not able to confirm with CTV News how many times a membership was purchased illegally or how certain names of people who never purchased memberships got on their voting list.
In a statement, the party did however say the names of the Mali family have since been removed.
“These individuals are not party members and are not eligible to vote in the leadership review. The application was rejected during the audit of our membership list as it did not satisfy the membership requirements,” it read.
“Our membership system is built to trust then verify. We made the correct decision to err on the side of making sure ballots got out on time. This was the right approach since we built in a careful and secure two-stage verification process. The first stage was to ensure that each membership satisfies the requirements. If it did not, it was canceled and their name was struck from the voters list.”
The statement adds volunteers are verifying that each ballot meets requirements which include personally attesting the eligible member has paid the membership fee and providing Alberta government issued identification.
The records are then matched to an audited membership list, which is overseen by independent advisor and impartial advisor, Deloitte Canada according to the UCP statement.
“Deloitte is working with us to ensure that the monitoring and verification processes are in compliance with rules and processes, while safeguarding the security of the ballots,” it said.
INTEGRITY OF LEADERSHIP REVIEW VOTE ON QUESTION: POLITICAL SCIENTIST
As the vote result nears closer, political experts say the integrity of the UCP leadership review is continuing to be called into question.
Lori Williams, an associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University, says the legitimacy of the voting process and whether it is being conducted fairly could have negative impacts for the UCP moving forward.
“They don’t know that it’s a fair process because of all of the questions that have been consistently raised, and by itself it might not be quite as problematic, but when you add to the fact there’s an RCMP investigation around the original leadership race , it’s a bigger problem,” Williams said.
“Then you add to that the fact that there are a number of people who would have bought memberships had they known that they would be able to participate in the process by not having to go to Red Deer because all of those folks have been excluded from the process.”
Williams notes Kenney’s leadership style will be in question almost certainly if he overcomes this review from party members, adding that a portion of his MLAs are already unsatisfied with him.
“These are MLAs that are channeling the concerns that have been raised by their constituents by their constituency associations and by Albertans in general,” she said.
“Those questions, the questions around the leadership, questions around some of the decisions that have been made, the combative approach to those who disagree, and so forth I think are going to continue to hurt Jason Kenney, regardless of the result of this vote .”
KENNEY CONFIDENT IN PARTY SUPPORT
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says he is confident that his fellow UCP members will keep him as a leader ahead of the results being posted for his review in just one week’s time.
During a news conference at the grand opening for the Lethbridge Airport, Kenney noted that he believes he has enough support.
“I’m confident that I’ll receive an endorsement from the members of the United Conservative Party who want to move forward into the future,” he said.
“A significant majority want to move forward.”
Kenney also denied allegations of anything illegal going on with the voting process following comments from Brian Jean.
“It’s all just silliness,” Kenney said.
“The party has an approved process, like Mr. Jean’s nomination campaign, to process paper membership forms through an online portal.
Kenney went on to call the allegations coming from “people who are more focused on division than unity.”
The results of the mail-in ballot leadership review of Premier Jason Kenney are currently being counted from May 11 to 17 with a live stream available online to show votes are being verified.
Results of the leadership review are expected to be announced on May 18.