Progressive Conservatives under Prime Minister Doug Ford have apologized for sending false “bills” requesting cash from previous donors after a storm of controversy.

“At no time was our intention to mislead our valued supporters,” the Conservatives said in a statement Thursday after refusing to comment on the issue for more than 24 hours.

“We regret that this correspondence was sent to a limited group of supporters by one of our providers and will not happen again. We apologize for any confusion or frustration this may have caused, ”the party said.

It is unclear how many donors received the letter through Canada Post and how much money it generated.

The Conservative “election preparation fund” request for payment was accompanied by a two-page fundraising letter signed by Tony Miele, president of the PC Ontario Fund.

It was designed to look like an overdue bill, sparking outrage from former conservative donors.

“I didn’t know what it was for,” a senior citizen, who asked that his name not be used, told the Star after receiving a bill for $ 2,100 in the mail Wednesday.

That is the amount you had donated to the party in the past.

“I was surprised,” the man said, echoing the concerns of Tory riding association executives who complained to the party about the tactic.

The blue and white invoice warned recipients that there was a “balance due … please respond today.”

In Miele’s letter to taxpayers, he urged them to fork out cash “to send a clear message to Doug Ford that we stand behind him.”

Opponents New Democrats and Liberals have complained to Elections Ontario and would like to see a police investigation.

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NDP MPP Taras Natyshak (Essex) said conservatives should disclose their ties to Responsive Marketing Group, the vendor that prepared the invoice.

The company, which was linked to the federal “robocall” debacle of 2011, has been paid by the ruling party at least $ 1.7 million in the past two years.

Why does Doug Ford partner with, let alone pay $ 1.7 million to this company? And what is Doug Ford buying with this $ 1.7 million in contracts? “Natyhsak said, adding that mailing can also violate federal law.

Brian Johns, chairman of the Ontario Liberal Party, called the request “despicable.”

“Seniors and newcomers can be especially vulnerable to fraud,” Johns said.

“They need to know that these bills are false and that they don’t have to pay them. How many entrepreneurs, reeling from long lockdowns, have received these false invoices? “

Robert Benzie is the bureau chief for Star’s Queen’s Park and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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