A number of Ontario's Progressive Conservatives won't get to vote for their party's next leader before voting closes on Friday because of ongoing issues with the online process, the party admits.
Although three of the four candidates running to replace Patrick Brown have called for a week's extension to the polling period, the committee running the party's leadership vote said late Wednesday that, despite a number of technical problems, it is sticking with its plan to announce the next leader at an event on Saturday afternoon.
"While there were challenges with our mail delivery, and some members were unable to participate fully in this election, the metrics are very strong," the committee said in a statement. "We have learned a lot through this process and will work to ensure that the challenges party members faced in this leadership election will not occur again."
As of Wednesday, nearly 70,000 members had registered to vote and more than 44,000 had cast ballots. The party had claimed it had 130,000 members at the start of the leadership contest. But the four campaigns are said to have signed up tens of thousands of new members since then. The deadline to vote is noon on Friday and members were no longer able to register online to vote after Thursday evening.
The party's decision was immediately opposed by candidate Doug Ford, a former Toronto city councillor who has been critical of the online-only process and had asked the party to return to the use of paper ballots. "What would you call an election where only one out of three members can vote? I call it a scandal," Mr. Ford told supporters in an e-mail on Thursday.
Mr. Ford's campaign told The Globe and Mail that it has received complaints from more than 10,000 members who have been unable to vote because they had yet to receive proper documentation from the party. One of those members is Mr. Ford's mother, who as of Thursday had not received a code in the mail that would allow her to vote for her son.
Mr. Ford alleged on Thursday evening that the party had been sending out the missing documents to select members via e-mail. He said in a statement that the "hand-picked elites" were tampering with the process, which he called "a disaster" and added that the party was treating others as second-class members. No party official was available to comment publicly about the allegations.
The campaigns of political newcomer Caroline Mulroney and party activist Tanya Granic Allen joined Mr. Ford in calling for a delay. to the process. Only candidate Christine Elliott, a former Tory legislator, said she was satisfied with the ongoing election. "We remain confident in the hard work of the [leadership committee] and the party," she said in a statement.
With a number of polls showing Mr. Ford and Ms. Elliott are front-runners, in the contest, the former councillor told his supporters that the party is siding with his rival.
Hartley Lefton, chair of the leadership committee, cited the party's constitution as a reason to not delay the process. "Under the constitution, we would have very significant challenges extending the time to the vote," he told The Globe.
The party's electronic voting process has required it to send out personal identification numbers (PINs) to each Tory member in the mail. The party has admitted there were problems with Canada Post getting the letters delivered in time. Members have to enter the PINs online to register to vote. A number of party members have complained the PINs are hard to read. Then, party members had to scan proper identification, such a driver's licence and send it to the party to complete the process. While the party itself isn't running the online process – an outside contractor was hired – some members have also expressed concern over the integrity of the Tory IT system, which was hacked in late 2017 in a ransomware attack. , although the party says no membership data was compromised.
The campaigns have organized PIN parties to help members register. With the party's decision, Ms. Mulroney said her campaign was focused on getting people voting before Friday's deadline. "It is clear that there were problems with the distribution of the PINs and this is something that I will be looking into when I am elected leader," she said in a statement. "I am confident that this process will produce a fair result."
A poll released by the Angus Reid Institute on Thursday found Mr. Ford is a polarizing figure, in Ontario, with nearly twice as many people having an unfavourable view of him, 51 per cent, as having a favourable one, 27 per cent. In contrast, Ontarians held positive views of both Ms. Elliott and Ms. Mulroney.
The online survey was conducted March 6-7 among a representative randomized sample of 807 adult Ontario residents who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. No margin of error was provided, but a probability sample of this size would normally carry one of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.