Arguing that computer errors have disenfranchised huge numbers of Conservatives, Belinda Stronach's campaign chief said Wednesday that the party's leadership vote should be postponed until the membership list mess is sorted out.
"These list problems will deprive up to tens of thousands of members of their votes for the first leader of our new party," said John Laschinger, Ms. Stronach's national campaign director.
The leadership vote is scheduled for March 20, but on Wednesday Mr. Laschinger urged the executive director of the Conservative Party to delay the vote until it can be assured that all legitimate members have the chance to vote.
"It is clear that the number of disenfranchised members reaches into the tens of thousands," he writes. "We have no option but to ask that voting be delayed until these list problems are resolved. It is undemocratic to continue with an unfair process in which so many legitimate, paid-up members are denied their democratic rights."
The president of the Conservatives, Don Plett, told Canadian Press that it was "very improbable" that the vote would be moved. "In my opinion the irregularities are at an acceptable level," he said.
Ms. Stronach was in Ottawa Wednesday to meet the Conservative caucus. She is not believed to have mentioned her team's desire to postpone the leadership vote, which only surfaced late in the afternoon.
In his letter, Mr. Laschinger argues that the computer-managed list has managed to delete a great number of members because it is too quick to make assumptions, deleting members because the system has already input another person with the same name or assuming that similarly named people at a single address are actually the same individual.
"The system is designed to substitute the computer's judgment about a member's name and address for the member's actual name and address," he writes. "The result is both ridiculous and unfair."
The campaign teams of all three candidates have complained about the membership list, which was formally closed to new voting members at midnight Feb. 29.
Ms. Stronach, who is running against Stephen Harper and Tony Clement, narrowly won Tuesday the right to represent the new party in the next election. She squeaked past challenger Lois Brown, a long-time Canadian Alliance worker, to win her party's nomination in Newmarket-Aurora.
Mr. Harper is thought to be the frontrunner to lead the new party, which could be facing off in a general election within months.