Skip to main content

Candidates, left to right, Leslyn Lewis, Roman Baber, Jean Charest, Scott Aitchison, Patrick Brown, and Pierre Poilievre at the Conservative Party of Canada English leadership debate in Edmonton on May 11.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Canada’s Conservative Party has 675,000 members as a result of its current leadership race, about 2.5 times the number of members it had during the 2020 contest to lead the party.

As the leadership race unofficially began in February with the caucus voting out Erin O’Toole as leader, the party said it had about 160,000 members. Through to a June 3 deadline, leadership campaigns were signing up members they hoped would support them in voting.

The number was announced Thursday as the six candidates to lead the party were waiting to review the list of members for irregularities. About 6,500 memberships were invalidated or “non compliant” membership transactions out of line with the rules, the party said.

“What we have here is really a historic and expansive growth of the membership list,” Ian Brodie, chair of the party’s leadership election organizing committee, told a news conference.

Mr. Brodie said he linked the party’s growth to the six “credible” candidates vying for support. “We now have more members of the Conservative Party than there are people in the city of Hamilton.”

The port city in Ontario has a population of about 570,000.

Critics need to accept change in the Conservative Party, says former Mulroney cabinet minister

Are the federal Conservatives heading for a cataclysmic rupture?

Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre’s campaign has said it signed up 311,958 new members before the deadline. Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, another candidate, has said he signed up more than 150,000.

The other candidates have not provided detailed numbers on how many members they have signed up. Those candidates are Ontario MPs Scott Aitchison and Leslyn Lewis, as well as former Quebec premier Jean Charest and Roman Baber, a former member of the Ontario legislature.

The party did not release a regional breakdown of memberships or exactly how many members each candidate sold.

The 675,000 figure compares with more than 269,000 people registered for the 2020 Conservative leadership race – a record for the party at that time. The party’s membership high was about 282,000 after the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives merged in 2003.

The Liberal Party had 294,002 members when Justin Trudeau was elected leader in 2013.

The campaigns will have four days to review and challenge a preliminary list of members. The party will issue a final voters list by July 29.

The new members would have paid a $15 fee to sign up. Mr. Brodie said it’s too soon to say how that breaks down as a revenue stream for the Tories, noting that the party constitution requires that some of the fees be shared with electoral district associations.

“A key thing here is not the money because servicing these members is going to be a cost for the party as well,” Mr. Brodie said.

He said the key point in the numbers is the mobilization.

“What this shows is a level of engagement and enthusiasm for the race that will continue to pay dividends for us well past the end of the race. I don’t see that diminishing on Sept. 11.”

Hamish Telford, a political scientist from British Columbia, said the numbers reported Thursday are “massive” in the context of Canadian politics and speak to an intensity of commitment among Conservative supporters.

“What has yet to be determined is if this is going to translate into broader public support in an election. It may well do, and one would think this is a good start in that direction,” said Dr. Telford, who teaches at the University of the Fraser Valley.

He said he expected many of the new party members may not actually vote in the leadership race and some may slip away before the next federal election, which isn’t expected until 2025.

“But I think what matters to the party is having all of this data, that these are people they can get back to in the future, in terms of votes, in terms of donations, in terms of campaigning so they have accumulated a large database that they can tap into in the future.”

For subscribers only: Get exclusive political news and analysis by signing up for the Politics Briefing.