Jean Charest’s attempts to clear debts from his unsuccessful bid to lead the federal Conservatives have been complicated because the party is no longer providing tax receipts to donors, a Charest spokesperson says, though the party disputes that assertion.
Chris Rougier, who managed the former Quebec premier’s leadership campaign, says Mr. Charest is on track to pay off his debts, but donors are more hesitant to provide funds because of the absence of tax benefits for donations.
“Obviously the political tax receipt for any donor in any party is a significant advantage, and it’s a significant consideration when donors make a donation,” Mr. Rougier said in an interview this week.
In response to a Globe and Mail query to Mr. Charest, Mr. Rougier was designated to speak on the fundraising issue.
Mr. Rougier contends that at the end of March, the party said it would no longer be issuing tax receipts for leadership campaigns.
He said the move was “a little bit surprising” but that it was solely at the discretion of the fundraising arm of the party.
“We’re obviously working closely with them throughout all of this and they make the rules, and they are the final arbiters,” he said.
Asked about Mr. Rougier’s concerns, Sarah Fischer, the communications director for the federal Conservatives, said that wasn’t the case.
She said this week that the party is providing tax receipts when funds are sent to the party for processing.
Mr. Charest, a former federal cabinet minister under Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell, secured the Quebec Liberal leadership in 1998, led the party to power in 2003 and served as premier until 2012.
Mr. Charest was working in the private sector in 2022 when the party caucus ousted Erin O’Toole as Conservative leader. Mr. Charest then launched a bid to replace Mr. O’Toole, touting his understanding of Canada and his political experience.
However, Pierre Poilievre, an Ottawa-area MP and former federal cabinet minister under Stephen Harper, won the leadership race in a first-ballot landslide.
Mr. Charest said, following the outcome, that he was returning to the private sector, with no plans to get back into politics.
On Wednesday, Mr. Rougier said Mr. Charest had about $250,000 in campaign debt once the race was over, and is on course to pay it all off by late 2023 or early 2024.
Mr. Rougier said fundraising events for Mr. Charest have been posted on the party’s website, and that he would welcome further talks with the party on the matter.
The Charest campaign has been appealing to Charest supporters for help and also holding events, Three events were held this year, and four more are scheduled, mostly in Toronto and Montreal, said Mr. Rougier.
John Mykytyshyn, campaign manager for Patrick Brown’s bid to win the Conservative leadership, said the situation with the Charest camp is striking.
He said, in an interview, that there is a role for Elections Canada in ensuring that every dollar that goes in and out of a political party or one of its organizations, such as a leadership campaign, should be fully public, transparent and that donations should receive tax credits.
But he added that the party doesn’t need to wait for instructions from Elections Canada.
“The party today could decide, in order to help clear the debt from all the campaigns, including Patrick’s,” that they will issue receipts to get last year’s leadership campaign wrapped up, he said. That way, he added, Conservative efforts can be directed to helping the party win the next election.
Mr. Brown, a former Conservative MP now mayor of Brampton, Ont., was left with a debt of about $500,000 after the campaign and is working to pay it down.
The party disqualified Mr. Brown from the race, citing irregularities. Mr. Mykytyshyn said the party is not providing tax receipts as a result.