The Conservative Party of Canada says about 675,000 members will be eligible to vote in this year’s leadership race.
Party officials told reporters Thursday that the historic number reflects the success of each campaign’s outreach efforts.
“We had six credible candidates, each with a slightly different message for Canadians, but taken together it resonated in a way that produced this extraordinary mobilization,” said Ian Brodie, chair of the Leadership Election Organizing Committee.
In February, before the June 3 registration deadline, there were approximately 113,000 active members nationwide – excluding those whose membership was due to expire on that date.
The preliminary tally of 675,000 has been cleared of non-compliant sales – transactions that do not comply with leadership rules – and duplicate memberships.
“In the frenzy of a leadership contest, it’s normal to attract people who don’t know all the ins and outs of party funding rules,” Brodie said.
Of those who signed up in the past few months, 95% purchased their subscription online.
The party publishes the list of each individual campaign on Thursday. Candidates and their teams have until midnight Monday to challenge names they believe were listed “incorrectly”.
Within this same period, they can also request the addition of a name if they think that a person has been forgotten.
“Our Returning Officer, Don Nightingale, has the authority to make decisions on challenges. Their decisions can then be appealed to our Dispute Resolution Appeals Committee. Once all of these challenges are settled, the returning officer promulgates the final voters list,” Brodie said.
The party does not usually release preliminary membership figures, but did so this time given the large increase.
The most recent peak was recorded during the party’s 2004 merger, which combined several leadership races to reach 282,000 members.
Ballots will be sent out in batches over the next few weeks, the party said, and must be returned by September 6. A new leader will be appointed on September 10.
In the 2020 leadership race, results were significantly delayed due to thousands of damaged ballots at the opening.
Automatic envelope opening machines cut both the envelope and some ballots, requiring a new ballot to be noticed with the same data in order for it to be properly scanned and tabulated.
Yaroslav Baran, who handles media communications for the current leadership race, told CTVNews.ca on Thursday that they had made processing changes to avoid a similar issue.
“Given the volumes we are dealing with, the party has really increased the number of people processing each step. There is a small army of people working on this, and that small army will be reallocated to ballot validation once we get to that point,” Baran said in an emailed statement.
Jean Charest’s campaign said the membership numbers are “great news” for the party and that they are “very confident” they have a motivated base.
“We will continue to persuade party members with real ideas and solutions that will make us competitive in the upcoming federal election,” communications director Michelle Coates Mather said in a statement.
Jamie Ellerton, Scott Aitchison’s campaign manager, said 675,000 Canadians have “stepped up” to help the party “fight for a better Canada”.
“Scott Aitchison will kick off his nationwide Hope and Respect Tour next month and continue to work to build a Conservative Party that can deliver the results and good government that Justin Trudeau is unable or unwilling to deliver,” a statement read.
CTV News has reached out to all campaigns for comment, but at the time of publication had only heard of the above.
With files from CTV News’ Rachel Aiello