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Charest accuses Poilievre campaign of inflating membership numbers

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Conservative Party of Canada leadership contender Jean Charest is accusing rival Pierre Poilievre of exaggerating his membership count, calling the claim “Pierreinflation.”

The former Quebec premier says the Poilievre campaign’s assertion that they’ve signed up 311,958 Canadians thus far to support their team is “all spin.”

“At the rate it’s going, we call it ‘Pierreinflation’ in terms of recruiting members. I think he’s recruited members in the state of Maine and New Hampshire if you’re to follow his logic… He keeps inflating the numbers, no one believes the numbers,” he told CTV’s Question Period.

Charest wouldn’t say specifically how many memberships his base has acquired, arguing the number is irrelevant as the race ultimately comes down to a point system.

“You can have 10,000 members in a riding, it’s worth 100 points… If you have 100 members in another riding, it’s worth 100 points. It’s 100 points per riding,” he said.

“We’ve based our campaign on having a broad-base of support across the country in all ridings because that’s the way the race was designed so that whoever would win would have the broadest base of support across the country.”

Patrick Brown is the only other contender to have released their membership count this far in the race, noting it stands at 150,000.

Last week, the Conservative Party’s executive director, Wayne Benson, said candidates were told to expect that “well over” 600,000 members will place a vote to decide who among them should take over the party’s top post.

During the 2020 leadership race, the party counted 269,469 eligible voters.

Due to the record number of potential voters, the party said it is a “few weeks behind in terms of processing” the membership list to be able to send out to candidates before a new leader is elected on Sept. 10.

However, National Council President Robert Batherson confirmed in a separate interview on CTV’s Question Period that time frame is still workable.

“We’re more than prepared in terms of doing our internal verification, doing the processing, making sure there’s a preliminary list for the leadership campaigns to verify on their own end and challenge and then have that final list on which we’ll base the ballot packages going out,” he said.

Charest said he and other campaigns have called for an interim list to be sent out urgently.

“If we don’t have access to the list of members so that we can campaign, reach them and persuade them, then what’s the point?” he said.

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