OTTAWA — The Conservative party is demanding that the National Firearms Association destroy a party membership list that it appears to have illicitly obtained from one of the camps in the recent leadership contest.
"We are aware that our members are being contacted by an outside organization," the party said Friday in a Facebook post.
"We will be issuing a cease-and-desist letter to the organization in question, demanding that they destroy the list."
Party spokesman Cory Hann later confirmed that the organization is the National Firearms Association.
The party's move came after numerous Conservatives complained through social media that they'd received a letter this week from the NFA, seeking a donation.
They suspected that the association had obtained their names and addresses from the party membership list, distributed to each of the 14 candidates during the leadership race, which concluded last weekend with the election of Andrew Scheer.
The party did not name the culprit but said it has "identified the parties responsible for sharing the information, and will be taking disciplinary action against them."
Hann said all information about the issue has been given to the party's chief returning officer for a ruling on "what we believe is a violation of the use of the membership list we supplied to leadership campaigns."
In a response Thursday to one of the complaints posted on Facebook, Conservative party executive director Dustin van Vugt revealed that the party "salted" the list given to each leadership campaign with fictitious information so that it would be able to trace any leaks.
"If we find the source, they will have broken the rules and can still be fined from their compliance deposit," he wrote.
Each candidate had to pay a compliance deposit of $25,000. The party can withhold repayment of all or part of the deposit from any leadership campaign that broke the rules.
"We regret that this incident has occurred," the party said. "We have always taken our members’ privacy very seriously, and will continue to do so."
However, Michael Diamond, a former spokesperson for Kellie Leitch's campaign, said it's not the first time an outside organization has gotten hold of the party's membership list. He pointed out that Mainstreet Research conducted polls of party members throughout the leadership race for iPolitics, an online media outlet.
Mainstreet president Quito Maggi confirmed his company had access to a copy of the party membership list, which he said was acquired by iPolitics "from several leadership camps."
Diamond was among the first to complain about receiving a fundraising pitch from the National Firearms Association, after noticing "dozens of friends on Facebook, none of whom are part of the gun community," had also received the missive.
"It became very obvious that the common denominator between all of these people was membership in the Conservative party."
While he's somewhat concerned about the privacy breach, Diamond said his primary objection is that he and thousands of other Conservative loyalists spent a year recruiting members in order to "build a better, stronger, bigger" party, not to help some outside organization raise money.
"That is the Conservative Party of Canada's list," he said. "It should be used for the sole purpose of electing Andrew Scheer in 2019 and Conservative candidates across the country."
During the campaign, the National Firearms Association issued a report card on the leadership candidates, giving third-place finisher Erin O'Toole an A, the highest mark awarded to any of the contenders.
O'Toole's campaign manager, Fred DeLorey, is the registered lobbyist for the association.
However, DeLorey said any allegations that O'Toole's camp shared the membership list with the association are "false" — an assertion confirmed by van Vugt in an email to DeLorey.
"The party has investigated the matter and (has) identified those responsible and they know it was not me, nor members of my campaign team," said DeLorey, the party's former director of political operations.
Throughout the contest, DeLorey added that he recused himself from any campaign matters related to firearms and also from all NFA work related to the leadership race, including the report card.
The party is apparently not concerned with a published report late Friday that said some members of Quebec MP Maxime Bernier's camp were questioning the ballot count in last weekend's leadership vote.
The Globe and Mail cited some of Bernier's supporters who wondered about the gap between the number of votes cast and the final number announced.
Conservative Party president Scott Lamb told the newspaper that the voting was fair.
"Elections are decided and verified and complete, and people can speculate about them all they want. But it was an audited, final result," he said in an interview with the Globe.
Other unnamed party officials were downplaying the concerns from Bernier's supporters, the Globe said, noting they were coming from a losing camp.
— With files from Steve Lambert in Winnipeg
Joan Bryden , The Canadian Press
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