Conservatives ask Bernier for proof he doesn’t have list of party members from leadership election
The Conservative party’s lawyers are warning Maxime Bernier not to access a party membership list he obtained during last year’s leadership vote, according to a letter obtained by the National Post. The Quebec MP said last week he was quitting caucus and forming a new political party, little more than a year after he narrowly lost the Conservative leadership election to rival Andrew Scheer. Bernier made the announcement in Ottawa on Thursday as Tories gathered in Halifax for a policy convention. “This letter was ultimately about safeguarding the privacy and personal information of Canadians from unauthorized access,” said a source familiar with the reasons for sending the letter. “People have submitted their contact information to the Conservative party to receive information from the Conservative party, and no one else.” Asked whether the party was worried about Bernier attempting to use the list to identify defectors, the source said the letter was intended to safeguard against “even the possibility of this list being used for a reason other than a Conservative party leadership candidate communicating to Conservative members.” Arthur Hamilton, a lawyer for the party, sent the letter by email and by overnight courier to Bernier’s constituency office on Monday. Hamilton asked Bernier to immediately confirm “that you have neither accessed nor utilized any lists you or your designate possessed as at the point of your announcement.” A source familiar with Bernier’s operation said Tuesday that right after the leadership campaign, contact information provided on the official list was deleted from the database Bernier was using to track potential donors — and that a letter from Bernier’s lawyer containing proof of that would be sent to the party this week. About 30,000 people are still in Bernier’s database, the source said, all of whom signed up for the “Mad Max Club” through his website. After choosing a name, writing the party’s constitution and getting set up with lawyers and Elections Canada, Bernier could make an announcement with further details by the third or fourth week of September. Bernier had long ago committed to getting rid of the list at the end of the leadership race. To enter the contest in April 2016, he signed a declaration agreeing to only use membership information “for the purpose of campaigning for the leadership election and not for any other purpose.” But he has already violated the declaration. Bernier agreed then that he would take no steps to “oppose the elected leader in any way,” and signed off on a sentence saying he wouldn’t run against the Conservatives in 2019: “I will not seek the nomination of another political party, or run as an independent candidate, and will not endorse, campaign for or publicly support any opposing candidate or political party, in the next federal election.” Quitting caucus, calling the party “morally and intellectually corrupt” and announcing he would start his own party last Thursday clearly contravene that agreement. It’s unclear, however, whether the party could, or would even consider, taking action to punish Bernier. Compliance deposits of $50,000 had been retained for the purposes of the leadership election, but they have since been returned to the candidates, party spokesman Cory Hann said.