Brad Trost supporter admits to providing incentives for votes
Conservatives to review claims after Trost campaign denies any involvement in Edmonton auto shop’s offer of oil changes for memberships.
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OTTAWA–The Conservative party says it will “investigate fully” new claims that at least one supporter of Brad Trost in Edmonton offered incentives in exchange for backing Trost’s leadership bid.
The party has already investigated claims that Trost supporters in Edmonton’s Chinese community had offered benefits for non-members to sign up and support the Saskatchewan MP’s leadership bid.
The party said Friday the investigation turned up no connection to the Trost campaign, and found no evidence that services were exchanged for membership. A Trost spokesperson, Mike Patton, said the campaign had no involvement with the scheme.
When told the Star had spoken to a business owner who confirmed he offered incentives to 530 of his friends to support Trost, Cory Hann, a party spokesperson, said it would reopen the investigation.
“We’re aware (of the allegations) and we checked into it. We found no direct connection to any campaign, and found that no one at any of these companies was aware of any such offering,” Hann said.
“If there’s any new information we will of course follow up and investigate fully.”
The Star was forwarded an anonymous claim that Trost supporters in Edmonton were offering incentives for new members to support their candidate’s leadership bid, including free beer, deals on travel packages and oil changes.
Multiple calls to four out of five businesses connected to that claim were not returned. But Tiger Yang, who identified himself as the owner of Basco Auto Parts, admitted he made an offer for a free oil change for every three new members signed up to Trost’s campaign.
Yang said he made the offer on WeChat, a popular Chinese-language social media platform, to 530 people in his friend’s chat group. But he said he posted it based only on Trost’s campaign platform and before he met the candidate during his tour of Edmonton.
Yang said he felt “betrayed” and was disappointed someone made the offer public.
“I was only encouraging my friends to vote. It was not public. I didn’t think it would break any rules,” said Yang, who immigrated from China 14 years ago. “Only my friends would see the post.”
The Conservative leadership rules prohibit in-kind donations to sign up new members, according to the party. A spokesperson for the commissioner of elections said it was not under the office’s jurisdiction and that any investigation would be up to the Conservative party.
Yang, who said he once supported Paul Martin’s Liberals, said he was disappointed with the current Liberal government’s direction and “disgusted” by policies like the legalization of marijuana and granting of human rights protections to transgender Canadians.
“Many people in the Chinese community feel the same way,” said Yang, who was an executive with a Mandarin immigrant group. “I was only trying to encourage my friends to engage and get involved. No one asked me to do it.”
The message forwarded to the Star listed five businesses offering incentives to join Trost’s campaign. The Star could not verify the offers made by the other four businesses listed.
The note ended with a message saying Muslim Canadians were backing Trost’s rival, Michael Chong, and that the Chinese community needed to rally around Trost, one of two social conservatives in the race to replace Stephen Harper.
This is not the first time allegations have been made about improper recruitment drives during the Conservative leadership race. Before dropping out of the race, television personality Kevin O’Leary claimed that an unnamed campaign was providing prepaid credit cards to sign up new members in the GTA.
O’Leary’s public challenge was widely assumed to be directed at Maxime Bernier. The hurt couldn’t have been too deep, however, as O’Leary later dropped out of the race and threw his support behind Bernier, who is now the perceived frontrunner.
The Conservatives will select a new member in Toronto on May 27.