TORONTO — The Progressive Conservative Party (PC) has attracted criticism this week over their latest strategy to attempt to secure campaign donations ahead of the 2022 Ontario election.
Some Ontario residents have received mail correspondence asking them to donate to the PC’s election campaign, however, the letters have been designed to appear as invoices.
Kingston resident Greg Gies received one such letter, instructing him that he owed $800 to the party.
“Just above the address box window, in red letters, it says ‘Important Invoice Enclosed,’ right under the Ontario PC identification on the upper left-hand side,” Gies told CTV News Toronto on Wednesday.
The envelope included the fake invoice, alongside a letter written by Ontario Fund chair Tony Miele, stating that the PCs are readying their “war chest” to continue the good work and the good fight and claiming that’s why invoices have been sent out.
“[The body of the letter] mentions the word ‘invoice’ three times,” Gies said.
Gies said that, while he used to donate to the PCs, he hasn’t in nearly a decade, but assumes that his past donations are why he received the fake invoice.
“My first reaction was that it looked a lot like Trump’s fundraising letters that we see going around on social media,” he said.
Another Ontario resident named Veronica, who chose not to have her surname published, says she received the same thing.
“I was definitely expecting a standard written-up letter explaining why the party would like my donation. And I was certainly not expecting to see anything like what I found,” Veronica told iHeart Radio Wednesday.
Veronica says the letter was sent to the former address of her parents, who she confirmed have donated to the party in the past.
Upon opening the letter, Veronica says she was not inclined to donate.
“The immediate reaction was just anger. The gumption of the person who wrote me this letter — I was just angry to see it. I felt a very strong reaction to the letter and it was certainly not to donate money.”
CTV News Toronto has reached out to the Progressive Conservative Party but has yet to receive a response.
Beware of this. They’re just hoping that lots of unsuspecting people, particularly the elderly will get scared and pay these invoices. @fordnation what the hell are you doing? This has to be illegal. pic.twitter.com/CIUOZ7QNvi
— Vicki Campbell (@merry123459) August 17, 2021
York University Professor Dr. Dennis Pilon, whose area of study is political science and elections, said that the strategy, while in a legal gray area, is “in very poor taste.”
“It’s just ethically abhorrent because we know that there will be people, whose knowledge of things is greater or lesser and there are certainly vulnerable people who might see this and suddenly feel that they need to get this money in,” Pilon told CTV News Toronto on Wednesday.
“An invoice is understood to mean you have to pay. It’s not like, ‘Would you like to pay?’ or ‘We would like you to give us this money.’ It’s saying, ‘You owe us money.’”
Pilon says that election donation requests should be clear in their intentions.
“They should make clear what the expectation is of the people who are soliciting the money,” he said.
“I think it does raise concerns about its impact on vulnerable people — particularly seniors. This is something that could trouble them or upset them if they suddenly think they’re in arrears.”
Ontario Liberal Party President Brian Johns responded to the campaign strategy on Wednesday, stating that their party would be formally requesting an investigation by Elections Ontario, the Ontario Provincial Police’s Anti-Racket/Anti-Fraud Branch and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
“The misleading document, which includes the word “invoice” in large text at the top, is similar to those used in “false billing scams” that aim to defraud vulnerable individuals. Scamming donors is straight out of the Donald Trump playbook,” a statement from Del Duca said.
“Seniors and newcomers can be especially vulnerable to fraud. They need to know that these invoices are fake and that they do not have to pay. How many entrepreneurs, reeling from lengthy lockdowns, have received these fake invoices?”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also commented on the strategy, saying her team would also call for an investigation.
Horwath says the invoices seem like a “mail scam” and could deceive vulnerable populations.
NEW: NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says the party has written to Elections Ontario to investigate the Ontario PC Party mailers which resemble invoices.
— Colin D’Mello CTVNews (@ColinDMello) August 18, 2021
The 43rd Ontario general election will be held on or before June 2, 2022.