An Ontario woman says she was incensed after receiving a fundraising letter from the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario that looks like an invoice — something two opposition parties are already criticizing as a “scam” and a “deeply concerning” attempt to mislead people.
Part of the letter is labelled “invoice” and looks like a bill to be sent to the Ontario PCs in Toronto. The only line item says “Election Readiness Fund” and lists a total of $300, then lower down the page states there’s a “balance due.” The word donation does appear, but only at the bottom of the page. You can see the “invoice” section of the letter at the bottom of this story.
The letter does include two pages. The first is a standard letter explaining the need for the PCs to fundraise ahead of next year’s election, but the second is the part that looks like an invoice. Part of the letter says “Please pay the enclosed invoice to send Doug Ford the message that we’ve got his back.”
Veronica Doyon, who lives in North Bay, Ont., shared an image of the letter on Reddit on Tuesday where many raised concerns it could dupe people, particularly vulnerable seniors, into thinking they owed the party money.
“It just made me angry. Honestly, I couldn’t believe the gall of whoever put this together to try and tell me I owed them money while at the same time trying to ask me to voluntarily donate it,” Doyon told CBC News.
It’s unclear who the PC party sent the letter to and how many letters it sent out. CBC News has contacted the party but has not received a response at this time. The premier’s office, meanwhile, directed questions to the party.
Doyon, who has taken over her family home, said she believes she received the letter because her mother previously supported the party.
Liberals, NDP, at least one member of public file complaints
On Wednesday, as more social media users posted similar pictures with at least one person being asked to pay $800, the Ontario Liberal party issued a news release calling for an immediate investigation by Elections Ontario and the Ontario Provincial Police’s anti-fraud branch.
The party blasted the letters as a “scam.”
“The misleading document … 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,” the Liberals said in a news release.
The NDP, meanwhile, sent a letter to the province’s chief electoral office.
“It is deeply concerning that the Premier would authorize a fundraising letter created to deliberately confuse or alarm vulnerable individuals into a donation to his campaign,” wrote Essex MPP Taras Natyshak.
At least one member of the public, Eric Wolinsky, also submitted a complaint to Elections Ontario. He told CBC News by phone he views the letters as “fraud-based fundraising” and said he believes many people will fall for it.
Elections Ontario says it doesn’t regulate content of political advertising
While there’s been sharp online backlash to the fundraiser, it’s unclear at this time if the letters violate any election rules.
Elections Ontario wouldn’t say if it’s investigating the letters, but a spokesperson suggested the content of fundraisers aren’t in its purview.
“Elections Ontario regulates provincial elections in Ontario under the Election Act and the Election Finances Act. Neither Act regulates the content of campaign or fundraising materials, or the content of political advertising,” said spokesperson Eleni Armenakis in an email to CBC News.
Ontario’s next election is set for June of 2022.