The head of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario‘s fundraising arm has issued an apology after reports surfaced from residents who received fake invoices asking for hundreds of dollars.
“First off, I want to apologize to our donors. It’s unfortunate this went out. There’s a misunderstanding obviously,” Tony Miele, chair of the PC Ontario Fund, told Global News in a brief interview at the party’s office Thursday afternoon, echoing sentiments contained in a short written statement issued by the party hours earlier.
“I apologize, there was a mistake made, and I’m going to review this with my staff and the third-party service provider who drafted it.”
When pressed on who was involved in the mailout, Miele, whose name was seen in a picture posted on social media showing the documents received, said “these are all internal party matters” and that he doesn’t discuss such issues.
“I’m going to deal with it, this will not happen again. I apologize to all my donors,” he said.
With respect to potential refunds for anyone who donated or possible discipline, Miele didn’t answer questions when asked.
Recipients of the documents Global News spoke with, as well as people who posted on social media, said they received the letters on Tuesday.
Gregory Gies, who lives north of Kingston, described how the fake invoice came in an envelope with the Ontario PC Party logo and the words “important” and “invoice enclosed.”
EXCLUSIVE Hallway interview with Chair of the Ontario PC Fund, Tony Miele. We staked out for 2.5 hours.
Who approved the fake invoice marketing scheme? What misunderstanding? Who is losing their job? Here’s the raw interview. #onpoli #IWorkForTheViewer @globalnewsto pic.twitter.com/E3CMDsngQm
— 𝚂𝚎á𝚗 𝙾’𝚂𝚑𝚎𝚊 Global News (@ConsumerSOS) August 19, 2021
“I thought this was going to be very interesting and so I open it up and this big 8.5-by-14-inch piece of paper that says invoice on it and saying I owe $800,” Gies said.
“My feeling was that this was some imaginative fundraising that’s pushing the bounds of ethics and the law perhaps, but I was ready just to throw it in the pile of paper we use to light the wood stove in the fall.”
The ensuing social media posts on Twitter and Reddit garnered thousands of retweets, likes and votes on the platforms.
I stood outside the PC party’s marketing company’s offices to try to get answers about the bogus invoices. Man hiding in back room tells me to call media relations, etc. He declines to come out. Says they are calling police. We wait. No officers come. Story on @globalnewsto. pic.twitter.com/I9k4s34veb
— 𝚂𝚎á𝚗 𝙾’𝚂𝚑𝚎𝚊 Global News (@ConsumerSOS) August 18, 2021
Amid multiple requests for further information, a Global News reporter visited the Toronto address contained on the documents posted online. According to a website and signage at the front door, the address is the Canadian head office for iMarketing Solutions Group and the office for the Responsive Marketing Group, a company with long-standing connections to Canada’s Conservative parties and campaigns.
The reporter saw copies of the bogus invoices in the garbage can of a mailroom at the office building.
During an unrelated news conference Thursday morning and just minutes before the statement was issued, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was asked about the invoices. She called the documents mailed out to people a “deceitful mail scam,” adding she was “shocked” Premier Doug Ford didn’t address the issue since it was first raised.
“It’s pretty shocking and pretty deceitful what’s gone on here,” she said.
Global News contacted the premier’s office to ask for comment on the issue, but a response wasn’t received as of Thursday afternoon.
Horwath was also asked about how the Ontario NDP conducts its fundraising. She said the party rarely uses third-party firms and if a document is quoting her, she said she personally approves it.
Citing filings with Elections Ontario, a subsequent news release issued by the party called on the Ontario PC Party to provide more information on $1.7 million in contracts issued over two years to Responsive Marketing Group.
The Ontario NDP also referenced mail solicitation regulations under the Canada Post Corporation Act that stipulate any documents mailed out that appear like an invoice must also contain language saying there is no obligation to pay.
“Horwath has referred the matter to authorities, and says Ford needs to return any money collected through the fake invoices,” the news release said.
The Ontario Liberal Party wrote to the OPP on Wednesday to ask for a probe of the matter. An OPP spokesperson told Global News the service received the party’s request for an investigation.
“The OPP will evaluate the request to determine whether a criminal investigation is warranted,” a brief statement Wednesday afternoon said.
The Ontario NDP, Ontario Liberal Party and the Green Party of Ontario all called for reviews on the matter by Elections Ontario.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.