National Newswatch

TORONTO - Progressive Conservative leadership hopeful Christine Elliott stood by her decision Monday not to release the number of party memberships her campaign sold before Saturday's cut-off period.

Barrie MP Patrick Brown, the only candidate without a seat in the Ontario legislature, claimed to have sold more than 40,000 of the $10 PC memberships, which entitle people to vote for the new party leader in May.

London-area MPP Monte McNaughton boasted sales of just under 20,000 memberships, but a party source put that figure closer to 6,000.

Elliott, who finished third in the 2009 leadership race won by Tim Hudak, would say only that her support is strong and broad-based.

"You know there's going to be a lot of wild and crazy claims out there, but I'm feeling really good about where we are, very confident we're in a good position across the entire province," she said. "I'm just not going to engage in the same kind of chest-pounding bravado that the other candidates are getting into."

A party source estimated Elliott sold about 13,000 party memberships, but her campaign said Saturday night they'd sold at least twice that number.

Elliott said she'd leave it up to PC executives to release official numbers once they're all verified, something the party said could take several more days.

"I'm not going to play that kind of macho game that these other two guys are engaging in," she said. "I'm not conceding anything. We're going to find out from the party in the next couple days where things are."

Tory officials estimate about 60,000 memberships were sold in the past four months, bringing the party to about 70,000 members and reversing a downward trend in the past two leadership contests.

Every PC member can vote for the new leader May 3 and 7, but the votes will be weighted so each of the 107 ridings gets 100 points, which means where the memberships were sold is almost as important as how many. The results of the leadership balloting will be released at a convention in Toronto May 9.

Hudak resigned shortly after the Conservatives' fourth consecutive election loss last June.

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The Canadian Press
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