O’Toole spent $1 million in party funds on election studio: sources

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Erin O’Toole’s team spent more than $1 million in party funds to set up and run their downtown Ottawa election studio, multiple sources tell Granthshala News.

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O’Toole’s choice for the party’s powerful financial board, Conservative Fund chairman James Dodds, was aware of the seven-figure expenditure to set up and run the studio in the nearly six months leading up to the September election.

A Conservative spokesman confirmed that the party’s elected National Council had been “advised” of the expenditure “as a part of the (Conservative) Fund’s regular financial reports”.

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Around the same time as early 2021 when the party was founding the studio, O’Toole’s office used taxpayer funds to purchase approximately $74,000 in “video communications and broadcast equipment”, although O’Toole The U.S. office denied any public funding was partisan. studio operation.

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“Our broadcast studio and its associated offices and media filing room were one of many innovative ways we decided to drive our campaign. It not only allowed us to reach thousands of Canadians while recognizing the challenges of traveling during a pandemic Granted, this also meant a smaller national tour cost that allowed us to invest in other key areas of our campaign,” wrote Corey Hahn, Conservative’s director of communications, in an email to Granthshala News.

“Like all political parties, Election Canada’s election spending will be disclosed, and we expect to record our spending in the coming weeks.”

O’Toole’s team rented several large conference rooms at the Westin Ottawa, a posh downtown hotel within the eye of Parliament Hill, in the lead-up to the 2021 campaign.

The party used the space to hold press conferences, host a tele-town hall and set up a fully functional broadcast studio to record video and fundraising appeals in the lead-up to the 2021 federal election.

Until now, members of the Conservative Party were not aware of how much the studio cost them.

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Multiple sources told Granthshala News that the price tag was north of $1 million. The source was not authorized to speak on the record, and Granthshala News agreed to protect his identity. The Conservative Party would not confirm the studio’s total cost, but a senior party source did not dispute Granthshala’s reporting on Thursday.

A senior O’Toole campaign official, who had no direct knowledge of the final price tag, nonetheless stated that the studio’s cost was a “significant” amount of the Conservatives’ election budget.

“I think the cost was significant. We had been renting the room for several months. We got a good deal because it’s not like there was a conference taking place (due to COVID-19), so the hotel was happy to have some business ,” said the source.

“(But) it would have been a significant cost.”

Broadcast Studio was the brainchild of Dan Robertson, O’Toole’s chief strategist during the Conservative leadership race and the 2021 general election. Sources told Granthshala News that Robertson advocated for O’Tooles to spend more time in the broadcast studio during the campaign. Others on O’Toole’s campaign team argued for the leader to spend more time traveling the country.

Robertson declined Granthshala’s request for an interview on Thursday.

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At the same time the party was founding the Westin Broadcasting Studio, publicly available records show that O’Toole’s office spent approximately $74,000 in taxpayer money buying “video communications and broadcast equipment”.

A spokesman for O’Toole’s office said no public funding went to founding the Westin studio.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, video and broadcast equipment such as cameras, lights and microphones were purchased and used by the Leader of the Official Opposition and Conservative Caucus to communicate with Canadians and stakeholders,” wrote Josie Sabatino. O’Toole’s director of communications in a statement to Granthshala News.

O’Toole’s office charged taxpayers $68,998.36 for communications, audio-visual and telecommunications equipment and services in the months after O’Toole became chief, according to a Granthshala news analysis of publicly available spending records.

That number increased to $245,141 when the party was founding Westin Studio, and to $122,491.90 in the months leading up to the September election.

Sources told Granthshala News that the party was also upgrading O’Toole’s West Block offices during those months, so that Conservative leaders could send their messages to Canadians during the pandemic.

A senior party source said that the cost of the campaign tour in 2021 is less as compared to the previous election years. According to the party, the 2021 Conservative campaign tour cost the party $3.2 million, compared to $5.2 million in 2019 and $8.7 million in 2015.

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