Erin O’Toole’s team spent more than $ 1 million in party funds to set up and run their election studio in downtown Ottawa, according to multiple sources at Global News.
O’Toole’s pick for the party’s powerful financial adviser, Conservative Fund Chairman James Dodds, was aware of the seven-figure spending to set up and run the studio in the roughly six months leading up to the September election . The Conservative Fund was presented with the studio plans and approved the expenses.
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The elected national council of the party was also “informed” of the expenditure “within the framework of the regular financial reports of the (conservative) Fund”, confirmed a spokesperson for the conservatives.
Around the same time, in early 2021, when the party was setting up the studio, O’Toole’s office also used taxpayer funds to purchase around $ 74,000 in “broadcast and video communications equipment.” although O’Toole’s office denied that any public funds went into supporters. operation of the workshop.
“Our broadcast studio and its associated work desks and media archive room was one of the many innovative ways we decided to run our campaign. This not only gave us the flexibility to reach tens of thousands of Canadians while recognizing the challenges of traveling during a pandemic, it also meant a lower national tour cost which allowed us to invest in other areas. keys to our campaign, ”Cory Hann, the Conservatives’ director of communications, wrote in an email to Global News.
“As with all political parties, election expenses will be disclosed to Elections Canada, and we expect to table ours in the coming weeks. “
The O’Toole team has rented several large conference rooms at the Westin Ottawa, a chic downtown hotel within sight of Parliament Hill ahead of the 2021 campaign.
The party used the space to set up a fully functioning broadcast studio for holding press conferences, organizing city tele-hotels, and recording videos and fundraising calls for fundraisers. federal election of 2021.
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Until now, members of the Conservative Party were unaware of the cost of the studio.
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Several sources told Global News the price was north of $ 1 million. The sources were not authorized to speak officially and Global News agreed to protect their identities. The Conservative Party has not confirmed the full cost of the studio, but a party source did not dispute Global’s information on Thursday.
A senior O’Toole campaign official, who had no direct knowledge of the final price, nevertheless said the cost of the studio 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 are conferences (due to COVID-19) so the hotel was happy to do business, ”the source said.
“(But) that would have been a significant cost.”
The broadcast studio was designed by Dan Robertson, O’Toole’s chief strategist in the Tory leadership race and the 2021 general election. Sources told Global News that Robertson advocated that O’Toole spends more time in the broadcast studio during the campaign. Other members of O’Toole’s campaign team have pleaded for the leader to spend more time traveling the country.
Robertson declined Global’s interview request on Thursday.
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At the same time the party was setting up the Westin broadcast studio, publicly available documents show that O’Toole’s office spent about $ 74,000 in taxpayer dollars to purchase “video communications equipment and broadcast ”.
A spokesperson for O’Toole’s office said no public money was spent on establishing the Westin studio.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, video and broadcast equipment such as cameras, lights and microphones have been purchased and used by the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Conservative Caucus to virtually communicate with Canadians and stakeholders, ”wrote Josie Sabatino, O’Toole’s communications director, in a statement to Global News.
According to a Global News analysis of publicly available expense records, O’Toole’s office billed taxpayers $ 68,998.36 for communications, audiovisual and telecommunications equipment and services in the months that followed O’Toole’s assumption of the helm.
That number rose to $ 245,141 when the party was setting up the Westin studio, and to $ 122,491.90 in the months leading up to the September election.
Sources told Global News that the party is also modernizing the offices in the West Block of O’Toole during these months, so that the Conservative leader will carry his messages to Canadians during the pandemic.
A party source said the 2021 election campaign tour cost less than in previous election years. According to the party, the Tories’ 2021 campaign tour cost it $ 3.2 million, up from $ 5.2 million in 2019 and $ 8.7 million in 2015.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.