Erin O’Toole accuses Peter MacKay of stealing campaign info, calls for police probe

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Following the second debate between the four Conservative leadership hopefuls, Peter MacKay and Erin O'Toole remain the front runners. David Akin looks at the major moments from the first English-language debate – Jun 19, 2020

Conservative leadership candidate Erin O’Toole has accused his rival Peter MacKay’s campaign of stealing confidential data from the O’Toole campaign, and is calling for a police investigation into the allegations.

MacKay’s campaign has since called the allegations “a desperate, last ditch strategy” after this week’s debates and ahead of party members choosing their next leader later this summer.

In a statement released Friday evening, the O’Toole campaign said it is filing a formal complaint and request for the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police and Toronto Police Service to investigate “the theft of Zoom video conferences, including confidential campaign strategy video conferences, and of video conferences with Conservative Party members across Canada.”

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The complaint, which names senior MacKay organizer Jamie Lall, comes after the O’Toole campaign said it discovered its systems had been hacked earlier this week, prompting an internal investigation.

That investigation allegedly discovered that Lall had obtained confidential log-in information for the O’Toole campaign on June 5. The campaign alleged that multiple downloads were detected over the past two weeks in both Calgary, where Lall is based, and Toronto.

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O’Toole’s campaign said its “thorough and clinical” investigation included “data collection and in-person interviews,” all of which will be handed over to police.

“We call on Peter MacKay and his team to immediately return and delete any stolen data or videos currently in the possession of staff and volunteers,” the campaign’s statement said, while calling for “the immediate termination of all involved in this potentially criminal action from [the MacKay] campaign.”
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Conservative leadership race unchanged as MacKay, O’Toole remain frontrunners following debate – Jun 18, 2020

MacKay campaign spokesperson Chisholm Pothier told Global News the allegations were “mildly amusing” at the end of “a bad week for the O’Toole campaign.”

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“It is not surprising that this is a tactic being trotted out the same week that Erin O’Toole performed very poorly in the debates in front of Party members and Canadians,” he said in a statement.

“Their campaign telegraphed immediately after the debates that they had given up on their unity message and were going to tear down their opponents as a desperate, last ditch strategy.”

Lall later wrote on Twitter, “Not a single word of this is true.”

The RCMP and OPP did not return requests for comment Friday night.

A Toronto police spokesperson could not comment on the allegations or whether an investigation will be launched, and said a statement may be issued Saturday.

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READ MORE: Four Conservative party leadership contenders face off in 2nd debate

Durham MP O’Toole and MacKay, a former Nova Scotia MP, are considered to be leading the race to replace Andrew Scheer as the Conservative Party’s next leader. Ontario MP Derek Sloan and Toronto lawyer Leslyn Lewis are also running for the leadership.

The allegations come after all four candidates held back-to-back debates in French and English Wednesday and Thursday. The debates are believed to be the final face-offs before ballots are sent to party members early next month.

Party members have until Aug. 21 to cast their leadership votes. The vote, which was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, was originally supposed to be held in late June.

—With files from Nick Westoll

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