Erin O’Toole enlists Canada Proud founder amid challenge to his leadership

Click to play video: 'O’Toole defends decision to remove Senator Batters from Conservative caucus'
O’Toole defends decision to remove Senator Batters from Conservative caucus
WATCH: Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has now kicked Saskatchewan Sen. Denise Batters out of the party's national caucus, after she launched a petition calling for an immediate leadership review. – Nov 17, 2021

Erin O’Toole has enlisted the creator of the Canada Proud network amid a public challenge to his leadership, Global News has learned.

Jeff Ballingall, the man behind the Canada Proud and Ontario Proud social media networks, has rejoined O’Toole’s team according to multiple sources. The sources agreed to discuss internal Conservative Party strategy on the condition they not be named.

Ballingall will work with the Conservative Party on “election readiness” – a broad mandate that includes working on the party’s outreach efforts and overall electoral strategy.

He had previously worked on O’Toole’s successful 2020 leadership campaign, running a digital strategy that branded the Conservative leader as “True Blue.” But Ballingall is best known as the force behind Ontario Proud and Canada Proud, social media pressure groups that back conservative causes.

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O’Toole has so far resisted making major changes to his team of advisors in the wake of September’s disappointing election results, which saw the party lose ground in key urban and suburban battlegrounds.

A party source told Global News Ballingall’s company, Mobilize Media Group, will continue to work with Canada Proud — which boasts a Facebook following of 354,000 and 24,800 Twitter followers — while being contracted by the Conservative Party. Canada Proud was registered with Elections Canada as a third-party group in September’s federal election.

The Conservative leader is now facing a public – and organized – challenge to his hold on the party, led by Saskatchewan Sen. Denise Batters. O’Toole turfed Batters from the Conservative caucus Tuesday night over her challenge to his leadership.

“It was a necessary decision to make for the wellbeing of our caucus,” O’Toole told reporters Wednesday.

“We’re focused on three things: the economy, which is drifting out of control, a corrupt and cover-up prone Liberal government, and a professional approach to dealing with the pandemic. Anyone who is not on that page, who is not putting the team and the country first, will not be part of this team.”

Click to play video: 'O’Toole defends decision to remove Senator Batters from Conservative caucus'
O’Toole defends decision to remove Senator Batters from Conservative caucus

Batters, who said O’Toole expelled her via a voicemail, shot back at the Conservative leader Wednesday morning.

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“Seemingly, Mr. O’Toole cannot ‘tolerate’ criticism. After the election, I raised my concerns with Mr. O’Toole directly. He did not respond and he did not act,” Batters wrote in a statement.

“I then asked publicly that our members have a voice. His response now is to kick me out … If Mr. O’Toole is certain that the members of our party support the new direction in which he is taking our party, he should have nothing to fear by facing our members democratically in an expedited confidence vote.”

Batters’ expulsion is certain to inflame the anti-O’Toole faction in caucus, including those who were directly or indirectly supporting her petition efforts. Global News reported Monday that sources say the petition is part of a “multi-step” plan to oust O’Toole, expected to roll out over the next three to six months.

Global News confirmed O’Toole’s office believes they have at least 70 MPs willing to expel any caucus colleague that doesn’t support his continued leadership – a fact leaked to the media Tuesday night ahead of Batters’ expulsion.

O’Toole and his team would like to put the matter behind them ahead of next week’s return of the House of Commons, and try to shift the party’s focus from infighting to Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government.

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It remains to be seen if their party – and the anti-O’Toole faction within caucus – will let them.

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