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Conservatives’ post-election report gives mixed reviews on O’Toole’s performance: source

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Erin O’Toole’s performance on the 2021 campaign trail received mixed reviews in an election post-mortem being presented to Conservative MPs Thursday morning.

O’Toole is fighting to hold onto the party leadership after disappointing results in last year’s federal election, which saw the Conservatives lose ground compared to their 2019 results.

Read more: O’Toole faces divided caucus as retreat begins with leadership questions looming

Part of that effort to remain at the helm was commissioning a report by James Cumming, who lost his Alberta seat in the 2021 campaign, to look at where the party fell short.

A summary of that report is being shared with the Conservative caucus in Ottawa Thursday morning. A Conservative source with direct knowledge of the findings told Global News there was “positive and negative feedback” about O’Toole’s own performance.

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The source, who agreed to discuss the findings on the condition they not be named, said the consensus was that O’Toole did a “good job in the first few weeks” of the campaign – when the party enjoyed a lead in national polls – but by the end, he was “over-coached and over-managed” and “couldn’t be himself” on the trail.

The overwhelming consensus, according to the source, was that O’Toole needed to spend more time on the road and less in his custom-built downtown Ottawa broadcast studio.

“People felt the leader was better with crowds than he was in the studio,” the source acknowledged, calling O’Toole a “different guy on the road” than in the studio.

Read more: O’Toole says $1 million in party funds for downtown election studio was money well spent

The report also found fault with the Conservatives’ data campaign capabilities and digital messaging – both operations O’Toole’s team farmed out to foreign consulting firms.

According to the source, Cumming recommended the Conservatives scrap CIMS – their voter management database that once gave the party a significant advantage over the Liberals – and build up modern data campaigning capabilities in-house. A second source told Global News the CIMS recommendation was unrelated to the work done by Stack Data Strategy, a UK-based consulting firm, which assisted in crafting the O’Toole campaign’s strategy.

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Those were among the “dozens and dozens and dozens” of recommendations Cumming suggested to O’Toole. The source said that party leadership has accepted all recommendations.

More to come.

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