Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Erin O’Toole speaks during the English debate in Toronto on Thursday, June 18, 2020. A Conserative MP from Calgary has fired a summer student working in his office in connection with allegations that someone stole campaign data from party leadership contender O’Toole. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

Tory MP fires student after allegation of theft from O’Toole campaign

Student allegedly downloaded campaign information, passed some of that along to the MacKay campaign

A Conservative MP from Calgary has fired a summer student working in his office following allegations that someone stole campaign data from party leadership contender Erin O’Toole.

Greg McLean — one of dozens of MPs who have endorsed O’Toole — made the announcement in a terse statement Tuesday morning.

“Upon learning of a breach of trust involving a summer student in my office, I immediately took action and the individual was terminated,” McLean said.

“This matter is entirely regrettable.”

McLean’s office confirmed the firing was in connection with allegations by the O’Toole campaign that first surfaced publicly late Friday night: that rival Peter MacKay’s campaign hacked into a trove of confidential campaign information and broke the law.

The MacKay campaign has denied the allegations and said Tuesday the fact that an MP’s summer student was involved raises new questions about whether O’Toole’s campaign is improperly using House of Commons resources on his leadership bid.

READ MORE: Peter MacKay campaign dismisses O’Toole team’s theft allegation

O’Toole had previously been scrutinized for using his parliamentary email address to facilitate campaign endorsements, as has one of his supporters, Sen. Leo Housakos.

“Given Mr. McLean’s statement today, this is looking more like a story of the O’Toole campaign’s negligence rather than the sinister attack on their internal information they are trying to allege,” MacKay campaign spokesman Jordan Paquet said in an email.

“The only leaks seem to be from inside the O’Toole campaign so, as we’ve said before, they might be better off talking to their volunteers and staff rather than using police resources for their campaign’s benefit.”

The RCMP and the Toronto Police have acknowledged receipt of a complaint from the O’Toole team.

“An investigation into mischief in relation to data is ongoing and we are working with colleagues from the RCMP,” Toronto police Const. Michelle Flannery said in an email Tuesday.

A copy of the June 19 letter sent by the O’Toole campaign to police was obtained by The Canadian Press.

The letter was partially redacted, with the covered-up portions including the detail that the original source of the alleged hack was traced to a student working in an MP’s office.

After McLean issued his statement Tuesday, the O’Toole campaign confirmed a student had been involved but had no comment on McLean’s decision to let a person go.

The campaign alleges the student got access to the log-in data for the O’Toole campaign’s Zoom account, the digital conferencing platform in widespread use due to the physical distancing requirements of COVID-19.

The student allegedly downloaded campaign information, passed some of that along to the MacKay campaign and then shared the log-in information itself with that team.

Though O’Toole’s campaign redacted the identity of the student in their complaint, they did name one of the senior MacKay people they allege was on the receiving end of the information: Alberta organizer Jamie Lall.

After news broke of the allegations, Lall posted a message on Twitter saying not a word of it was true. He did not return a request for comment on Tuesday. The MacKay campaign says he remains a volunteer.

O’Toole’s campaign would not say on the record why they named Lall but not the student.

MacKay could also face sanction from the Conservative Party should the allegations be verified.

Each candidate must pay a $100,000 compliance deposit to enter the race, and the party reserves the right to subtract fines if they take any actions deemed in conflict with the leadership race rules.

The O’Toole campaign said while it had provided a summary of the issue to the leadership organizing committee, the issue is far more serious than an internal party matter.

“In the era of campaigning during COVID-19, our campaign office exists online. Our boardroom is Zoom. So many of our internal meetings, strategy sessions, etc. take place in that boardroom” said Melanie Paradis, a spokesperson for the campaign.

“This is the 2020 equivalent of breaking into the campaign office and bugging the boardroom. “

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Conservative Party of Canada

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

John Horgan meets with Lieutenant Governor to request vote

Cariboo North MLA ‘deeply disappointed’ in early election call

Coralee Oakes says there has been unprecedented co-operation in Victoria during the pandemic

Quesnel RCMP respond to three gun-related calls, including drive-by shooting, in five days

Sgt. Richard Weseen says the Quesnel RCMP has seized more than 17 firearms in the month of September

Williams Lake First Nation inks historic cannabis deal with B.C. government

The agreement paves the way for WLFN to sell cannabis to the government, and open stores across B.C.

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

RCMP issue two $2,300 COVID fines at same Metro Vancouver vacation rental within 24 hours

Cpl. Mike Kalanj said it was ‘quite frankly appalling’ to see parties breaking COVID-19 rules

Here’s how voting amid a pandemic will happen in B.C.

Elections BC has worked with the provincial health office to determine safety protocols for voting

B.C. privacy commissioner will hear First Nations complaints about COVID

The hearing will rely on written submissions from the Indigenous governments as well as the Ministry of Health

Majority of Canadians support wearing masks during COVID-19, oppose protests: poll

Nearly 90 per cent felt wearing a mask was a civic duty because it protects others from COVID-19

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Paper towel in short supply as people stay home, clean more, industry leader says

While toilet paper consumption has returned to normal levels, paper towel sales continue to outpace pre-COVID levels

Group wants Parliament, courts to hold social media to same standard as publishers

Daniel Bernhard made the comments shortly after Friends of Canadian Broadcasting released a research paper

Most Read