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Letter sent by new Tory leader Erin O’Toole mirrors text on rival MacKay’s website

OTTAWA — A fundraising letter sent by new Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole to party members contains passages identical to sections of his rival Peter MacKay’s campaign website.

The missive to members was sent earlier this month in the wake of O’Toole’s victory over MacKay in the August leadership vote.

Portions of the letter about the impact of COVID-19, O’Toole’s vision for the party and a definition of conservative values all contain the same sentences and phrasing as MacKay’s campaign website. 

Conservative party spokesman Cory Hann says human error is to blame: a contractor hired to write the note drafted one version in the event MacKay won the contest, and one for an O’Toole victory.

Hann says content from the MacKay letter was inadvertently left in when the final version was put together.

O’Toole won the contest with 57 per cent of the available points, compared to MacKay’s 43 per cent.

The two men were perceived as the front-runners during the contest, and ran distinctly different campaigns.

O’Toole’s campaign included ads directly attacking MacKay, whom he sought to paint as “Liberal-lite” compared to O’Toole’s “true blue” credentials. 

MacKay took only a few pointed jabs at his rivals, framing his campaign more in terms of his own vision. 

The portions from MacKay’s website which appear in the O’Toole letter include a paragraph on the impact of COVID-19, and broad-brush comments about conservative values.

“Canada needs Conservative ideas and Conservative solutions that will work in every part of the country,” reads a bolded section on MacKay’s website. 

“Canada needs Conservative ideas and Conservatives solutions that will work in every part of the country,” reads an underlined statement in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press.

Both also share this line: “My vision is to leave an even better Canada to our children and grandchildren.”

Hann said the contract with the third party who wrote the letter is under review. 

“Since winning the leadership Mr. O’Toole has instructed the party to review all vendors and their operations, analyzing both value for money as well as their professional standards, and this vendor is part of this ongoing review process,” he said in an email.

While the letter might have been written in error, it underscores one of the running themes of the now-concluded campaign: how similar the two men are to each other. 

Both come from political families and both were lawyers before entering politics.

Both have connections to the military and veterans’ causes. O’Toole served in the military and was briefly veterans affairs minister while MacKay was defence minister for several years. 

Both also have ties to Nova Scotia. O’Toole did some of his military service and went to university in the province. MacKay is one of the province’s noted political sons, having grown up in and represented a Nova Scotia riding throughout his time in national politics.

MacKay has not ruled out attempting to do again, though would have to first secure O’Toole’s blessing to run as a Conservative candidate in the next election.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published September 29, 2020.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

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