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The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Toronto headquarters.
Erin O’Toole addresses the crowd at a federal Conservative leadership forum during the annual general meeting of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative party in Halifax on Saturday, February 8, 2020. The 2020 Conservative Party of Canada leadership election will be held on June 27, 2020.
The Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone in this picture illustration taken December 2, 2019.
Jim Karahalios pictured with MPP Daisy Wai.
Once again, the story in the Conservative leadership race is about who is not running.
Former cabinet minister John Baird officially ruled himself out of contention after about a week of speculation and encouragement from high-profile Conservatives like Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.
With the Feb. 27 deadline approaching, and a requirement of 1,000 signatures and $25,000 for entry, it will be difficult for anyone new to join the race now. The weeks of speculation and guesswork could be over.
Each week, the National Post will round up the week’s events, point to themes that are emerging, and add other stray notes and observations. Here is this week’s edition of the Conservative leadership notebook.
O’Toole picks a fight with the CBC
Conservative leadership candidate Erin O’Toole is promising to effectively end CBC’s English-language public broadcasting operation, except for radio. But he says he won’t cut Radio-Canada, CBC’s French-language division.
CBC is a popular target during Conservative leadership races, as multiple candidates in the 2017 race had also taken aim at the public broadcaster’s news division. In total, CBC receives $1.2 billion in operating and capital funding from the government each year and adds about $500 million in advertising, subscription fees, and other revenue sources.
O’Toole released a video Friday morning where he promised to cut all funding to CBC’s English-language digital operations, slash the English TV budget by 50 per cent, and aim to privatize the English TV operation by the end of his first mandate in government.
It’s not the first fight O’Toole has picked with the media.
In an interview with the National Post, O’Toole lamented that the Liberal government was overly-influenced by the Toronto Star’s editorial board and he has vowed to reverse the recent bailout for struggling media outlets.
Waging battle on Facebook
Facebook’s advertising library allows for some insight into how the campaigns are advertising and where they are focusing their digital resources.
O’Toole’s campaign spent nearly $4,000 on Facebook ads last week, with a big spend on an ad demanding the government “enforce the law” and stop the ongoing rail blockades. The ad was primarily shown to Facebook users in Alberta and Ontario.
O’Toole has also run a series of issue-based ads that deal with conscience rights, opposition to Liberal gun control plans and the recent government bailout for newspapers. These are all issues that tend to strike a chord with Conservative voters.
O’Toole is also running region-specific ads, with one discussing issues in Newfoundland and Labrador and another one targeted at Quebec, publicizing a recent interview.
Peter MacKay’s campaign spent just under $3,000 last week on Facebook ads, with all of them focusing on his role as a cabinet minister in Stephen Harper’s government and his role in creating the modern Conservative Party. MacKay’s ads focus on Facebook users in Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Both O’Toole and MacKay have been racking up about 70-80,000 impressions on their best ads.
Another candidate soon to jump in?
Jim Karahalios, a well-known activist in Ontario Progressive Conservative circles (and whose wife Belinda is now Cambridge’s MPP), says he’s close to formally entering the federal leadership race.
“We’re at 1400 signatures,” he told the National Post, referring to the party member endorsements that form part of the entry requirements. Karahalios says he plans to submit all his materials in the next few days, which includes a lengthy questionnaire and a $25,000 fee. After that, the party will have to verify that everything’s in order and potentially interview him before he becomes an official candidate.
Karahalios has battled the Ontario PCs on multiple fronts over the years; he launched a campaign against the carbon tax proposal by former Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown, and alleged that many party nomination contests were run illegally. More recently, Karahalios ran for Ontario PC party president, didn’t win, and then sued the party over allegations of “ballot stuffing” against him.
If he gets in, Karahalios will be running an anti-establishment campaign firmly on the right-wing side of the party. He acknowledged he still has a steep hill to climb to get to the $300,000 needed to get access to the party’s membership list and get onto the final ballot.
“I believe that this party establishment is totally offside with the membership and the voters,” he said. “They have made it challenging by instituting rules that would make it hard for an outsider and a grassroots candidate to raise the money in time.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020