'Inappropriate' email to PC members concerns some leadership candidates

The campaign manager for prospective Tory leadership candidate John Lohr is calling for the release of a valuable party email list after someone misused it to endorse another prospective candidate.

'It's important that everyone is on the same level playing field,' says John Lohr's campaign manager

An email endorsement of prospective Tory leadership candidate Tim Houston is drawing criticism because it was sent to a list of party members not accessible by other prospective candidates. (Emma Davie/CBC)

The campaign manager for prospective Tory leadership candidate John Lohr is calling for the release of a valuable party email list after someone misused it to endorse another prospective candidate.

In the lead-up to the party's annual meeting last weekend, candidates for contested party executive positions were provided contacts for the hundreds of people who would be attending the event. Party president Tara Miller said the list was provided "with the direction that it was to be used exclusively for their campaign for the election for the executive."

But on Tuesday, one of those executive candidates, Stephen Taylor, used the list to send a thank you to members for electing him and also endorsed prospective candidate Tim Houston.

'I sincerely do apologize'

Later on Tuesday he sent a subsequent email apologizing for misusing the list after the party received complaints.

"I realize that I made mistake, I sincerely do apologize for sending out the earlier email," he said in the email.

In an interview Wednesday, Taylor said his only intention was to thank his supporters and "clear the air" about his plans to support Houston, whose campaign he stepped back from while running for party executive.

Allison Garber, a spokesperson for Houston's campaign, said they were "absolutely not aware" the email endorsement would be sent, adding Taylor "has no direct role in the campaign."

The five people who have entered the PC leadership race are MLA John Lohr, MLA Tim Houston, Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market executive director Julie Chaisson, MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin and Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Cecil Clarke. (www.johnlohr.ca/Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party/Submitted by Julie Chaisson/CBC/CBC)

Lohr's campaign manager, Steve Outhouse, said it looks like the list was misused to campaign for a candidate.

"We raised our concerns immediately," he said. "It's important that everyone is on the same level playing field and this was to the advantage of one candidate."

Miller said the move was "inappropriate" because it used Taylor's position as an executive member to endorse a candidate and also because the various leadership campaigns won't get access to a full party membership list until they are vetted and approved by the party.

"Access to those members and communication with those members is a valuable piece of information," she said. "We just don't distribute that information to each and every person for any purpose."

Seeking a level playing field

Miller said she'd be meeting with the co-chairs of the leadership committee to discuss what to do next, but said it's too soon to say what might be the result.

"Part of that I would assume will address making sure the playing field for all of the candidates is levelled."

Outhouse said the fair thing to do is give all prospective candidates access to the same email list now.

Privacy concerns

Cecil Clarke's campaign spokesperson, Leah Batstone, said they have "confidence the party will maintain the integrity of the leadership," but also urged the party to investigate if this was a breach of privacy.

"Obviously when people give their information to the party there's an expectation that it will be used appropriately."

Batstone said she didn't think the email list should be provided to anyone until they are approved as candidates.

A spokesperson for prospective candidate Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin declined comment. Julie Chaisson, the other person to declare her intention to run, could not be reached for comment.

About the Author

Michael Gorman

Reporter

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia who covers Province House, rural communities, and everything in between. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca