Politics

RCMP 'examining' claim MacKay team stole data from O'Toole campaign as Toronto police confirm 'mischief' probe

The RCMP says it is examining a claim that the campaign team for Conservative leadership candidate Peter MacKay stole confidential data from rival candidate Erin O'Toole.

MacKay campaign alleges O'Toole published call in which MacKay said he'd make big carbon emitters pay

The campaign team for Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Erin O'Toole, left, is accusing the team of rival candidate Peter MacKay of stealing confidential campaign information. (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press)

The RCMP says it is examining a claim that the campaign team for Conservative leadership candidate Peter MacKay stole confidential data from rival candidate Erin O'Toole.

"The RCMP is examining this matter carefully with all available information and will take appropriate actions as required," said a statement from the Mounties issued Monday.

Today, the Toronto Police Service confirmed that "an investigation into mischief in relation to the data is ongoing and we are working with colleagues from the RCMP."

O'Toole claimed Friday evening that MacKay campaign organizer Jamie Lall was involved in the "theft of confidential O'Toole campaign data and strategy," including "Zoom video conferences ... confidential campaign strategy video conferences" and recordings of video conferences with Conservative Party members.

According to a letter from O'Toole's campaign to the RCMP, OPP and the Toronto Police Service — obtained by CBC News and first reported on by the National Post — the O'Toole team claims it first discovered private information was stolen when Radio-Canada published a story on June 15 that contained an excerpt of O'Toole speaking with Quebec social conservatives on a video call.

In that video, which was emailed to Radio-Canada anonymously, O'Toole says (mostly in French) that party members supporting socially conservative candidates should consider him for their second choice.

Many saw a failure to find the right tone and positions on social issues such as abortion and LGBTQ2 rights as a key flaw in Andrew Scheer's 2019 election campaign.

Watch: Conservative strategist Andrew Brander says Erin O'Toole camp's accusations politically motivated:

Conservative strategist Andrew Brander says the Erin O'Toole camp's accusation of theft by Peter MacKay's campaign should be taken seriously, even if it could be politically motivated. 5:47

"After the leak, the campaign launched an investigation to determine how the video was obtained by [the] media," says the letter to police from the O'Toole campaign.

"Our investigation uncovered that [there] were numerous unauthorized instances where access to our private and security accounts had occurred and where sensitive information owned by the campaign was illegally accessed, downloaded, and seemingly disseminated."

The letter goes on to allege that Lall persuaded a person — whose name is redacted in the letter — to download private video calls and share them with the MacKay campaign. It alleges that Lall met in person with someone — who it does not name or specify is the same person — and at that meeting was given login credentials and passwords by that unnamed person.

The letter does not explain how the person or persons obtained the login information or passwords. 

"It appears Mr. Lall then shared said login credentials and passwords with other MacKay campaign officials in Toronto, Ontario, where the O'Toole accounts were again accessed and further data downloaded."

MacKay spokesperson Chisholm Pothier told CBC News Tuesday that the O'Toole team sent its confidential passwords and logins to more than 300 MPs and their political staffers — something Pothier said was done "negligently and with no reasonable expectation of privacy."

"This, we think, makes it clear that this entire episode is nothing more than a desperate political ploy to change the channel after a very bad week for the O'Toole campaign," Pothier said.

O'Toole demands 'multi-jurisdictional police investigation'

The letter says that, according to security logs, some 138 Zoom video calls in English and another seven in French were accessed by the same IP address in midtown Toronto.

"Our campaign takes the position that such downloading of material constitutes theft of commercially and politically sensitive data that we want preserved and returned," the letter says.

The O'Toole team is asking for a "multi-jurisdictional police investigation."

Jordan Paquet, a spokesperson for the MacKay campaign, told CBC News by email that O'Toole's team has failed to give the MacKay team documentation to back up its accusations.

"We cannot comment on documentation that we have not seen," Paquet said. "The MacKay campaign is not in possession of any such documents, has made no attempt to obtain possession of any such information, and has leaked nothing of the sort to Radio Canada or any other entity."

Paquet goes on to suggest the O'Toole team accessed calls made by MacKay and published them.

Paquet cited an audio recording of MacKay that was posted on O'Toole's YouTube channel in which MacKay says he supports putting a price on pollution for big emitters in Canada in order to meet international climate change commitments.

Lall has responded to the allegations on Twitter with a short statement: "Not a single word of this is true."

With files from the Canadian Press

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