OTTAWA — Erin O'Toole, running for the leadership of the federal Conservative party promising to stand up for Canadian workers, used American ones on his campaign.
A U.S. call centre was hired in May by a Canadian vendor the O'Toole campaign uses to contact party members, his campaign confirmed.
"There was one small project where they needed overflow capacity in a short amount of time, and because of a lack of availability of Canadian conservative political call centres (as other campaigns had hired them) the project was sent to an American call centre that could handle the work needed," O'Toole campaign spokesperson Melanie Paradis said in an email.
"Having said that, most of the calls from our campaign to members have been conducted by Canadians."
Paradis said Canadian firms are currently able to fully handle the O'Toole campaign's requirements.
"All of the professional Canadian conservative voter-contact firms that can handle the high volume needed are contracted by the MacKay campaign, putting them in conflict," she said.
O'Toole and Peter MacKay are locked in a fierce battle for top spot in the leadership contest and each side has been slinging mud at the other for weeks.
The MacKay campaign responded swiftly when asked whether it had employed any American labour.
"Our campaign employs Canadians. Every person we are paying to provide a service to the campaign is Canadian. We do not use foreign phone banks to contact voters," spokesman Chisholm Pothier said in an email.
The campaign team for Leslyn Lewis, a third candidate in the race, said they are using a small Canadian company for the limited telemarketing they're doing. The campaign team for Derek Sloan — the fourth candidate — said it has never used American labour.
Election finance records show that in the 2017 leadership race, one of the best-known conservative firms — Responsive Marketing Group — did work for a number of campaigns simultaneously: those of Michael Chong, Kevin O'Leary and Erin O'Toole. Another firm, Elect Right, worked for both Tony Clement and Maxime Bernier.
RMG and Elect Right are doing work for the MacKay campaign this time, his team confirmed.
It's not unprecedented for American firms to be used in Canadian campaign work.
In the 2011 federal election, several Conservative MPs hired the American firm Front Porch to make calls for their campaigns. Jim Ross, who is listed online as a consultant to Front Porch, is on the O'Toole campaign team. He did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Indeed, no political campaign could function these days without using some U.S.-based services, including Facebook and Twitter.
MacKay is using NationBuilder, a well-known American firm that provides platforms for political campaigns to build websites, as well as databases to hold onto voter identification.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh used the company to win his leadership race in 2017 and environmental activists used it to organize during the 2019 federal election campaign.
The O'Toole campaign said it is using a Canadian firm for similar work.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 14, 2020.
Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press