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Conservatives offer media less access to Andrew Feather's campaign tour

The Conservative Party offers media organizations a dramatically reduced price to cover the campaign of party leader Andrew Feather – a fee that is slightly less for the entire election period than the party charged two weeks in 2015.

The $ 11,500 price tag is intended to encourage the media to report to journalists during the leader's tour at a time when many news organizations are facing serious economic challenges.

"Obviously we will get our message across the country," Scheer said Monday during a stop in St. Catharines, Ont. "We have a great story to tell and we want to make sure we get that story out to the Canadians in as many ways as possible."

The leader's tour is a major part of modern political campaigns. In the past, major media outlets charged journalists on such tours, to cover every rally and protest and to document every leader's statement and stumble.

But as the number of media outlets dwindled, and as the cost of appointing reporters to follow every leader of the campaign lasting at least five weeks increased, so did the number of "on the bus" journalists.

But is the offer, it seems, a reduced price for journalists, breaking any election laws? Is it a party subsidy or just good marketing by a savvy campaign team?

No discount: Conservatives

Conservative Party spokesman Cory Chan said the campaign does not offer a discount to the media – it is the basis of the price it charges for what it would cost these places to keep up with the leader's own journeys.

"We calculated how much the journalist would spend on touring in the most obvious and economically feasible way, namely flight and bus transits, plus buying Wi-Fi on buses and planes when available and meals when flying over regular time. for a meal, "Jan wrote in an email to CBS 'Katie Simpson.

"So our price is a reflection of that, and even though it goes into less of its previous campaigns, it is far from subsidized travel because the plane will fly, the bus will operate, whether there is someone on the seat or not."

How do conservatives keep the price so low? The new Democrats intend to charge the media $ 40,500 for the right to travel with leader Agathmet Singh.

Prime Minister Justin Justin Trudeau shakes hands with conservative leader Andrew Heather as he walks through the crowd during Tintamare in honor of the National Day of the Academic and World Academic Congress in Dipep, NB, Thursday, August 15, 2019. (Mark Baba / Canadian Press)

The Liberals have yet to set their price on Justin Trudeau's tour, but party spokesman Brownen Kale said they were also working to keep costs as low as possible.

In 2015, when the election campaign lasted about twice as long as the usual 37-day campaign, conservatives charged media organizations $ 70,000 to cover the entire campaign. The Liberals and the NDP each charged about $ 50,000.

That striking difference raises the question of whether media organizations have in the past been overburdened – or are they now subsidized.

CBC spokesman Jacques Thompson said the broadcaster would not accept a party subsidy for campaign spending.

"Given what we have heard from the Federal Conservative Party, CBC News is considering the possibility of a price difference between the 2015 campaign against this one," he said.

Other media did not respond to questions from CBC News.

Election laws in Canada do not prohibit campaigns from subsidizing media. But Canada's election spokeswoman Natasha Gautier said the campaigns had been revised – and the political party would be required to report them as election costs for the difference between the actual costs of covering the leader's tour and the reduced pay.

An element of trust

"They have to say how much money they spent on the trip for the leader and the campaign. The parties are responsible for making sure they report all their expenses and contributions under Canadian election law and stay within limits, "she said.

But there is an element of trust involved. The financial statements that each party must submit after the campaign include only a leaderboard item. There is no detailed overview explaining where the money comes from.

Similarly, political parties will have to ask for any amount above the actual price as a campaign donation from a single reporter, as corporate donations are illegal. Gautier said he was unaware of such submissions.

Longtime conservative strategist Chad Rogers said the party's costs of facilitating media coverage can vary widely – depending on the size of the plane being rented, the number of oncoming passengers and the number of buses involved, plus the cost of responding to reporters. with workstations and the number of political officers assigned to carry out advanced work, handle luggage or reserve hotel rooms used by reporters to submit their stories.

Usually, each party will have at least two or three bus fleets operating in different parts of the country during the campaign.

Rogers also said a fixed election date allows parties to negotiate better deals for both planes and buses.

"Every party seeks to recover costs and ideally the campaign wants to spend as little as possible on everything it does not advertise," he said.

Former NDP strategist Kathleen Monk said there is concern that conservatives appear to be paying far less than other campaigns, especially given the importance of media coverage of the leaders' tour.

"We know that buying advertising campaigns costs millions and millions of dollars, not just to produce them, but to put them on different media channels," she said. "But the media they earn in the campaign are priceless."

There is no doubt that the Conservatives have a significant advantage in raising campaign funds. The party raised more than $ 24.3 million in 2018, compared to $ 16.5 million raised by the Liberals and just under $ 2 million by the NDP.

But spending restrictions during the campaign period are the same no matter how much money a party has, effectively eliminating any advantage for conservatives.

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