Conservative MP Erin O’Toole is once again gunning for the party’s helm and supporting him is a familiar team of experienced hands, including national campaign manager Fred DeLorey. But this year’s race is unlike any other, being waged amid the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting physical distancing restrictions. “No one has ever run a campaign during a pandemic, at least in my lifetime. There’s no path in the campaign manager manual on what to do,” Mr. DeLorey told The Hill Times. “However, our team has been incredibly nimble and able to adjust on the fly in terms of our approach and how we’re communicating with members, and Erin is continuing to work night and day talking to Conservatives across Canada through video conferencing and telephones.” The Conservative leadership race officially resumed on April 29, after suspending in late March due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Originally, the party planned to announce its new leader at a convention in Toronto on June 27. Now, a deadline of Aug. 21 has been set for mail-in ballots to be counted, and the party has said the “result will be announced as soon as those ballots can be properly processed and examined by scrutineers while respecting any health guidelines in place at that time.” The race officially began on Jan. 13, a month after outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.) announced he would step down following 2019's disappointing election result. Mr. O’Toole, who’s been the MP for Durham, Ont., since 2012, officially announced he would make a second run for leadership on Jan. 27. A former officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force, he also briefly served as veterans affairs minister under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in 2015. Mr. O’Toole came third behind Mr. Scheer and then-Conservative MP Maxime Bernier in 2017 and is the only one of that year's large, 14-candidate slate to have returned for a second attempt. Maxime Bernier, Erin O'Toole, and Andrew Scheer are pictured at the 2017 Conservative leadership convention in Toronto. Behind Mr. O'Toole, pictured right, is Mélanie Paradis, who is once again backing Mr. O'Toole, this time as one of three deputy campaign managers. The Hill Times file photograph As with a majority of Canadians, the pandemic has pushed the work of campaigning almost entirely online. For the O’Toole campaign team, it’s made little difference day to day, according to Mr. DeLorey. The campaign never had a physical headquarters office, he said—calling them a “thing of the past for leadership races”—and in turn, the team was already doing much of its work virtually. “We were all operating remotely anyways in different places of the country, so we’re just continuing to do that,” he said. Mr. DeLorey, who was political operations director of the Conservative Party from 2013 to 2015, is running the campaign from Ottawa. Fred DeLorey is Mr. O'Toole's national campaign manager. Photograph courtesy of LinkedIn He ran the show for Mr. O’Toole back in 2017, and said he signed up to do the same—albeit, with hopes of a definitively different outcome—after connecting with Mr. O’Toole at a Christmas party shortly after Mr. Scheer announced his plans to step down in December 2019. A Nova Scotia native, Mr. DeLorey has been managing partner with DesLaurier Public Affairs since 2015, and is also a former Atlantic regional affairs adviser to then-prime minister Stephen Harper and former director of communications for the federal party. The campaign’s original “aggressive” cross-country tour plans have been scrapped as a result of COVID-19 and replaced with a virtual tour that has already seen Mr. O’Toole do “hundreds” of events, from videoconferencing to conference calls to live streams with question-and-answer sessions, said Mr. DeLorey. While “nothing beats actually looking someone in the eye and having a conversation,” he said he’s seen benefits to campaigning virtually, and, with the ability to hit “a lot more ridings,” he predicted that “a lot of the stuff we’re seeing in this campaign” will “become the norm” for future leadership campaigns . “Erin can have a meeting with members in the Yukon tonight and then he can have one earlier in the day with people in Newfoundland, so you can get around and actually talk to more people,” said Mr. DeLorey. “Now that people are using videoconferencing more and more in their daily lives, it’s just become so much easier to set up these types of meetings.” Pandemic aside, the use of digital advertising and outreach methods in general are becoming “more and more important” every election, said Mr. DeLorey, and “that’s something that we’ve put a lot of effort into, and it’s been paying off tremendously.” In charge of the O’Toole campaign’s digital strategy this time around is Jeff Ballingall, founder of Ontario Proud, Canada Proud, and B.C. Proud, as well as the Mobilize Media Group and a co-owner of The Post Millennial, a right-wing news site. Jeff Ballingall is head of digital for Mr. O'Toole's campaign. Photograph courtesy of Jeff Ballingall Ontario Proud threw its weight behind Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives in the 2018 Ontario election, helping to run ads and mobilize voters for the party, which ultimately won a majority, reducing the provincial Liberals to just seven seats. Mr. Ballingall’s third-party network also backed the federal Conservatives in 2019. After Mr. Scheer and party failed to defeat the Trudeau government, Mr. Ballingall was among those behind the Conservative Victory campaign formed last fall to push for a leadership race to be called. He’s also a former content producer with the since-defunct Sun News Network, a former special assistant for communications to then-Western Economic Diversification minister of state Jim Prentice, and a former research and video specialist with the federal Conservative caucus’ research bureau, among other things. Financial reports for the first quarter of 2020, up to March 31, show Mr. O’Toole’s campaign has raised a total of $784,997 so far, with 4,686 separate donations from 4,172 individual donors, after weeding out duplicates, as the CBC’s Eric Grénier did. That tally puts Mr. O’Toole second in fundraising, behind Mr. MacKay, whose campaign reported nearly $1.05-million raised. But Mr. O’Toole leads in donors, with the MacKay camp noting 3,538 donations from 3,393 individuals—a difference of 779 people. “We had an overwhelming number of more donors, which goes to show we have real grassroots support across the country,” said Mr. DeLorey. The majority of donations made to Mr. O’Toole’s campaign in the first quarter came from Ontarians, with 2,066 contributions. Next was Alberta, with 1,177, while 860 came from British Columbia, 162 from Saskatchewan, 155 from Manitoba, 92 from Quebec, 89 from Nova Scotia, 44 from New Brunswick, 19 from Newfoundland and Labrador, 13 from P.E.I., five from the Yukon, three from the Northwest Territories, and one from Nunavut. “There’s a lot that goes into strategy, a lot of targeting that we do … our biggest asset though, at the end of the day, is our candidate, Erin O’Toole,” said Mr. DeLorey, calling his candidate a “True Blue Conservative.” “We have all these tools around him to help push the message, but it’s the message that’s so vital in this campaign and it’s what’s really set us apart, I’d say, from the MacKay campaign.” Mr. DeLorey said a full campaign platform would be released “in due course.” Who's who on Team O'Toole Supporting Mr. DeLorey are three deputy campaign managers: Mélanie Paradis, who’s been tasked with communications; Dan Mader, who’s leading policy development; and Jim Burnett, who’s focused on field operations. Mélanie Paradis is one of three deputy campaign managers for Team O'Toole. Photograph courtesy of LinkedIn Ms. Paradis led communications for Mr. O’Toole in 2017 and went on to do the same for Christine Elliot’s unsuccessful 2018 bid for Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership. She was part of the Ontario PC’s 2018 campaign communications shop, and provided communications support to federal Conservative candidates last fall. Ms. Paradis is currently a vice-president of the Ontario PC Party and a director with McMillan Vantage Policy Group. She’s no doubt in close contact with Mr. O’Toole’s campaign press secretary, Chelsea Tucker, and videographer Jeff Pierce, who’s been producing video content for the federal party in recent years. Dan Mader is leading policy development for Mr. O'Toole's campaign. Photograph courtesy of LinkedIn Mr. Mader, who’s similarly returned for Round 2 after having helped with communications during Mr. O’Toole’s 2017 bid, is a former Harper-era cabinet staff, including as chief of staff to then-associate defence minister Julian Fantino, and has spent the last two years as a partner with Loyalist Public Affairs. Now on Team O’Toole, Mr. Burnett was Ontario campaign chair for Kevin O’Leary’s failed 2017 leadership bid. A former assistant to then-Ontario PC minister Tim Hudak, Mr. Burnett was director of organization for Patrick Brown’s unsuccessful 2015 campaign for Ontario PC leadership and is now a partner with Pathway Group, a government relations and public affairs firm in Toronto. Jim Burnett is another deputy campaign manager. Photograph courtesy of LinkedIn Working closely with Mr. Burnett to recruit, train, and oversee volunteers and organizers across the country are Mr. O’Toole’s director of field operations, David Parker, and chair of field operations, Jim Ross. Mr. Parker is a former assistant to Conservative MPs Shannon Stubbs (Lakeland, Alta) and Ed Fast (Abbotsford, B.C.) and was part of the ground team behind the 2017 campaign to unite Alberta’s Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties. After the United Conservative Party was formed, he was regional organizer for central Alberta for now-Premier Jason Kenney’s successful leadership bid. Mr. Ross has been a senior consultant with ElectRight since 2012, according to his LinkedIn profile, and previously worked on Mr. Brown’s 2015 Ontario PC leadership campaign and on Mr. Hudak’s 2009 leadership bid, among other campaigns. He’s a former assistant to then-Conservative MP Rick Dykstra and was an assistant in Mr. Kenney’s office as then-federal citizenship minister. Tannis Drysdale is Team O’Toole’s Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) chair. She’s been running her own consulting firm for years, and has been involved in a long list of conservative campaigns over the years, including Kellie Leitch’s 2017 leadership campaign, GOTV efforts broadly are much the same as they were last campaign, said Mr. DeLorey, noting that 2017’s race saw the vast majority of voting take place by mail-in ballot ahead of the convention, with only a limited number of polls set up for day-of voting. Walied Soliman, a partner with Norton Rose Fulbright LLP and its Canada chair since 2017, is Mr. O’Toole’s campaign chair, while Dan Robertson is chair of strategy. Mr. Robertson is a former associate director of communications to Mr. Harper as prime minister, a former spokesperson for then-Ontario premier Ernie Eves, and a former director of advertising for the federal party. Until January, he’d spent the last two years as a partner with ONE Persuades, working alongside former Scheer campaign manager Hamish Marshall, among others. Contact Gold’s Riyaz Lalani is also a senior adviser to the campaign, having been a co-chair of Mr. O’Toole’s 2017 bid. Laura Kurkimaki plays a key co-ordinating role as Mr. O'Toole's campaign secretary. Photograph courtesy of LinkedIn Laura Kurkimaki, another former Harper-era cabinet staffer and former issues manager in the PMO, is Mr. O’Toole’s campaign secretary, putting her in charge of ensuring the team stays on task and that communication flows between organizers spread out across the country. She previously worked alongside Mr. DeLorey at Conservative headquarters as a former national outreach co-ordinator and field operations manager for the party. Of late, she’s been busy as a senior public affairs adviser for Payments Canada. Tausha Michaud is principal secretary to Mr. O’Toole. A former senior adviser and acting chief of staff to Mr. O’Toole as veterans affairs minister, she continued working for him as an MP for two years after the 2015 election. She’s currently a director with McMillan Vantage Policy Group in Toronto. Tausha Michaud is principal secretary to Mr. O'Toole on the campaign. Photograph courtesy of LinkedIn Jeffrey Kroeker, a partner with Civis Law LLP in Toronto and former adviser to Mr. Hudak and John Tory as then-Ontario PC leaders, is chief financial officer for the campaign and is in charge of fundraising. He’s also a former director to the secretary of state for foreign affairs during the Harper government’s first mandate, among other past jobs. While her work has moved to digital, Stephanie Dunlop is on board as tour director. An account director with Hill and Knowlton Strategies, she was the lead organizer in the GTA for Mr. O’Toole's 2017 leadership bid and has since spent time as director of appointments and stakeholders to then-Ontario tourism minister Michael Tibollo. Mike Wilson, a lawyer with Goodmans LLP and former chief of staff to Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey (and his predecessor, Caroline Mulroney), is the campaign’s legal counsel. Team O’Toole also includes a roster of regional organizers. In Quebec, that’s led by Conservative MP Alupa Clarke (Beauport-Limoilou, Que.) as chair. Emmanuel Dion-Weiss, who’s been an assistant to Conservative MP Gerard Deltell (Louis-Saint-Laurent, Que.), and Andrew Swidzinski, a former president of the Lac Saint-Louis federal Conservative riding association, are running field operations in the province. To date, Mr. O'Toole is second to Mr. MacKay in endorsements from current and former Parliamentarians and other notable politicians, with a tally of 36 such endorsements, including from 26 current MPs, two Conservative Senators, and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, as of filing deadline. Mr. MacKay had 84 such endorsements as of May 11. Editor’s note: This story was updated on May 22 to correct the number of individual donors who contributed to Erin O’Toole and Peter MacKay’s leadership campaigns. The numbers originally reported as individual donors—4,686 and 3,538, respectively—in fact reflect the number of separate donations, with some people having donated more than once. Adjusting for this, Mr. O’Toole continues to lead in donors, but by a slightly smaller margin, leading by 779 individuals instead of 1,148. The Hill Times apologizes for this error. firstname.lastname@example.org The Hill Times Team O'Toole's endorsements to date:* Alberta MP Garnett Genuis Alberta MP Dane Lloyd Alberta MP Greg McLean Ontario MP Alex Ruff British Columbia MP Cathy McLeod Ontario MP Bruce Stanton British Columbia MP Kenny Chiu Alberta MP Stephanie Kusie Saskatchewan MP Gary Vidal Manitoba MP Larry Maguire Ontario MP Philip Lawrence Ontario MP Michael Barrett Alberta MP Kerry Diotte British Columbia MP Brad Vis Saskatchewan MP Robert Kitchen Manitoba MP Dan Mazier Alberta MP Gerald Soroka Ontario MP David Sweet Alberta MP Martin Shields Saskatchewan MP Warren Steinley Saskatchewan MP Corey Tochor Saskatchewan MP Brad Redekopp Ontario MP Eric Melillo Quebec MP Richard Martel Alberta MP Blake Richards Alberta MP Pat Kelly Quebec Senator Leo Housakos Quebec Senator Judith Seidman Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta David Piccini, Ontario MPP Stacey Hassard, Yukon MLA and Yukon Party interim leader Stan Cho, Ontario MPP Michael Harris, former Ontario premier Alupa Clarke, former Conservative MP Chuck Strahl, former Conservative MP and cabinet minister Christian Paradis, former Conservative MP and cabinet minister * Note: this list is focused on current and former Parliamentarians, and notable provincial and municipal politicians.