All Of The Conservative Donations Made By The New Owners Of The Toronto Star
News Brief

All Of The Conservative Donations Made By The New Owners Of The Toronto Star

Maxime Bernier, Doug Ford among those who've received financial support from Torstar's new owners

Just before 8:00 Tuesday evening, Torstar sent out a news release announcing its own sale. After years of its share price and management flailing in full view of the public, the TSX-listed company that publishes the Toronto Star, Hamilton Spectator, and dozens of other newspapers will be taken private in a $52 million deal.

The new owners? A recently established company called NordStar Capital LP, registered in Manitoba less than a month ago, with the Toronto office of law firm Norton Rose Fulbright as its official address. The domain was registered on Sunday afternoon, with as the email contact.

Tuesday’s news was accompanied by a glossy website, whose home page states four times that NordStar intends to retain the Star‘s “commitment to progressive positions and fearless journalism.” The press kit neatly packages NordStar principals Jordan Bitove and Paul Rivett with bios, portraits, and (almost) perfectly trimmed sound bites. If you want to know who Bitove and Rivett are, there’s plenty of info there about how they, respectively, helped found the Raptors and ran Fairfax Financial. (Ubiquitous crisis-management/PR/lobbying firm Navigator provided NordStar with “strategic counsel,” according to a release.)

They’re the exact kind of people you’d imagine buying the Toronto Star. Except one thing.

The Star has long been a capital-L Liberal publication, a rare bar of warm tones amid a block of blue, with the kinds of connections that saw its last publisher become a Liberal-appointed consul general to Chicago; the publisher before that, the Liberal-appointed president of Ontario’s Pan Am Games bid; and the publisher before that, a Liberal-appointed chair of CBC/Radio-Canada. (Current Star publisher and Torstar CEO John Boynton is staying on.)

But Bitove and Rivett are Conservatives, at least as evidenced by their extensive records of political donations over the past decade. Rivett’s recent contributions include the maximum allowable amount to each of three contestants in the Ontario PC Party’s 2018 leadership race, including Doug Ford, as well as the maximum amount to Maxime Bernier for his 2017 bid for leadership of the federal Conservatives. While Bitove has supported the Liberals on a couple occasions — such as when Bill Blair was fighting to take Scarborough Southwest from the NDP — he made the maximum donation to Erin O’Toole’s Conservative leadership campaign just three months ago.

Perhaps for this reason, Bitove and Rivett will be bringing on former Ontario Premier David Peterson, a professional Liberal power-broker, as vice chair of the Star. It’s not immediately clear what his role as the paper’s de facto mascot may entail, but Peterson’s salary will almost certainly remain secret; with Torstar becoming a private company, it will no longer be obligated to disclose the compensation paid out to its executives and board members.

“The powerful voices have enough power,” Peterson says in one of the NordStar clips. “We need people like the Toronto Star, and organs like the Toronto Star, who speak for people that need help in our community.”

Asked on Wednesday morning about the impact the new owners’ political leanings might have on the company, Torstar CEO Boynton told an employee town hall meeting that he hoped their connections across the board could be helpful.

“It’s no doubt that they have strong connections in Ottawa,” he said. “And we would hope that they could start using those connections to help us in Ottawa with some of the systemic issues, especially that we have with FANG — Facebook, Apple, Netflix, and Google — in trying to level the playing field that Canadian companies have dealing with American companies that are treated better than we are.”

Here are the political donations from Paul Rivett and Jordan Bitove recorded in the Elections Canada and Elections Ontario online databases:

Paul Rivett

Recipient: Peter MacKay, Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) leadership contestant
Date: May 29, 2020
Amount: $500.00

Recipient: Maxime Bernier, still raising funds to pay off debts from his 2017 CPC leadership campaign
Date: July 12, 2018
Amount: $1,575.00 (maximum allowable)

Recipient: Doug Ford, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario (PCPO) leadership contestant
Date: 2018
Amount: $1,222.00 (maximum allowable)

Recipient: Christine Elliott, PCPO leadership contestant
Date: 2018
Amount: $1,222.00 (maximum allowable)

Recipient: Caroline Mulroney, PCPO leadership contestant
Date: 2018
Amount: $1,222.00 (maximum allowable)

Recipient: Maxime Bernier, CPC leadership contestant
Date: March 14, 2017
Amount: $1,550.00 (maximum allowable)

Recipient: Conservative Party of Canada
Date: December 22, 2016
Amount: $1,000.00

Recipient: Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario
Date: 2016
Amount: $4,885.00

Recipient: Conservative Party of Canada
Date: March 11, 2015
Amount: $1,500.00 (maximum allowable)

Recipient: Eglinton–Lawrence Conservative Association (whose candidate in that year’s federal election was Joe Oliver)
Date: February 25, 2015
Amount: $1,500.00 (maximum allowable)

Recipient: Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario
Date: 2014
Amount: $200.00

Jordan Bitove

Recipient: Erin O’Toole, CPC leadership contestant
Date: February 24, 2020
Amount: $1,625.00 (maximum allowable)

Recipient: Caroline Mulroney, PCPO leadership contestant
Date: 2018
Amount: $1,222.00 (maximum allowable)

Recipient: Scarborough Southwest Federal Liberal Association (whose candidate in the ongoing election was Bill Blair)
Date: September 22, 2015
Amount: $1,000.00

Recipient: Barrie–Innisfil Conservative Electoral District Association (whose candidate in the following year’s federal election was John Brassard)
Date: April 10, 2014
Amount: $417.94

Recipient: Chris Collenette, contesting the Liberal Party of Canada nomination for Don Valley East
Date: December 6, 2013
Amount: $1,000.00

Recipient: Halton Conservative Association (whose candidate in the ongoing federal election was Lisa Raitt)
Date: October 14, 2008
Amount: $550.00

Elements of top image via NordStar’s super useful press kit. Post updated on May 27, 2020, at 10:52 p.m. EDT to include Boynton’s comments at the town hall meeting, and again on August 6, 2020, at 9:05 p.m., to include Rivett’s May 29 donation to Peter MacKay’s leadership campaign and clarify that Bitove’s February 24 CPC donation went to Erin O’Toole’s.

Latest Stories