Conservative Leadership Campaign Paid ‘Anti-Mask’ Group Leader To Sell Party Memberships
Elections Canada filings show Roman Baber hired anti-mask leader Vladislav Sobolev to work as a recruiter for his leadership campaign
One of Canada’s top “anti-mask” organizers was quietly paid thousands of dollars by the Conservative leadership campaign of Roman Baber to act as a recruiter and sell party memberships.
Baber, a former Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP who placed fourth in the leadership race that saw Pierre Poilievre crowned leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, is currently seeking the party’s nomination in the federal riding of York-Centre.
According to leadership campaign expenses filed with Elections Canada, Baber’s campaign paid $5,000 to Vladislav Sobolev for expenses coded as “salaries, wages and consulting fees.”
Sobolev is the founder of the anti-mask group “Hugs Over Masks” and describes himself as the “one of the original Freedom Warriors from April 2020.” Sobolev was often found at the centre of controversy during the pandemic, repeatedly cited in news stories as a key anti-mask influencer and spreader of COVID-19 misinformation.
Bathusa Baskararajah, spokesperson for Baber’s Conservative nomination campaign, confirmed to PressProgress that Baber’s leadership campaign hired Sobolev, describing the anti-mask activist as a “memberships seller.”
Sobolev did not respond to multiple requests for comment from PressProgress.
While Sobolev was openly supportive of Baber’s leadership campaign, the anti-mask activist’s past social media postings do not explicitly disclose details of any financial relationship between Sobolev and Baber’s leadership campaign.
In April 2022, Sobolev’s “We Are All Essential” anti-lockdown group hosted a special “town hall” meeting with Baber over Zoom that directed the group’s supporters to a sign-up page that collected their names and email addresses.
A month later in May 2022, “We Are All Essential” posted an “urgent call to action” endorsing Baber’s leadership campaign and calling on the group’s supporters to buy $15 Conservative Party memberships.
“It has become increasingly clear to Canadians who is best suited to defend Canada from the communist / Marxist ideology propagated by the corrupt NDP / Liberal government currently in power,” Sobolev wrote, going on to praise Baber for speaking out against “lockdowns and vaccine mandates long before it became popularized by the trucker convoy to Ottawa.”
“Whether you vote for Roman Baber or another freedom-dedicated candidate, please invest one minute of your time and a mere $15 to become a member of the Conservative Party so that you may cast your vote in the upcoming leadership election.”
The posting noted that “WeAreAllEssential.ca has personally worked with Roman Baber since January 2021,” although it did not make explicit any financial relationship between Sobolev and Baber’s leadership campaign at the time.
During a September 6, 2022 livestream video four days before the leadership vote, Sobolev told his audience that he did not personally vote for Baber because he did not receive a ballot, but helped out in other ways.
“I’ve been supporting Roman since day one, he was joining some of We Are Essential’s Zoom calls in the beginning of the initiatives,” Sobolev said. “I would love for Roman to win 100%.”
“I personally did not get my ballot,” Sobolev noted, but said “I did what I could to support Roman in any way.”
In his September 10, 2022 leadership victory speech, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre personally thanked Baber for “standing up for and making sacrifices for freedom for everybody.”
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