Did Conservative Party of Canada leader Erin O'Toole touch up his latest cover photo? VICE World News investigates. Photo via Conservative Party of Canada
A day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a snap election in Canada, the country’s official opposition Conservative Party dropped its platform, a hefty 83-page document with a startling cover photo: Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole, in a tight navy T-shirt that accentuates his pecs. Under his rippled chest and bulky, crossed arms, it reads, “The Man with the Plan”—emphasis on man.
Trudeau has long been known for his good hair and Disney Prince looks, with Vogue even naming him one of the sexiest “unconventional” men alive in 2015. But O’Toole is clearly showing he’s not to be outdone. Keen spectators, including those of us at VICE World News, started to wonder: Has O’Toole, the 48-year-old family man, been hitting the gym? Or did someone, somewhere, touch up the pic to make him look swole? And if so… why?“He looks good, first of all,” said top OnlyFans creator and influencer Isabella James, known as Baby Girl Bella, who specializes in content creation and branding. “My thought is that he is trying to appeal to a younger audience… a hip, healthy crowd because it's ‘in’ right now to be healthy.”“On one hand, you want a politician to be real, down to earth—it may not come off like that when you're photoshopped like that, well, you know, allegedly. But maybe people want a fantasy,” she said. When James did a cursory scan of O’Toole’s photos online, she said the party platform pic “looks puffed a little bit.”
This isn’t even the first time an image of O’Toole looking ripped has gone semi-viral. Who could forget this picture—tweeted out by the man himself—where his left thigh and calf muscles look like an Arnold Schwarzenegger cutout? The photo, posted on June 30, shows the political candidate out for a run, wearing a red shirt that says “Believe in Canada.” James was quick to notice that O’Toole’s torso looks decidedly smaller in that pic than in the beefy one shared on Monday.
The Conservative Party did not respond to VICE World News requests for comment—unsurprising, according to Glenn Honiball, a Toronto-based Photoshop expert and founder and owner of Retouch.ca.“No one is going to admit to that,” Honiball said.According to two Photoshop professionals, it’s hard to say whether the latest O’Toole cover was touched up to enhance muscle mass. We’d either need to compare the published version with the original photograph, which we don’t have, or compare it to several recent and high-quality pictures of O’Toole, they said. “It’d be interesting to get shots where O’Toole’s not posing, where he's caught off guard—not one where he is flexing and pushing his chest out,” Honiball said. “I would find it hard to believe that they took this photo and said, ‘Yup, that’s beautiful.’”Robert Müller, a production manager with Digital Media Technology out of Bangkok, Thailand, thinks some retouching is visible. “What we definitely can see is that there was retouching on this picture,” he said.
On the lower right-hand side of the image, under the word “PLAN,” O’Toole’s stomach is slightly fuzzy, while the background is sharp and in focus. “That shows us that this is probably not the original background,” Muller said. Honiball confirmed that spot “looks retouched.”Normally, “anything that is shot at the same depth will have the same sharpness all along—it wouldn’t go slightly softer,” Honiball said.
Müller said it’s possible that O’Toole’s team blurred some forehead wrinkles, too. “On many Google Images we can see some lines on his forehead,” Müller said. “These are gone.”
Of course, “all things here are NOT binding,” Müller said.“It could be that there was more retouching involved than we even see,” Müller said in a statement. “But we can’t say for 100 percent sure that the muscles have been edited.”Retouching is pretty common; many people, men and women, want to look their best in photographs, Honiball said. (Who among us hasn’t played around with Instagram filters?) When it comes to O’Toole’s fancy new pic, though, “I can't say for sure,” Honiball said. “Maybe he legitimately has been working out secretly over the last little while.”As an influencer, James doesn’t totally buy it.“If he was really working out and trying to get that vibe out there, he’d mention it,” James said. Whatever vibe O’Toole is trying to put out there, it’s hard to say. But we’ll update with his comment if we hear back.Follow Anya Zoledziowski on Twitter.