On Sunday night, as the Conservative Party of Canada eagerly anticipated the election of a new leader, ballot-opening machinery complicated the process and dragged out the night into the early hours of Monday, eastern time. The election program was slated to take place from 7:00pm to 9:00pm EST, but in reality, conservatives had to wait until shortly after 1:00am EST to learn of their new leader.
In any case, the long night proved to pave the way for a relative surprise with Erin O’Toole winning the opportunity to lead Canada’s Official Opposition and to hopefully rally a Conservative majority government in the near future. The surprise of the race was Peter MacKay’s falling short of anticipated results, specifically on the first ballot. Polling as high as 41% in the final days of the campaign, the former cabinet minister and co-founder of the modern party only managed about 34% of the vote on the first ballot. This campaign was dubbed as a coronation for Mr. MacKay from the outset. As it unfolded, it became anything but a coronation, with Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan placing well above expectations while Peter MacKay just couldn’t muster the foundational support he needed across the party.
Erin O’Toole’s “True Blue Conservative Leadership” proved to prevail, rallying the social conservative wing of the party through the secondary and tertiary ballot support through Derek Sloan and Leslyn Lewis. With the endorsement of Conservative kingmaker and Premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney, O’Toole used Alberta and the West as a springboard for support but also stirred up significant support in Ontario and Quebec.
The Conservatives now have a leader who has been around the block, so to say, of Canadian politics. Erin joined the military in his youth, eventually rising to the rank of Captain in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He’s also worked in the oil and gas industry in Alberta as a pipeline surveyor, which likely played a role in capturing the Western vote in this leadership campaign.
As he has continuously reminded Conservative members, Erin O’Toole is a current MP, allowing him to appropriately hold this faltering government to account as soon as parliament returns to session. Having served as Minister of Veterans Affairs during the final months of the last Harper government, overhauling the portfolio, Erin has experience in the top echelons of government. Since 2015 though, he has been a powerful public champion in opposition – holding the top shadow cabinet role as Foreign Affairs Critic.
As Erin O’Toole builds his new team of opposition critics and advisors, he faces a looming confidence vote when parliament returns from prorogation on September 23rd. It still remains to be seen what kind of approach the new Conservative leadership will take to toppling this irresponsible government, but it’s certain that O’Toole, having once already sought leadership in 2017, is well prepared and ready for the tough and calculated decisions he will have to make as leader of the Official Opposition.
Because he has rallied a strong base of support in Alberta, including the strong endorsement of Premier Jason Kenney, Erin is absolutely the right person to address perhaps the most pressing issue of Canadian unity at the present moment. With the current Liberal administration seizing every opportunity to derail the foundational national industry of natural resources, they have spurned the entirety of Alberta and Saskatchewan. With no support from, and fervent opposition from the governing Liberals, those people and families in Western Canada who depend on the natural resource sector for a living have lost any hope they may have had for a future under this administration.
With rail blockades earlier in the year, the Liberal leadership rejecting all proposals for economic growth and development in the West, and an exodus of foreign investment, Westerners are being isolated and ostracized by the current administration. The sense of despair and isolation in the West has even, unfortunately, prompted the establishment of a “WEXIT” party – overtly marketing themselves as Western separatists but more simply seeking a stronger voice in government that will be heard and acted upon.
As mentioned by outgoing leader, Andrew Scheer, in his final speech in that capacity, party unity is a reality that cannot be taken for granted by the new leader, and must be fostered and addressed often by party leadership. The Conservative Party is the most inclusive party in Canada, which is why each and every faction has to be kept intertwined with common goals and motivations. With progressive conservatives, social conservatives, libertarians, green conservatives, religious conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and all the rest who make up the party, Erin O’Toole now has to prioritize internal party unity so to recognize each wing of the team and to hear them out on the plethora of new and creative ideas they all have.
Looking outside the party from within, there is no doubt that policies must be modernized and refined directionally to the changing national demographics. It is no secret that Conservatives have had trouble making strides in urban and suburban areas since Harper left office. Electoral districts in the most populous centres of Canada are what often decide elections. Namely, the Greater Toronto Area and the Greater Montreal Area have been Liberal and NDP strongholds since Harper left office and now, quite frankly, Erin O’Toole’s rein as leader will largely be defined as whether or not he can haul in those ridings to form a Conservative government once again.
Having already won and represented a suburban riding, Durham, since 2012, Erin O’Toole has what it takes to lead a campaign and protrude into the Liberal-held GTA. Born in Montreal and having significant support in Quebec, Erin has the base he needs to win competitive ridings in and around Montreal and throughout the rest of the province.
One of the main things though that Erin and his team will need to focus on in the very near future, other than mending fences within the party, is the nomination process of Conservative candidates for the next election as well as regenerating activity and enthusiasm at the grassroots level with Electoral District Associations.
Erin did not let the win distract him from his next most pressing mission. He addressed Canadians who were only seeing him and hearing from him for the first time from his victory speech. “To the millions of Canadians that I’m meeting tonight for the first time … you’re going to be seeing and hearing a lot from me in the coming weeks and months – but I want you to know from the start, that I am here to fight for you and your family.” Rallying the party was a concentrated effort of leadership candidates, but now, it is Erin’s duty to mobilize conservative support not only among party members, but throughout the nation and among all backgrounds.
As this leadership race winds to a close, conservatives are rallying around their new leader, Erin O’Toole. Under Erin’s leadership, the Conservative party will adjust and refine its policy front while inviting Canadians to join and support the nation’s most inclusive, ethically sound, and fiscally prudent party.