Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod believes when Canadians get to know newly elected Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, they will see what she sees in him — which she noted was evident in his victory speech on Sunday night.
“It was graceful, it was well articulated, it was inclusive and it was thoughtful — and that’s the Erin I know and that’s the Erin I think would be a great prime minister for this country,” McLeod said.
McLeod backed O’Toole in this and the 2017 leadership race, in which Andrew Scheer was elected.
“I was cautiously optimistic,” McLeod said of the weekend vote.
Asked how the Conservatives might be different under O’Toole, McLeod noted his speech when he mentioned uniting the party and having a broader reach.
The Durham (Ontario) MP said more Canadians need to look at the Conservative party again, adding that regardless of race, sexual orientation, immigration status, socio-economics or religious standing, they are an important part of the country and have a home with the Conservatives.
O’Toole said the country is more divided than ever and he will soon be asking Canadians for their vote, adding it’s time “for many Liberal and NDP voters to socially distance themselves from these out of touch parties.”
O’Toole served in the Canadian military and practised law before becoming an MP via byelection in 2012, serving as minister of veterans affairs under Stephen Harper’s government.
“As a member of Parliament of a just outside of Toronto riding, I think he uniquely understands the urban issues and some of the challenges our party had faced in the past in those areas,” McLeod said.
Outside the party, some see the election of O’Toole over former Progressive Conservative leader Peter MacKay as a missed opportunity.
“Mr. MacKay was promising to modernize the party and his poor showing says that Conservatives are likely still very much a party of Stephen Harper,” said Bill Sundhu, president of the NDP’s Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding association.
Sundhu said he sees O’Toole as Andrew Scheer 2.0, noting he garnered support of many socially conservatives members.
Thompson Rivers University political science professor Derek Cook also sees another Scheer in O’Toole in terms of his social conservatism, noting his election moves the party further to the right.
“He’s, I would think, the last sort of person we would need these days and I doubt very much that NDP or Liberal voters will find him very palatable,” Cook said, describing O’Toole as a corporate elitist who prefers militarism to environmentalism and someone who isn’t big on climate change.
Neither Sundhu nor Cook think O’Toole gives the Conservatives a better chance at beating Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in the next election.
Cook said O’Toole doesn’t seem to have the capacity for brokerage politics, noting the Liberals seem to have much more flexibility in appealing to the electorate.
McLeod said the next election will be different from years past, given the health and economic issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said O’Toole has a clear vision to move Canada forward through the pandemic and a broad understanding of issues.