O’Toole’s campaign chair says holding Trudeau to a minority would be a win for the Conservatives

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The Erin O’Toole campaign would consider it a victory if they could keep the Liberals in minority government in today’s federal election.

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Whether the Conservative caucus, party workers – and potential leadership hopefuls – will agree to this is an open question.

In the final hours of Canada’s 44th federal election, O’Toole’s campaign chairman and two other senior campaign sources independently told the Star that they would consider it a victory if Trudeau remained in the minority. Two sources were not approved to speak publicly, but O’Toole campaign chairman Walid Soliman said that “even today without a plurality of[seats]we would have achieved our objective.”

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“There is victory in taking forward the dialogue with the Canadian people. At the start of this race, no one would have expected us to be in a fierce knife fight at Liberal Riding. And today we are. And we’re so proud of Erin O’Toole and the incredible campaign we’ve run here.”

“And as far as we’re concerned, we’ve only won by pushing that dialogue forward and I think caucus members and candidates recognize that.”

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The Conservatives are in no way accepting the election before the first election closes. Seven conservative sources, some on O’Toole’s campaign and others over the past 24 hours, have told the Star that the race remains tight – especially in suburban and outlying Ontario riding the Conservatives need to have any hope of forming a government.

It is not clear how many variables – the rise of the People’s Party of Canada, the collapse of the Green Party vote, the prospect of long lines at fewer polling places and the ongoing fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic – will affect how votes are cast.

But the predetermining by the O’Toole campaign that a return to official opposition would be a victory is important.

Former leader Andrew Scheer won the popular vote in 2019, increasing the Conservative’s tally of seats and making Trudeau a minority government. He was still shown the door due to poor performances in Eastern Canada and Ontario.

Why limiting Trudeau to a minority government would be a disappointing loss for Scheer but O’Toole victory? For those in O’Toole’s camp, it’s because the Conservatives saw 2019 as a defeat for Scheer, while some expected O’Toole to waltz to victory with the Liberals riding high in the election .

But the O’Toole camp clearly understands that anything less than a victory will likely mean challenges for its leadership.

A campaign source told the Star Friday night that he believes a handful of people are already organizing for a potential leadership contest — which will be the party’s third contest in five years.

Tories outside the campaign deny that suggestion.

After making the final push through GTA in the final days of the campaign, O’Toole will see the results at a hockey rink in Oshawa.

“Erin is very excited about this evening. He knows he has run a highly professional and respectable campaign. And regardless of the outcome, whether the minority wins or he simply increases his number of seats, he knows it Continued dialogue is the first step to earning the trust and confidence of Canadians,” Soliman said.

“And I know he and his family are fully committed to that journey.”

Alex Bautillier is an Ottawa-based reporter who covers federal politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @alexboutlier
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