To Unseat Trudeau, Canada’s Top Conservative Leans Left

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Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole has brought her party into a statistical tie in the polls with the Liberals.

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OTTAWA – The leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Erin O’Toole lacks the name recognition, celebrity pedigree, and charismatic hair of her Liberal Party rival, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. A former corporate lawyer with nine years of service in the House of Commons, he came into the new election campaign to lead his party, unfamiliar to most Canadians and not particularly popular even among many conservatives.

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Still, Mr. O’Toole, 48, the son of a former provincial legislator, has made remarkable progress since last month, when the prime minister unexpectedly called for elections, rejecting some of the traditionally conservative stances he has taken. Did champion to win his position.

Election results in recent weeks have shown an increase in support for both Mr O’Toole and his party, while it has fallen for Mr Trudeau and the liberals. With only a few days left until Monday’s election, the Conservatives and Liberals, who enjoy the most support in Canada’s multiparty system, are locked in a single statistical tie At about 30 percent each.

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But because conservative support is concentrated and heavily concentrated in some areas, particularly the province of Alberta Most polling experts and political analysts say that for Mr O’Toole to grab enough seats in the House of Commons to oust Trudeau from power, his party’s current support will probably have to increase by five or six percentage points. .

Change in elections may be as much about liberal decline as it is about conservative rise.

It’s been six years since Mr Trudeau; So far, many Canadians find him more irritating than inspiring, and he has provided no compelling answer to a key question related to this midterm election: why is it now being held two years ahead of schedule? The prime minister argues that he needs a strong majority of seats in the House of Commons to recover from the pandemic, as he is already doing so with a plurality.

Yet it is also true that Mr O’Toole is busy reshaping his party to broaden its appeal. He has gambled this kind of campaign in the past, shifting from restraint to more extreme points before going back again, a strategy that helped him win the party’s leadership last year.

Before this campaign, he reversed his vow. For never imposing carbon taxes and for rejecting the position of social conservatives on issues like abortion and LGBTQ rights. Mid-campaign, he retracted Trudeau’s promise to repeal a ban on about 1,500 assault-style rifles. While this is an approach that appears to work, it also has risks.

Ken Bosencool, a former Conservative campaign strategist from Alberta, said, “The biggest challenge for every Conservative leader is what kind of people the Conservative Party members of Canada need to vote for the Conservative Party.” . “Those two groups of people live on different planets.”

Mr O’Toole entered politics relatively late in life. He studied at the Royal Military College of Canada with the hope of becoming a fighter pilot, but instead he spent 12 years as a sailor in Canada’s old fleet of ship-propelled helicopters.

While Mr. O’Toole was in college, his father left a management job at the Canadian head office of General Motors, east of Toronto, to become a conservative member of the provincial legislature, a position he would hold for 19 years.

A door opened for Mr. O’Toole to enter politics in 2012, when he worked for two large law firms in Toronto and later worked as a corporate lawyer. Procter & Gamble Canada. A cabinet minister resigned from the seat in the electoral district where Mr O’Toole grew up and lived since studying law, in Durham, Ontario.

Mr O’Toole, who became active within the Conservative Party while in law school, won a special election created by vacancy in 2012. (Mr. O’Toole still lives in the Durham area with his wife, Rebecca, a corporate affairs consultant and event planner, and their two children.)

Then in 2015, he held a cabinet position for 10 months as Minister of Veterans Affairs in Stephen Harper’s government, after the previous one was demoted following a testy exchange with veterans over service cuts and pension benefits. Was.

In 2017, Mr O’Toole unsuccessfully tried to replace Mr Harper as leader of the party, running as a moderate. Last year, he prevailed with a hard-right approach running as a “true blue Conservative” (blue is the party color) who promised to “take back” Canada. Once they won, however, Mr O’Toole rejected most of them – launching an appeal to members of the Union, a group rarely given by the Conservatives in the past, while making it clear saying that he would not reopen the debate on abortion.

In preparation for next week’s vote, Mr O’Toole and his colleagues have studied former British Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to modernize that country’s Conservative Party. And as Mr Trudeau did in 2015, he has tried to target voters who don’t normally turn up on election day.

For Mr Trudeau, it was the young people. As for Mr O’Toole, this blue-collar worker is worried about the future of his job and angry, even annoyed, at what he sees as Mr Trudeau’s political correctness.

Lori Turnbull, professor of political science at Dalhousie University, said the experience of Britain’s conservatives shows the idea has merit but also poses a challenge to the party’s election day machinery.

“The question is, are they really going to come out for him?” he said.

Mr. O’Toole has also worked on improving his diet and increasing his exercise levels, losing 40 pounds over the past year.

Above all, however, he has focused on his new liberal campaign platform, available as a 160-page, glossy magazine. Mr O’Toole has replaced his “Take Back Canada” slogan for his leadership campaign with “We Have a Plan”.

Until this week, Mr. O’Toole had done most of his campaigning at the virtual town hall, broadcast from a makeshift television studio not far from Parliament in downtown Ottawa. He directed repeated callers to the page numbers of his platform with answers to questions. At one point, he patted his copy of the stage on the table to emphasize his height.

“Our plan is to get the country back on its feet after a tough 18 months in this crisis; I am a pro-choice ally for the LGBTQ community,” Mr. O’Toole said, like Mr. Trudeau at the opening of the English-language debate.

In recent days, Mr Trudeau has been arguing during campaign stops that Mr O’Toole’s shift is misleading. A review process that Mr O’Toole is proposing could facilitate repeal of the assault weapons law, which he said he would not touch. And Mr O’Toole opposes compulsory vaccinations and vaccine passports, a position in which polls suggest only the most right members of his party support.

Duane Bratt, a professor of political science at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, said the Conservatives’ current poll standings mean that its core membership is willing to ignore the abandonment of issues that are important to them – at least for now.

“If O’Toole does not become prime minister, this party will be in danger of being held together,” said Professor Bratt. “Conservatives are basically saying: ‘Okay, we’ll give this o’tol thing a chance, let’s see if it works. And if it doesn’t, do they back down?”

Vojosa Christian Contributed to research.

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