Western alienation, economic recovery priorities over an election: O’Toole

Western alienation, economic recovery priorities over an election: O’Toole

Western alienation, economic recovery priorities over an election: O’Toole

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says overcoming western alienation and helping Canada’s post-pandemic economic recoveries are among his top priorities.

A fall election, he said, is not, though the Conservatives will be ready if it comes to that.

O’Toole has been in his post for a little over a week. He named his House of Commons leadership team Wednesday, including bringing on Manitoba MP Candice Bergen as his deputy leader.

He is the first leader of the Conservatives not from Western Canada since the 2003 unite-the-right movement brought the fractured wings of the party back into one. His staff are largely also drawn from eastern provinces.

Five of the eight people he named to the House of Commons team Wednesday are eastern MPs.

O’Toole would not say how worried he is about the rise of Wexit, an Alberta-based party advocating for the four western provinces to secede from Canada. It is led by Jay Hill, a former Conservative MP who was the government house leader for several years under prime minister Stephen Harper.

When the Reform party grew out of western alienation sentiment in the 1980s, it eventually split the right-wing vote with the Progressive Conservative party. That helped the Liberals win three majority governments in a row.

“I’m reminding everyone that it worked out well for the Liberals,” O’Toole said.

“I will be listening and I think people that are frustrated, I’m saying, ‘Don’t let Justin Trudeau win.’ Make sure we are united. Make sure we win the next election.”

Fear that former Conservative MP Maxime Bernier’s upstart People’s Party of Canada might hurt the Conservative vote in 2019 turned out not to be justified.

But the party’s strength is in western Canada — almost two-thirds of its current MPs are from the west, and almost half the votes cast for Conservatives in 2019 came from western voters. In Alberta, where Wexit sentiment developed and is strongest, the Conservatives won 70 per cent of the vote. If split votes did put western Conservative seats at risk, the consequences for the Tories could be dire.

Bergen, who was briefly in Harper’s cabinet before 2015 and was the party’s house leader under former leader Andrew Scheer, said western alienation was the very first thing O’Toole raised when he spoke to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week.

“Erin and I have talked briefly over the last few hours and one of the things he has asked me to focus on is western alienation,” she said. “And the fact that westerners need to know that Conservatives know this is an issue.”

Trudeau prorogued Parliament last month, intending to return Sept. 23 with a new speech from the throne outlining how the Liberals plan to help Canada’s economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The speech will result in a confidence vote.

O’Toole said the Conservatives will be ready if an election is necessary, but that isn’t what he wants.

“I’m not here for an election,” O’Toole said. “I’m here for the relaunch of our economy post-COVID.”

Missing from O’Toole’s house team is Leona Alleslev, who was deputy leader under Andrew Scheer until July, when she resigned to endorse Peter MacKay for the leadership.

Conservative spokeswoman Kelsie Chiasson said traditionally the deputy leader comes from a different region from the leader and O’Toole’s Durham riding and Alleslev’s Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill riding are less than 50 kilometres from each other on Toronto’s outskirts.

O’Toole will announce his shadow cabinet next week and Alleslev is expected to be part of it. O’Toole said so will Alain Rayes. He was the party’s Quebec lieutenant under Andrew Scheer but was replaced Wednesday by Richard Martel, the only Quebec MP who endorsed O’Toole for the leadership.

In all O’Toole’s house team includes four MPs who endorsed him, two who endorsed MacKay and two who stayed neutral.

Quebec MP Gerard Deltell is the new Tory house leader. Alberta MPs Blake Richards and Tim Uppal will be the chief whip and the caucus-party liaison. Ontario MPs Karen Vecchio, Alex Ruff and Eric Duncan will, respectively, be deputy house leader, deputy whip, and question period co-ordinator.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 2, 2020.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said five of the eight MPs on O’Toole’s team were from western Canada.

politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Blank Unemployment Benefits form
Red Deer unemployment rate rises to 10.6 per cent

Red Deer’s unemployment rate rose slightly during the month of April. The… Continue reading

Red Deer teacher Jeremey Spink has been nominated as the NHL/NHLPA Most Valuable Teacher. He is one of 20 teachers in the running across North America for the award in February. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Last day to vote for Red Deer Teacher as NHL Most Valuable Teacher

Eastview Middle School teacher Jeremy Spink is one of three teachers in the running for the award

Starting Monday, golf courses across the province will be limited to their household or for those who live alone, their two close contacts. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Golf in Alberta limited to household or close contacts starting Monday

Golf courses will have new COVID-19 protocols to follow next week. Starting… Continue reading

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr
MLA Ron Orr pleads with Central Albertans to follow COVID-19 rules

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr is changing his tune on COVID-19. Orr originally… Continue reading

People line up at a COVID-19 vaccination centre, Friday, April 23, 2021 in Deux-Montagnes, Que. Canada's two biggest provinces are continuing to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations as they report lower hospitalization figures.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
COVID-19 rapid tests going to more businesses, Alberta truckers get shots in Montana

Ottawa has introduced new ways for small and medium businesses to get… Continue reading

Alberta Health Services locked the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror on Wednesday morning after owner Christopher Scott refused to comply with health orders. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)
UPDATED: AHS shuts down Whistle Stop Cafe for defying health orders

Justice minister promises to get tough with those ignoring public health orders

Rona Ambrose is shown during an interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa, Thursday, May 18, 2017. New judges will have to commit to take training in sexual assault law, thanks to a new law that received royal assent last night. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Judges’ sexual assault training bill receives royal assent after clearing the Senate

OTTAWA, Ohio — New judges will have to commit to take training… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks to a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday May 4, 2021. A broad coalition of MPs from all five parties wants the federal government to support waiving the global rules that guard vaccine trade secrets. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
As MPs urge support, Trudeau demurs on whether government backs COVID-19 waiver

WASHINGTON — Justin Trudeau stopped well short Friday of endorsing efforts to… Continue reading

Workers perform ground preparations outside City Hall in Yellowknife on Monday, July 4, 2011. A recent outbreak of COVID-19 cases in Yellowknife is mostly affecting children and youth, the territory’s chief public health officer says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Most of Yellowknife’s COVID-19 cases are in children and youth: public health officer

YELLOWKNIFE — A health official in the Northwest Territories says a recent… Continue reading

Statistics Canada building and signs are pictured in Ottawa on Wednesday, July 3, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
A year after jobs data leak, StatCan resumes sharing advance numbers with officials

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada has resumed its practice of giving key federal… Continue reading

jobs - T - 3-6-2020
Job search: 10 ways to make your LinkedIn profile stand out in 2021

In 2021 successful job hunting requires having a LinkedIn profile that’s current… Continue reading

Max Parrot of Canada competes in the men’s snowboard big air final at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018. Parrot has won the Comeback of the Year honour at the Laureus World Sports Awards. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canadian snowboarder Max Parrot wins Laureus World Sports Award for comeback

Parrot beat out former Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith

This Nov. 22, 2015 file photo shows Justin Bieber at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles. Bieber’s world tour is facing another setback as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. The Stratford, Ont.-raised pop singer is pushing dozens of tour dates including stops in three Canadian cities.	THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File
Justin Bieber postpones Canadian summer tour dates until 2022

52-date world tour will now kick off Feb. 18, 2022

Most Read