Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Erin O’Toole says ‘I didn’t hide who I was’ running for Conservative leader

The theme of Saturday’s conference was ‘build back right’

Erin O’Toole assured Conservative supporters that he never hid who he was in his bid to secure the party leadership, telling a high-profile conference on Saturday that the “true blue” campaign he ran to secure the party helm does reflect his true colours.

O’Toole fielded questions about his authenticity during an evening question-and-answer session that closed out a conference hosted by the Canada Strong and Free Network, formerly the Manning Centre.

He’s being branded as “Liberal-lite” in some quarters, the same descriptor O’Toole once leveled at former rival and ex-parliamentarian Peter MacKay during last year’s leadership race.

O’Toole, who during the contest pitched himself to party members as a “real Conservative,” said he finds those now making similar comments about him to be “humorous.”

He said he’s been trying to grow the party’s appeal to a wider swath of Canadians since assuming the party reins. O’Toole contended that bigger tent should include those who identify as Indigenous, working-class and LGBTQ if the party wants to ensure success in the next election.

“I didn’t hide who I was when I was running for leader,” said O’Toole.

“All of the things I ran on, I’m still running on now. I’m also, though, reaching out and trying to communicate our Conservative ideas to more people in new ways.”

O’Toole told conference attendees that Conservatives must fight an election on the issues of today rather than those of decades past.

Those issues include his willingness to slash millions from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and modernize its mandate, as well as crack down on illegal rail blockades, positions he said help set him apart from Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The theme of Saturday’s conference was “build back right,” which played off Trudeau’s oft-expressed wish to “build back better” when helping Canada’s economy recover from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The think tank’s annual convention — moved online in accordance with public health advice to avoid in-person gatherings — was billed as the largest networking event for both small-c and big-C conservatives to discuss current issues.

Among them was how to expand the scope of the Conservative movement.

Lilly Obina, a black woman who campaigned for different Conservative candidates and ran for a nomination in 2015, said one reason the party doesn’t resonate with the black community is its messaging around cuts, which needs to be better explained.

The senior project executive withImmigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada told a panel that economics are important to the black community, who she said can feel targeted when the party talks about reducing the size of government.

“We need to be able to empathize with what goes (on) in the black community,” she said.

“For example, when they say we are experiencing systemic racism, let’s recognize that, let’s be empathetic. You might not have solutions to everything, but at least just acknowledge that the problem exists.”

Tenzin Khangsar, who did cultural outreach for Alberta Premier Jason Kenney when he served as Immigration Minister under former prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, said the party has had previous success with reaching newcomers despite the present-day challenges.

The former candidate pointed to how a large number of their votes were captured under former prime ministers Brian Mulroney and Harper, the latter of whom was aided by Kenney’s efforts to build relationships with immigrant communities.

“He was dubbed the minister of curry in a hurry for a reason,” said Khangsar, citing how he would attend upwards of 15 community events in a weekend.

“No one likes when it you’re approached just during an election, that’s very transactional.”

He suggested forging personal relationships is an important way to sway votes among new immigrants and ethnic-Canadians,, even more so than with non-ethnic residents.

“Our playbook was very simple: We were very confident that most new Canadians were small-c conservatives. We just had to make them big-C Conservatives,” Khangsar said.

“And I would even add that applies to most Canadians.”

Harper was among those who appeared at Saturday’s conference in a pre-taped panel discussion with former British prime minister David Cameron.

Moderated by Senator Linda From, the centre’s president said their talk couldn’t be publicized beyond the conference because of a contract with the former leaders.

ALSO READ: Trudeau, O’Toole, demand accountability as Iranian officials indicted for PS752 crash

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Conservative Party of CanadaCoronavirus

Just Posted

South Okanagan MP Richard Cannings wants to see dental coverage for all Canadians. (courtesy of Pixabay)
OPINION: South Okanagan MP fights for universal dental care

One in three Canadians have no dental coverage, with COVID making it even worse

Dep. Fire Chiefs Rich Piché (left) and Stephane Dionne said they were disappointed that only one person showed up at the George Evans fire hall’s recruitment drive Tuesday evening, May. 11. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks Fire/Rescue says rural fire hall at risk of closing

Home insurance could spike across North Fork if George Evans fire hall loses fire protection status

Adam Hamdan has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Christina Lake man given temporary residence in Canada

Adam Hamdan had been facing deportation to Jordan, where he holds citizenship through his Palestinian parents

Ted Invictus (left) pulls a piano through the crosswalk between Market Avenue and 2nd Street as Nathan Vogel plays a few notes Monday morning, May 10. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Music-lovers deliver street piano in Grand Forks

Musician gives one-handed performance as volunteers rolled the Heintzman through the city’s main street

Thursday, Feb. 4: RDKB Chief Engineer Darryl Funk hoists a banner commemorating last year’s championship season by the Bantam House Bruins. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Bantam Bruins honoured at hair-raising banner ceremony at Grand Forks’ Jack Goddard Arena

Asst. coach Mike Tollis said he reluctantly gave in to the team’s victory wish that he cut his pony tale

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking on a remote forest road in Naramata on May 10. (Submitted)
Kamloops brothers identified as pair found dead near Penticton

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Brian Peach rescues ducklings from a storm drain in Smithers May 12. (Lauren L’Orsa video screen shot)
VIDEO: Smithers neighbours rescue ducklings from storm drain

Momma and babies made it safely back to the creek that runs behind Turner Way

Signage for ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, is shown in Victoria, B.C., on February 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
$150 refunds issued to eligible customers following ICBC’s switch to ‘enhanced care’

Savings amassed from the insurance policy change will lead to one-time rebates for close to 4 million customers

The Libby Dam on the Kootenai River in Montana. The dam created the Koocanusa Reservoir, which straddles the B.C./Montana border. (photo courtesy Wikipedia)
Outflow at Libby Dam to be increased

Volume increase to aid migration and spawning conditions for endangered white sturgeon in the Kootenai River

Most Read