Newly elected Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole delivers his winning speech following the Conservative party of Canada 2020 Leadership Election in Ottawa on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Newly elected Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole delivers his winning speech following the Conservative party of Canada 2020 Leadership Election in Ottawa on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

O’Toole likely to move quickly to put stamp on federal Conservative party

O’Toole will have to make swift choices on who will be in his inner circle both on and off Parliament Hill

Erin O’Toole begins a new political life as the leader of the federal Conservative party.

O’Toole was declared the winner of the leadership race early Monday morning after technical problems delayed the vote results by hours, as thousands of ballots had to be replicated by hand after the counting machine shredded their envelopes.

After three rounds of counting, O’Toole emerged the victor with 57 per cent of the vote, a resounding victory over his rival Peter MacKay, who won 43 per cent.

MacKay had been seen as the establishment candidate, and had headed into the race the presumptive front-runner.

But even before his campaign got off the ground, he had irritated many in the party when he declared then-leader Andrew Scheer’s failure to win the 2019 election as being akin to missing a goal on an empty net.

“Peter MacKay losing this leadership is like missing a shot on an empty net,” Scheer’s campaign director Hamish Marshall said Monday.

Ahead of their results, MacKay’s campaign had been hyping their record get-out-the-vote effort, particularly in Quebec where by virtue of the points system the party uses to elect a leader, each ballot could hold outsized weight.

But in the end it was O’Toole who won the province.

READ MORE: Erin O’Toole wins Conservative leadership after results delayed for hours

The technical troubles were a less-than-auspicious beginning for the new leader, who now is racing to get a team in place before Parliament returns next month with a throne speech that will trigger a confidence vote in the minority Liberal government.

O’Toole will have to make swift choices on who will be in his inner circle both on and off Parliament Hill — a campaign director and new party staffers are among the likely new hires on his agenda.

When Scheer won the race in 2017, he left in place many members of former interim leader Rona Ambrose’s team, as well as the party apparatus. He took office with little by way of a transition plan in place.

The new leader needs to put their stamp on things, said Garry Keller, who worked with Ambrose during her time in the role, and the changes need to be made quickly.

How O’Toole does that will be crucial as it is the first step toward mending what divisions were caused by the race, Keller said.

That means placing rival candidates’ supporters in key critic roles, or finding other ones for them to occupy, whether it is election prep or policy development, he said.

“Idle hands are not helping whoever wins the leadership,” he said.

Also key will be finding a place for Leslyn Lewis, whose climb from political newcomer to a third-place finish in the race cements the power of social conservatives in the party.

On the flip side, Keller said, O’Toole will have to figure out what to do with Derek Sloan.

The rookie MP was nearly kicked out of caucus during the campaign after a furor around remarks he made about chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam. He’s also been crudely outspoken on issues around abortion and LGBTQ conversion therapy.

During a leadership campaign, candidates have a bit more free rein than is possible afterwards, Keller said.

“Now that the leadership is over, there will have to be boundaries and how is that going to be handled?” Keller said.

O’Toole had been one of Sloan’s lone supporters in the tight-knit group of Ontario Conservative MPs during the fight over his place in caucus. He’s also promised to respect and listen to the voices of everyone in the party, no matter their political leanings.

Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu, who had tried to enter the leadership race but fell short of the funds required, said she’s confident caucus will rally quickly behind O’Toole despite the acrimony that built up during the campaign.

At the same time, she said, change to how things have worked in the past is needed.

“I think at this point we’ve seen the results that we were getting were not satisfactory, so if you don’t change something and expect a different behaviour, that’s the definition of insanity.”

Stephanie Levitz, 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 Canada

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

Just Posted

February 17, 2021 - Kaelyn (L) and Costin Campbell are Goldstream News Gazette 2021 Local Heroes.
Pint-sized duo inspires others to be green

Costin and Kaelyn Campbell are this year’s Environmental Heroes

Erin Oldman received a scholarship through Royal Roads University (RRU), called the Legacy Award, which is given out once every five years. Oldman graduated from RRU with a Masters of Arts in Human Security and Peacebuilding, and is using the award to establish a charity called International Humanitarian Assessments, which helps people in war-torn areas of the Middle East. (Photo contributed by Erin Oldman)
Royal Roads University graduate receives $25,000 award

Erin Oldman will use the award to establish a charity in the Middle East

Sandy Carmichael is a Goldstream Gazette 2021 Local Hero as Seniors’ Champion. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Worker bee returns to volunteer: Sandy Carmichael a fixture at Langford Royal Canadian Legion

Sandy Carmichael is the 2021 recipient of the Seniors’ Champion Award

The It’s Critical campaign has raised $5.89 million towards its $7 million goal to expand critical care capacity at Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital. (Black Press Media file photo)
Critical care improvements make the list with Greater Victoria shoppers

Save-On-Foods pledges $300,000 to Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s It’s Critical campaign

West Shore Parks and Recreation facilities face a challenging future in terms of funding, due to reduced operations throughout the pandemic. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore Parks and Recreation faces challenging future

West Shore Parks and Recreation Society submits 2021 budget request to owner municipalities

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Dasher is back home with mom Christine Girvin thanks to some help from BC Ferries staff. Photo supplied
The cat came back, with help from BC Ferries staff

After Dasher made a dash, staff in Comox found her and got her home safe

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

Most Read