Erin O’Toole: True Blue or Baby Blue Conservative?

Written By Wyatt Claypool, Posted on March 5, 2020

Conservative leadership candidate and Member of Parliament for Durham, Erin O’Toole, launched his campaign as the “true blue” alternative to the Red Tory candidate Peter MacKay.

While MacKay has stumbled out of the gate by calling Social Conservatives a “stinking albatross,” O’Toole has remained tight-lipped, saying all the right things (mostly) and choosing his words carefully on the campaign trail.

Right now O’Toole has a pathway to success, with an opportunity to coalesce a broad coalition of support ahead of June’s leadership vote. He has the potential to unite a party on the brink of a self-inflicted identity crisis. However, past policy stances that were against the Conservative grain may show the “true blue” label to be little more than a marketing strategy.

O’Toole’s main tactic is to appear more conservative than his record indicates. To his credit, though, O’Toole took a stance against the woke uber-progressives on Pride. He has stated that he would not engage in Pride if groups, such as the police or military, were excluded. In contrast, MacKay has indicated his intent to attend the Toronto Pride Parade, which has been known for its divisive rhetoric towards Conservatives.

However, O’Toole’s refusal to repeal Bill C-16, often a source of contention, makes his opposition to progressives hollow. 

O’Toole had abstained from the compelled speech bill for gender pronouns, Bill C-16, and has recently declared that he wouldn’t touch the law. He had also voted in favour of an NDP precursor to C-16 in 2011, Bill C-389, and then again split from the Harper CPC parliamentary majority to vote for another version of the same bill, Bill C-279.

Contention existed across partisan lines when gender identity was defined as that “…which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body…” Some Conservatives indicated that “gender identity” and “gender expression,” often used synonymously, were used exclusively in the document. The lack of clarity on the terminology raised concerns when it was recommended that infringements of such constituted “hate propaganda.”

This did not come from a place of prejudice, but concerns regarding the legal jargon. According to then Conservative MP, his opponents downplayed that the Canadian Human Rights Act ensured protections for Transgender Canadians.

O’Toole carries on party tradition by endorsing supply management

On the topic of supply management, O’Toole was fully in favour. Against the views of party membership O’Toole went along with other Conservative MPs in supporting agricultural marketing boards and others like them. O’Toole also favoured the federal government regulating prices, which were anti-competitive and kept food prices artificially high. 

Critiques of his conservative credentials are bound to arise when the views of rural voters are disregarded on critical issues. If you watch O’Toole’s leadership video on his campaign site at no point does he mention rural voters and their importance to the Conservative movement.

While securing the suburban vote is crucial, taking rural voters for granted fuel regional divides that cause movements like Wexit, in large part due to distrust of the Conservative Party, a la the PPC.

O’Toole has said that the party needs to “take the hyphen out of being Conservative, and grow our party to win,” though labels himself a “true blue” to pander his Conservative credentials. Holding pride in his values is essential, especially when such is perceived as “backwards.” Undermining oneself to fit a progressive warping of conservatism brings the Party closer to the brink.

Now, there is no doubt that the Conservative party is as advertised, it was always meant to be a big tent party since its inception. The party allows all types of Conservatives, but O’Toole’s lack of regard for the right-leaning members of the party feels like blatant disregard.

At a meet and greet in Dundas, O’Toole showed a level of disconnection from the party’s base saying that Conservatives in the last election seemed, “against everything and angry and yelling all the time” as if he didn’t get the memo of the growing dissatisfaction of western Canadians against the Liberals government and weak Conservative campaign. 

O’Toole can be given credit for opposing such things as the new Liberal media bailouts, but it is still unclear whether or not he would entirely take away federal funding of the mainstream Canadian media.

If you compared O’Toole to candidates like Dr. Leslyn Lewis, Derek Sloan, or Jim Karahalios quickly O’Toole’s brand of conservatism seems lacklustre. Those three candidates have never had to emphasize how conservative they are, as they are all secure in the positions. 

O’Toole must continuously try and paint himself as the “true blue” Conservative because it is a label that isn’t sticking, he is at best a baby blue Conservative. And, perhaps, O’Toole will miss that “breakaway on an open net.”

Wyatt Claypool

Wyatt is a student at Mount Royal University, where he is the president of its Campus Conservative club. In his writing, he focuses on covering provincial and federal politics, firearms regulation, and the energy sector. Wyatt has also previously written for The Post Millennial.

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