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Erin O'Toole Wins Conservative Leadership

Published on
August 23, 2020

Tonight the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) elected its new leader. The Honourable Erin O’Toole has become the Leader of the Official Opposition and will take the CPC into what promises to be a tumultuous fall marked by uncertainty as to how long the Liberal minority government can hold on to power.

O’Toole won on the third ballot with 19,271 out of 33,800 available points, beating Peter MacKay, Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan. It was a competitive race. The vote was decided on the third ballot once Derek Sloan and Leslyn Lewis had been dropped and the second and third choices redistributed. Peter MacKay came in second with 14,528 points.

Nearly 175,000 ballots were cast by mail-in vote. The tabulation of the results was delayed well into the night due to issues with the machine used to open the ballots. In the end, however, all candidates accepted the results.

The work for the CPC now turns to uniting the faithful around O’Toole, holding the Liberals to account - especially with respect to the evolving COVID-19 response - and preparing for the next election.

Prime Minister Trudeau prorogued parliament amidst the WE Charity scandal and after replacing Finance Minister Bill Morneau with former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Chrystia Freeland. Parliament will return on September 23rd with a Speech from the Throne that will lay out the Liberal plan for ongoing COVID management, economic recovery, and other priorities outlined in the Liberal platform last fall.

The Throne Speech will result in a confidence vote. Should the Liberals fail to gain support from either the CPC, the NDP or the Bloc Québécois, the government will fall and Canadians will head back to the polls one year after the Liberals were elected to a minority mandate. In recent weeks, the Bloc have repeated their threat to topple the government and the NDP have announced that their campaign finances are sufficient to contest another election – O’Toole’s decision on this matter could very well determine whether Canadians will be returning to the polls for the second time in as many years. In his acceptance speech, O'Toole stressed that the CPC will be ready for a fall election should it come.

Erin O’Toole was born in Montreal and largely raised in south-eastern Ontario. His father, John O’Toole, served as the member of Provincial Parliament for Durham in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1995 to 2014. After a distinguished career in the Royal Canadian Air Force, O’Toole worked as a lawyer before entering political life. O’Toole first won a seat in the House of Commons in November 2012. He has represented the riding of Durham since then and served briefly as the Minister of Veterans Affairs in Prime Minister Harper’s Cabinet. In 2017, O’Toole ran for leadership of the CPC, finishing in third place.

Observers believe the party will quickly rally behind the new leader, unlike the contentious 2017 CPC leadership election which was followed by intense and ideologically driven inter-party divisions.

Having secured the support of the CPC’s membership, O’Toole’s next challenge will be to reboot his messaging to appeal to the broader range of the Canadian electorate.

Sussex is closely monitoring these efforts and will provide regular updates on all consequential developments over the coming weeks.

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