Corbella: Trudeau wants a fall election to stop Canadians from knowing O’Toole

Erin O'Toole, the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, holds his first press conference as the leader of the official opposition on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada August 25, 2020.

A new poll suggests that if an election were held today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — mired as he is in yet another scandal that reflects poorly on his ethical standards — would possibly win a majority government.

That may be why it looks as though Trudeau is trying to force an election following his Speech from the Throne on Sept. 23 or through the budget that will follow.


poll, conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies,

found that if there were an election today, 38 per cent of decided voters said they’d support Trudeau’s Liberals, compared to 30 per cent for the Conservatives, 18 per cent for the NDP and six per cent for the Greens.

Astonishingly, the poll found that the prospect of a confidence vote leading to a federal election is favoured by 38 per cent and opposed by only 42 per cent.

The poll, which was conducted before Erin O’Toole was chosen Sunday night/early Monday morning as the Conservative Party’s new leader, shows how much ground O’Toole has to cover before he can form government.

Basically, most Canadians have no clue who he is. Even political junkies knew little about the Ontario corporate lawyer who spent 12 years in the airforce after high school before becoming an MP in 2012 and briefly holding the Veterans Affairs portfolio in Stephen Harper’s government.

But if Trudeau and his team have been watching O’Toole’s performances lately — and we know they have — it isn’t surprising that they want an election sooner rather than later.

O’Toole has been hitting all the right notes with his speeches and press conferences and is likely causing all sorts of dismay in the Liberal party ranks.

“Even now, with our country facing a crisis, (Justin Trudeau) may be trying to trigger an early election. Because of that, I may soon be asking Canadians for the chance to serve as Prime Minister so we can get our country back on track,” O’Toole said.

 Conservative Party of Canada leader Erin O’Toole speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill August 25, 2020 in Ottawa, Ontario.

On Tuesday morning, during a media availability,

O’Toole made his opening remarks

in both English and French, as any serious federal party leader must do. What seemed to surprise some pundits, however was just how comfortably and ably he handled questions by French-speaking reporters. It’s one thing to read French from a prepared speech, quite another to understand the question being asked in French and then answering those questions coherently and eloquently.

It’s widely believed that former Conservative Party leader, Andrew Scheer, lost last year’s Oct. 21 election following his dismal performance during the French televised debate where he was asked repeatedly what he personally believed about abortion. Scheer kept on sticking to his talking points, saying that he would not reopen the abortion debate should he become prime minister. That didn’t seem to satisfy those asking the questions or the Quebec populace. He spooked many voters.

“The Liberals will be trying to work their little spin cycle and they’re already starting,” said O’Toole in answer to a reporter’s question.

“I have a track record of always voting in favour of rights — whether it’s the rights of women with respect to choice, whether it’s the LGBT community. In my first months as an MP I was the first Conservative of 18 to support an LGBT bill. I will always stand and defend the rights of Canadians. Justin Trudeau skipped a very close vote to attend a cash-for-access fundraiser with the Liberals in Toronto. So you’ll see where his priorities are. My priorities will be on Canadians.”

How O’Toole answered that question reveals several things — first, that he’s done his homework about where he was during specific votes in the House of Commons and, where Trudeau was, and mostly, that he can’t be painted as scary on social issues.

That O’Toole received the second-and third-ballot votes of Conservatives who first backed social conservative leadership candidates Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan, was easily explained by O’Toole.

A reporter pointed out that he ran a “true blue” campaign that attracted the social conservative vote, but right away in his victory speech tried to appeal to a broader audience and “some in the Conservative party have said you’re moving to the mushy middle.”

“I think that’s not true. I’m quite true blue today. I’m wearing my blue,” he said cheerily, referring to his blue suit and blue tie.

“I’m going to be a bit of a sea change for Canadians because, you know what, I respect people even when I don’t agree with them.”

That answer was a sly poke directed toward Trudeau, who will not allow pro-life Liberals to even run for public office, or if they do, they must hide their opinion.

“I won a mandate not hiding my track record on all my voting records, on being a pro-choice MP, by being pro-LGBTQ. I won a strong mandate and I’m not afraid to fight for things I believe in and I’m not afraid to respect people who have another point of view.”

So refreshing.

 Erin O’Toole, the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, holds his first press conference as the leader of the official opposition on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada August 25, 2020.

In his opening remarks, he repeated a couple of paragraphs from his victory speech verbatim.

“Canadians haven’t always seen themselves in our party. I’m going to change that. Because, as I said in the wee hours of Monday morning — and I am going to repeat it because it is so important:

“Whether you are black, white, brown or from any race or creed. Whether you are LGBTQ or straight. Whether you are an Indigenous Canadian or have joined the Canadian family three weeks ago or three generations ago. Whether you are doing well, or barely getting by. Whether you worship on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, or not at all. You are an important part of Canada and you have a home in the Conservative Party of Canada.”

When asked about what he would have done differently with regard to COVID-19, O’Toole said what many Canadians wish our government had done and were urging them to do back in March.

“I think the Liberal party was a month-and-a-half slow in closing the border, slow with PPE and slow with wage subsidies and economic responses.”

The 47-year-old’s  biography differs drastically from Trudeau’s, who grew up famous and privileged.

“My wife Rebecca and I understand the challenges, fears, and hopes of middle class Canadians because we live them and have all our lives,” he explained.

“We know what it is like to save for your first home.

We know what it is like to have to save for things like childcare, tuition, and family vacations.”

You can almost see the thought bubbles of those listening being reminded of how Trudeau and his family took vacations to the Aga Khan’s private tropical island — something he never had to save a penny for and that the ethics commissioner says

violated conflict-of-interest laws.

Or, how the taxpayers must pay for

two nannies

for Trudeau’s two children.

“I’m not famous. I’m not well known. I get things done. I don’t drop the ball and I’ve always fought for Canadians since I left high school and joined the military, as a volunteer, as a parent, as an MP, a backbencher, I worked my way to the front. I have no famous name, I just fight for Canadians and after the pandemic, with record deficits, with the challenges we face in the world we need a fighter. We need someone who came from the middle class to serve Canada ethically and professionally at home and on the world stage. That is what Canadians will get with me.”

That’s why Trudeau is itching for a fall election. He doesn’t want Canadians to get to know Erin O’Toole.

Licia Corbella is a Postmedia columnist in Calgary.

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