Corbella: WEXIT suffered a blow with the election of O’Toole as Tory leader

Conservative Party of Canada Leader Erin O'Toole speaks after his win at the 2020 Leadership Election, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada August 24, 2020.

Near the top of

Wexit Canada’s Facebook page

a post asks:

“Erin O’Toole won the Conservative Party of Canada Leadership. How will that help Western Canada?”

The answer: “IT WON’T.”

Jay Hill, the interim leader of Wexit Canada,

which promotes Western Canada’s separation from the rest of the country, says it doesn’t matter who won the leadership race Sunday night.

It’s pretty safe to say, however, that the election of


has taken some of the wind out of the sails of the Wexit movement.

Peter MacKay, a longtime politician, was viewed as Trudeau-lite by many in the West. And while O’Toole, an Ontario Conservative MP since 2012, is viewed as a red Tory, he has spent a considerable amount of time and effort courting westerners and telling them he understands their frustrations.

Even on Monday, O’Toole’s office issued a news release following his morning conversation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying that he “made a point to raise Western alienation and called on Mr. Trudeau to outline a plan to address real and serious national unity concerns in the Speech from the Throne.

“Mr. O’Toole also stressed the importance of parliamentary committees resuming as quickly as possible following the Speech from the Throne so that Members of Parliament can continue their investigations into the Trudeau

WE Scandal

and the many important studies, including the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations study of the situation in Hong Kong, that were suspended when the Liberals shut down Parliament,” said the statement.

Western alienation got top billing from O’Toole during his first conversation with the PM on his first full day as leader of Canada’s official Opposition.

O’Toole launched his campaign for the leadership of the Conservatives in Calgary in January, clearly attempting to send a message to Albertans — the Conservative party’s stronghold — that he will keep their issues top of mind.

“I am here to show Albertans that their

valid concerns

with the Confederation — our federation as a country — are going to be a priority for me as leader of the Conservative Party,” he said

on the day he launched his campaign


 Former Conservative MP Jay Hill during an interview on Sun News on Wednesday May 14, 2014. Hill is the interim leader of the Wexit Canada party.

“They all paid lip service to western alienation,” said Hill, a longtime B.C. MP and the former whip and House leader in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, who now lives in Calgary.

“They have to,” said Hill. “Western Canada, and specifically Alberta, is the biggest chunk of support the Conservative Party has, so they have to talk the talk, but so what? What difference will it make?” asks Hill.

“If you look at the amending formula for our Constitution and start to seriously consider whether the West is ever going to get fairness under the existing system of government, I would argue it will never happen, regardless of who is prime minister or which party is in power. As difficult as it is, it will be easier to create a completely new nation than to try to convince central Canada to fix our Constitution and the inherent unfairness of Confederation to the West,” said Hill.

The Constitution’s amending formula requires the change be passed in the House of Commons, the Senate and then at least two-thirds of the provincial legislative assemblies representing at least 50 per cent of the provinces’ total population. In essence, it’s virtually impossible to change.

Hill admitted that he voted in the leadership race — even though he is leading a different party, which is against the rules of the Conservative party.

“My children and grandchildren need good government asap, and that’s why I cast a ballot, because I wanted to have my say on behalf of my children and grandchildren to try to select a future prime minister of this country that can try to get the country back on track. And if that deters people from looking at the independence option, then so be it,” said Hill, who wouldn’t reveal who he voted for. He says he will resign his membership with the Conservatives shortly.

O’Toole hit the right notes in his victory speech late Sunday night, inviting all Canadians into the big, blue tent.

“I believe that 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’re doing well or barely getting by. Whether you worship on Friday, Saturday, Sunday or not at all  . . . you are an important part of Canada and you have a home in the Conservative Party of Canada,” said O’Toole.

 Erin O’Toole, the new leader of Canada’s main opposition Conservative Party, fist bumps outgoing leader Andrew Scheer before giving his victory speech in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada August 24, 2020.

Already the federal Liberals are trying to paint O’Toole as scary — someone with a hidden agenda — as they successfully painted former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer. But it’s unlikely to work this time. While O’Toole garnered second- and third-choice picks from the two social conservatives who ran in the race — Derek Sloan and Leslyn Lewis — O’Toole is not himself a social conservative and the smears won’t stick.

O’Toole served as minister of veterans affairs under Harper, and more recently served as the party’s foreign affairs critic. After 12 years serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force, O’Toole earned his law degree and worked as a corporate lawyer.

He praised teachers during his speech, saying parents including him and his wife, Rebecca, gained a new appreciation for teachers as they tried to teach their children — Molly and Jack — during the COVID-19 lockdown. He revealed that his mom, who died when he was nine, and then his stepmother were both teachers. So, he not only has a solid resume, but a compelling bio.

Should O’Toole win the next federal election, which could come earlier than anticipated, expect much of the air in the growing WEXIT movement to slowly leak away.

Licia Corbella is a Postmedia columnist in Calgary.

[email protected]

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