O'Toole committed to western Canada, bolstering struggling energy sector
CALGARY -- The newly elected leader of the Conservative Party of Canada has his work laid out for him if he hopes to bring the western provinces into the fold and reinvigorate Alberta’s energy sector.
After a marathon six hour session of counting ballots, Erin O’Toole was elected leader on third ballot —much to the delight of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.
"Congratulations to my friend Erin O’Toole on his election as Leader of the Conservative Party," Kenney wrote in a tweet late Sunday evening.
"Erin is a brilliant, principled patriot who is driven by a desire for a stronger Canada. He is committed to a fair deal for the West and a strong future for our resource industries."
Duane Bratt, a political analyst with Mount Royal University, agrees that O’Toole was the best choice for Alberta, noting that he started his campaign in Calgary and has a generally strong level of support.
Bratt adds that O’Toole should be able to address unification issues like the ongoing Wexit movement, but it will take time for him to resonate with Canadian voters.
"We still don’t know who Erin O’Toole is. He ran as a moderate in the 2017 race and lost and then he ran as a much harder conservative and won," said Bratt.
"We do know he is not a political lifer like Andrew Scheer or Peter Mackay or for that matter, Stephen Harper."
O’Toole first began his political career after being elected a member of parliament for Durham in 2012. From there, he became part of then Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet — taking over the Veterans’ Affairs portfolio in 2015.
The now 47-year-old Montreal native was also once member of the Canadian Forces, having served 12 years most notably as a Royal Canadian Air Force officer.
His leadership now comes with promises to resolve western Canada’s complex economic and industry problems.
O’Toole has pledged his support for the oil and gas industry with plans to create jobs and fight against foreign funded interests, similar to the work being done by Premier Kenney’s $30 million Canadian Energy Centre.
His campaign promises a solid climate change plan focused on exporting more nuclear technology and natural gas, as well as scrapping the carbon tax.
With the Tories selection of a new leader, the shift now focuses on the question of whether or not a federal election could be on the horizon.
Dr. Chaldeans Mensah, a political analyst with MacEwan University in Edmonton, says an election in the fall or winter is still unlikely as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals ride out the WE financial scandal and the proroguing of government.
"The pandemic is also making the traditional ways of campaigning very difficult," said Mensah. "I think politicians here will be looking closely at what happens with the outcome of the US elections."
Political experts believe a quick election could be called if the Liberal caucus begins to unravel.