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O’Toole not worried about fringe spinoffs

·4 min read

Erin O’Toole said Tuesday he’s not worried about the prospect of another fringe party led by a former Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate.

“Good. I don’t want them in our centre/centre-right party,” O’Toole said when asked about video footage from the weekend that showed independent MP Derek Sloan telling an Alberta audience he will launch a new party next month.

“It’s going to be the greatest patriotic movement Canada has ever seen,” Sloan said as supporters applauded.

Sloan was booted from the Conservative caucus in January after it was discovered he took a donation from Paul Fromm, one of Canada’s most notorious white nationalists.

Sloan had previously been in hot water for comments he made about Canada’s chief medical officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, and for voting against a bill banning various forms of conversion therapy.

Sloan and Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada, have also tangled with police during anti-mask and anti-lockdown protests.

“I’m pro-choice, pro-LGBTQ, I’m pro-environment,” O’Toole said in a phone interview with The Telegram while travelling in the Gander region on a three-day visit to Newfoundland and Labrador.

“I’m going to be called a lot of names. They’re going to attack. But I’ve been transparent with Canadians.”

O’Toole said his approach to pressures from the fringe is to drag the party back toward what he feels to be the centre of Canadian politics, a spot he says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh have drifted away from.

“I make no apologies for that, because we’re the only party in the middle right now,” he said. "Mr. Trudeau occupies the ground that traditionally the NDP has been in. And that has forced Mr. Singh even further left, and at times they’re in a competition about how many billions of your money they want to spend. They’re also constantly tearing down the country, against the offshore … they don’t even want to have Canada Day, for goodness sakes.”

O’Toole said the country has to tackle issues such as reconciliation by coming together and adding to the story of Canada, not by tearing it apart.

“And what I want is for more Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to say, hey, there’s a new leader, there’s a new approach.”

The Conservative leader is pumping the offshore oil industry during his visit, while also promising to breathe new life into a natural resources stabilization fund that was left in limbo by the Liberals after they were elected.

“It’s very unusual that the prime minister didn’t act,” O’Toole said, adding that all the provinces were on board with it at the time.

“Provinces that have strong revenues based on natural resources, when they see a massive dropoff in price, it really changes their revenues coming in,” O’Toole explained. “Yet their contributions to the overall equalization program don’t change. So you have a bit of a perverse situation where you see provinces still being net contributors even when their revenues have fallen off.”

He admitted the bulk of about $4 billion in what he calls an “equalization rebate” would initially go to Alberta, but says this province would see about $70 million.

Having all provinces in agreement for such a venture is rare, he said.

“We know what it’s like to get all the provinces to agree on something. It’s kind of like Halley’s comet: it only comes around once in a while.”

O’Toole says the Conservatives’ carbon pricing plan will help meet the country’s Paris Accord goals while amounting to only a third of what the Liberals have implemented.

And he says the plan puts money into a sort of personal green account for citizens, rather than taking it out of their pockets.

But he wants to avoid more regulatory impediments to oil development in the interim, which he says Bill C-61 would impose.

“I’m strong on the environment. I think you can lower emissions, and the offshore is some of our lowest carbon intense energy. So I think we can’t cut off our nose to spite our face.”

He says that’s especially vital in this province.

“A quarter of the GDP of the province depended on the offshore, so you can’t allow that to be eroded, particularly coming out of COVID. We need to make sure that big cylinder in the economic engine here is firing,” he said.

“Our country is frustrated after Mr. Trudeau, and part of the way we bring the country together is by letting people reach their potential economically.”

Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram

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