Erin O 'Toole, the leader of the Conservative Party, brought his party to a statistical tie in the polls with the Liberals.
OTTAWA - The leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Erin O 'Toole, lacks notoriety, celebrity pedigree and charismatic hair of his Liberal Party rival Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. A former business lawyer with nine years of service in the House of Commons, he entered the early election campaign again as his party leader, unknown to most Canadians and not particularly popular even among many conservatives .
Yet Mr. O 'Toole, 48, the son of a former provincial legislator, has made remarkable progress since last month when the premier unexpectedly called the election , in part by rejecting many of the traditionally conservative positions he defended to win his post.
The poll results of the past few weeks have shown growing support for thetimes for Mr. O 'Toole and his party, while he fell for Mr. Trudeau and the Liberals. Days before Monday's election, the Conservatives and Liberals, who get the most support in Canada's multi-party system, are locked in a statistical link at about 30% each .
But because conservative support is heavily concentrated in some areas, especially Province of Alberta, Most polls and political analysts say Mr. O 'Toole should increase his current support. started by far, maybe five or six percentage points, to win enough seats in the House of Commons to oust Mr. Trudeau from power. Image Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada during an election campaign stop in Surrey, British Columbia, Monday. Credit ... Carlos Osorio / Reuters
The change in the polls may be as much about the decline of the Liberals as it is the rise of the Conservatives.
Mr. Trudeau has been in power for six years; Right now, many Canadians find him more irritating than inspiring, and he offered no convincing answer to a main question surrounding thi snap elections: why are they taking place now, two years ago provided that ? The Prime Minister's argument that he needs a strong updateOrity of seats in the House of Commons to lead the pandemic recovery has left many half-hearted, because he has already done so with a plurality.
However, it is also true that Mr. O 'Toole has been busy reshaping his party to broaden its appeal. He's taken this kind of campaign bet before, going from moderation to more extreme views before turning back the clock, a tactic that helped him win the party leadership last year.
Before this campaign, he reversed his vow never to introduce carbon taxes and rejected the position of social conservatives on issues like abortion and LGBTQ rights. Mid-campaign, he canceled a pledge at repeal the ban on Mr.Trudeau on approximately 1,500 assault rifles. While this approach seems to work, it also comes with risks.
"The biggest challenge for every Conservative leader is figuring out how to balance Conservative Party members in the Canada with the kind of people they need to vote for the Conservative Party, ”said Ken Boessenkool, a former Conservative campaign strategist from Alberta. "These two groups of people live on different planets.
Mr. O 'Toole entered politics relatively late in his life. He studied at the Royal Military College of Canada with the hopes of becoming a fighter pilot, but instead spent 12 years as a navigator in Canada's shipborne helicopter fleet at the time.
When Mr. O 'Toole was at university, his father left a managerial position at the Canadian headquarters of General Motors east of Toronto to become a Conservative member of the provincial legislature, a position he will hold for 19 years.
A door opened for Mr. O 'Toole to enter politics in 2012, after working for two large law firms in Toronto and later as legal counsel at Procter & Gamble Canada . A cabinet minister resigned from the constituency seat where Mr. O 'Toole had grown up and lived since returning from law school in Durham, Ont. Image Mr. O 'Toole with supporters in Hamilton, Ont., Last month. Credit ... Carlos Osorio / Reuters
Mr. O 'Toole, who had become active in the Conservative Party while studying law, won the special election created by the vacant post in 2012. (Mr. . O 'Toole still lives in Durham Region today with his wife, Rebecca, a corporate affairs consultant and event planner, and their two children.)
Then in 2015, he held a cabinet post for 10 months in Stephen Harper's government as Minister of Veterans Affairs, after the previous one was demoted after a difficult exchange with veterans fighters over service cuts and retirement benefits.
In 2017, Mr. O 'Toole searched in vain to replace Mr. Harper at the head of the party, run as a moderate. Last year, he won with an extreme right-wing approach, posing as a" true blue conservative "(blue is the color of the party) who promised to" take back ”Canada. Once he won, however, Mr. O 'Toole repudiated much of it - appealing to union members, a group rarely courted by Tories in the past, while making it clear that it would not reopen the abortion debate.
In preparation for next week's vote, Mr. O 'Toole and his colleagues studied the efforts of David Cameron, the former British Prime Minister, to modernize this country's Conservative Party. And just like Mr. Trudeau did in 2015, they looked for to target voters who normally do not show up on polling day.
For Mr. Trudeau, it was the youngest. For Mr. O 'Toole, these are blue collar workers worried about the future of their jobs and annoyed, even angry, by what they see as Mr. Trudeau ' s political correctness.
Lori Turnbull, professor of political science at Dalhousie University, said that the experience of British Conservatives shows that the idea has merit, but that it also poses a challenge the party machinery on election day.
"The question then is, are they actually going to come out for him?" she said.
Mr. O 'Toole also worked on improving his dietand increasing his exercise levels, losing 40 pounds over the past year.
Above all, however, he has 'is focused on its new moderate campaign platform, which is available as a 160-page glossy magazine. Mr. O 'Toole changed his leadership campaign slogan "Let's Take Canada Back" to "We Have a Plan. Image Mr. O 'Toole, seen here during a campaign stop in North Vancouver this month, changed his tagline "Take Back Canada " to "We have a plan ". Credit ... Jennifer Gauthier / Reuters figcaption >
Until this week, Mr. O 'Toole has done much of hiscampaign in virtual town halls streamed from a temporary television studio not far from Parliament in downtown Ottawa. He repeatedly directed callers who had questions to his platform's page numbers with the answers. At one point he slapped his copy of the platform on the table to emphasize his weight.
"We have a plan to put the country back on foot after 18 difficult months in this crisis; I am a pro-choice ally of the L.G.B.T.Q. community, ”said Mr. O 'Toole, sounding like Mr. Trudeau at the opening of the debate in English.
In recent days, Mr. Trudeau has argued during campaign stoppages that Mr. O 'Toole's shift was misleading. A review process Mr. O 'Toole is proposing could facilitate the repeal of even the assault weapons law that he said he would not touch. And Mr. O 'Tooleopposes compulsory vaccination and vaccine passports, a position polls suggest only far-right members of his party support.
Duane Bratt, a political science professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alta., Said the Conservatives' current ranking in polls means its core members are willing to ignore dropping questions that are essential for them, at least for now.
"If O 'Toole does not become Prime Minister, the danger will be to keep this party together", said Professor Bratt. “There are conservatives who basically say, 'OK, let's give this O ' Toole thing a chance, let's see if it works. And if not, do they come back? "
Vjosa Isai contributed to the research.