In the keynote address of the Conservative Party virtual policy convention, billed to be his last chance to make an impression on Canadians following an underwhelming six months since taking the party reigns, O’Toole conceded that his party has lost two elections and gone through four party leaders in the past five years by “making the same arguments and hoping Canadians come around to our positions.”
“We are never going to win over Canadians just by relying on Justin Trudeau to continue to disappoint. His scandals, as outrageous as they are, are never going to be enough to defeat him,” O’Toole said on Friday. “Canada has changed. Our party has to change too.”
During the speech, O’Toole unveiled his party’s “Canada Recovery Plan,” which entails recovering the one million jobs lost during the pandemic, balancing the budget over the next decade and enacting anti-corruption legislation to “end abuse by Liberal insiders.”
O’Toole also used the national spotlight to appeal to would-be voters, saying that the traditionally labor-backed New Democrat Party no longer represents the interests of blue-collar and union workers and taking aim at the Bloc Quebecois party, in a pitch to the Quebec electorate, with which Conservatives have struggled in recent years.
However, the Conservative leader tempered speculations about a potential shift on the party’s environmental policy, only going so far as to say that he is committed to protecting the environment.
Canada is more divided than ever, O’Toole warned, saying that a Conservative government in Ottawa is the best remedy against secessionist movements in Quebec and Western Canada.
The Conservative Party convention comes at the turn of what promises to be a rollercoaster political cycle. Canada has twice been pushed to the brink of an election since the last federal campaign, held in October 2019, and there is strong speculation that an election will be triggered sometime in 2021.
At present, Canada’s governing Liberal Party leads the federal vote intention with the support of 35 percent of respondents, ahead of the Conservatives by 5 percent, according to an aggregate of national polling numbers.
However, a recent Angus Reid Institute poll found that half of Canadians desire to see a change in leadership in Ottawa, although most oppose a spring election as the country battles the novel coronavirus pandemic.