Justin Trudeau will square off in Canada’s next election against a former air force officer who wooed the right flank of the Conservative Party.
Members of the nation’s main opposition party elected Erin O’Toole as their new leader by a vote of 57 per cent to 43 per cent over former defense minister Peter MacKay, according to third-round results announced early Monday in Ottawa. The tally was released more than six hours late after problems caused by high turnout and a malfunctioning envelope-opening machine.
O’Toole, 47, takes over from Andrew Scheer, who announced his resignation in December after failing to oust Trudeau in last fall’s election despite a series of scandals and fatigue over the incumbent prime minister’s perceived penchant for style over substance.
While Trudeau retained power, he was reduced to a minority government and is again embroiled in controversy. With the Liberals planning to ramp up spending under a new finance minister and put their agenda to a vote in parliament, the Conservatives will have a chance to try and topple them next month.
“Conservatives are united on one thing and that is a dislike of Justin Trudeau and a desire to not see him in office anymore,” pollster Shachi Kurl, executive director at the Angus Reid Institute, said by phone.
O’Toole, who billed himself as a “true blue” Conservative compared to MacKay’s “Liberal lite” during the campaign, was first elected to parliament in 2012 and served as veterans affairs minister during the last year of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government in 2015. He represents a suburban Ontario district in the vote-rich region around Toronto known as the 905 because of its telephone area code.
Though he served as Scheer’s even-handed foreign affairs critic, O’Toole tacked right to secure the Conservative leadership, winning the support of Alberta’s influential Premier Jason Kenney. Social conservative candidate Leslyn Lewis had a strong showing in the race before dropping off in the second round.
Compared to MacKay, O’Toole “will be someone who’s a bit more the conscience of the grassroots,” Kurl said. But that “leaves the party with a challenge in moving to the center,” she added.
Both candidates pledged major tax reform and tax breaks, and vowed to scrap Trudeau’s national levy on carbon emissions.
MacKay vowed to shake up rules on capital gains and chase down tax evaders. He also planned to extend a 100 per cent capital cost allowance for manufacturing and technology firms for another two years in hopes of bringing advanced manufacturing jobs back to Canada.
O’Toole promised to tighten loopholes for the wealthiest Canadians and add a tax exemption for young people entering the labor force. He also said he would eliminate the Liberal government’s $11,000 child-care tax deduction in favor of a refundable credit worth up to $16,000.