A cowboy hat is left inside an empty ballroom at the Conservative national convention in Halifax on Saturday, August 25, 2018. Card-carrying federal Conservatives are heading into day two of a virtual convention aimed at getting the party ready for the next election. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

A cowboy hat is left inside an empty ballroom at the Conservative national convention in Halifax on Saturday, August 25, 2018. Card-carrying federal Conservatives are heading into day two of a virtual convention aimed at getting the party ready for the next election. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

O’Toole pledges Conservatives would restore one million jobs within a year if elected

The plan mimics a promise made by Trudeau last fall, Liberals pledged to create the same number of jobs

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole unveiled elements of his election pitch to Canadians Friday, seeking to ease his party’s jitters that they’re without an offering solid enough to woo voters away from the Trudeau Liberals.

His marquee speech to the party’s policy convention contained what he billed as a “recovery plan” that would within one year restore one million jobs lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the same time, a Conservative government would tackle some of the other weaknesses the pandemic has exposed or created in society, O’Toole promised.

The Tories would increase mental health funding to the provinces and beef up domestic production of pharmaceuticals and vaccines, all while winding down existing stimulus programs and getting the country set on a course to eliminate the deficit within a decade.

“Together, we will give Justin Trudeau the fight of his life,” O’Toole said, according to a prepared text of his remarks.

“Because there is one thing the Liberals fear more than anything else: a Conservative party with the courage to grow, to be bold, and to change. And that’s the Conservative party that many Canadians are waiting for.”

O’Toole’s one million jobs plan mimics a similar promise made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last fall, when the Liberals pledged to create that same number of jobs.

The Liberals have since been rolling out program spending they say is designed to do it.

O’Toole suggested his plan would be spurred on by incentives for small business and by assisting the hardest-hit sectors of the economy, as well as the women and young people who have suffered the most.

O’Toole, who was elected leader last August on the strength of a promise to stay close to the party’s conservative roots, sought again Friday to reach out beyond that faction.

He reiterated his campaign victory speech that his party will be one where all Canadians can find a home, and especially union members disenchanted by the New Democrats.

The NDP scoffed at the idea, pointing out that the previous Conservative government, which included O’Toole, was no friend of the unions, having voted for bills that made it harder for people to join unions and protected corporations, and was opposed to raising minimum wages.

“When it comes to having the backs of working people, just like Justin Trudeau, Mr. O’Toole says a lot of nice things, but he has fought against the needs of working people every step of the way,” the party said in a statement.

O’Toole also made a direct play to potential voters in Quebec, reiterating that only the Conservative party can advance their interests in Ottawa, not the Bloc Québécois.

It’s also time for the party to get serious on climate change, O’Toole said.

“We have now fought and lost two elections against a carbon tax because voters did not think we were serious about addressing climate change,” he said.

“And I will not allow 338 candidates to defend against the lie from the Liberals that we are a party of climate change deniers.”

With most research saying some element of carbon pricing is essential to help Canada hit its emissions-reductions targets — without spending a small fortune to do it — there have been questions about how or whether the Conservatives would stick by their promise to axe it.

On Friday, O’Toole reiterated his party would scrap part of it, but not the whole thing.

“We will scrap Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax on working Canadians,” he said.

What will replace it is in the works. Party members did debate several resolutions Friday on the issue, including one that would enshrine the fact their party believes that climate change is real.

The Liberals suggested not much will change for the Tories.

“As the Conservative convention debated whether climate change is real, Mr. O’Toole himself confirmed in his speech that he’ll do nothing and continues to oppose putting a price on pollution,” said MP Pam Damoff in a statement.

“While Mr. O’Toole has no plan to invest in the middle class and wants to ’take Canada back,’ Liberals are focused on helping Canadians through this global pandemic and doing everything it takes to keep Canadians safe, healthy, and supported.”

The convention gathering is held roughly every two years, meaning the next one is likely to come well after the next election.

If O’Toole fails to win a majority government, he’d face a leadership review by the membership, which could end up launching a race to replace him.

On Friday, the party made a major change to how that contest would run.

Previously, all 338 ridings in the country were allocated 100 points, and how many points a leadership candidate receives is based on what percentage share of the overall vote they received in the riding.

But that’s been tweaked in favour of a system that will see each riding allocated 100 points or one point per vote cast, whichever is less. So, if there are only 40 votes cast from a riding, there would only be 40 points up for grabs.

MP Garnett Genuis, who had proposed the change, said ridings with small memberships can’t be allowed to have an outsized influence on the race.

The goal of the change, he said, was to ensure leadership candidates get out and hustle to grow the party.

The point system was an issue of contention when the Conservative party was formed in a merger of the Progressive Conservatives and Canadian Alliance, and has been fought over at nearly every convention.

It was implemented instead of a one-member, one-vote approach as a way to ensure leadership candidates didn’t just focus on areas with strong membership numbers but got support across the country.

Leading the charge on the points approach was the leader of the PC party at the time, Peter MacKay.

He ran against O’Toole last year and lost.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

CNC’s Applied Research and Innovation had partnered with the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Cariboo Agricultural Research Alliance and Mackin Creek Farm after receiving funding from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to research a number of solutions potentially extending northern growing seasons. (Photo submitted)
Ways to extend growing season in B.C.’s north explored by College of New Caledonia in Quesnel

Low-cost supplemental LED lighting appears to benefit plant growth

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Binche residents Doug Connors (left) with Ross Duncan and Paul Lewis were thrilled after a mission to rescue a moose stranded on Stuart Lake was successful Friday, April 2. (Photo submitted)
Daring moose rescue on Stuart Lake garners national attention

“I’m just saving an animal,” said Ross Duncan with Paul Lewis and Doug Connors

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

Most Read