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

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The new 3,500 hectare conservancy in Tahltan territory is located next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (BC Parks Photo)
New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park

Project is a collaboration between Skeena Resources, conservation groups and the TCG

Mabel Todd, 83, of the Nak’azdli First Nation, leads a group of family members and advocates of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls as they walk along the so-called Highway of Tears in Moricetown, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Province, feds fund full cell service along ‘Highway of Tears’ following years of advocacy

A ‘critical milestone in helping prevent future tragedies’ after at least 10 Indigenous women murdered, missing along the route

Erin O’Toole, Conservative Party of Canada leader, answered questions during a Terrace District Chamber of Commerce event on April 6, 2021. (Screenshot/Terrace District Chamber of Commerce Facebook)
Erin O’Toole discusses Terrace issues during virtual event

Federal Conservative leader answered questions during a Terrace & District Chamber of Commerce event

Tree; Burns Lake library. (Laura Blackwell photo/Lakes District News)
Dragon Tree christened

The Burns Lake Public Library contest for dragon and tree names has… Continue reading

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Most Read