The Conservative, Erin O’Toole, shifted left to broaden his party’s appeal.
Erin O’Toole, the leader of Canada’s Conservative Party and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s main rival, came to this campaign with very little …
Erin O’Toole, the leader of Canada’s Conservative Party and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s main rival, came to this campaign with very little name recognition among Canadians and with significant opposition from some members of his own party, particularly those in the Conservative power base of Alberta.
He will leave it with a significantly elevated public profile, regardless of whetherhis party prevails and unseats Mr. Trudeau.
Mr. O’Toole, 48, became the party’s leader via a virtual campaign just over a year ago, replacing Andrew Scheer, who had led the party to defeat in Parliament in the 2019 election. Mr. O’Toole won by appealing to the party’s right wing with a platform that promised to “Take Back Canada.”
But instead of taking back Canada, he quickly began to take left-leaning positions, apparently in an effort to broaden the Conservatives’ appeal.
He abandoned a promise to never introduce a carbon tax, an important issue in oil-rich Alberta. He swiftly distanced himself from the party’s social conservatives on issues like abortion and L.G.B.T.Q. rights, and he reached out to union members whose traditional home was the left-of-center New Democratic Party.
Mid-campaign he also abandoned a pledge to repeal Mr. Trudeau’s ban of about 1,500 models of military-style rifles, while promising to allow gunmakers and others to sit on a committee that reviews firearms rules.
While he angered many party leaders with his shifts in stance, which some Conservatives viewed as a betrayal, the campaign has largely silenced them. Poll results in recent weeks have shown support rising for both Mr. O’Toole and his party, while it has fallen for Mr. Trudeau and his Liberal Party.
Going into Election Day, the two parties were locked in a statistical tie at about 30 percent each.
The son of a provincial legislator, Mr. O’Toole had a relatively late start in politics. He studied at Canada’s Royal Military College and spent 12 years as a navigator in Canada’s then-aged fleet of ship-borne helicopters.
He worked at two large law firms in Toronto and later as corporate counsel at Procter & Gamble Canada. Then the resignation of a cabinet minister from the seat in his hometown electoral district in Durham, Ontario, presented an opportunity for him. He was elected to the seat in 2012.