Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole pushed back against attempts to link his party to Trump-style politics on Sunday, saying there is “no place for the far right” in the Tories while accusing the Liberals of divisive dirty tricks.

In a statement Sunday, O’Toole asserted his own views on such issues as abortion, gay rights and reconciliation with Indigenous people in Canada while insisting that his party is not beholden to right-wing extremists and hatemongers.

“The Conservatives are a moderate, pragmatic, mainstream party — as old as Confederation — that sits squarely in the centre of Canadian politics,” O’Toole said.

“My singular focus is to get Canada’s economy back on track as quickly as possible to create jobs and secure a strong future for all Canadians. There is no place for the far right in our party.”

The unusual statement follows the riot on Capitol Hill, which U.S. President Donald Trump has been accused of inciting and which has since been held up as proof of the dangers posed by right-wing extremists to Western democracy.

It also comes on the heels of a Liberal Party fundraising letter sent to members last week that accused the Conservatives under O’Toole of “continuing a worrisome pattern of divisive politics and catering to the extreme right.”

As one example, it cited the motto used by O’Toole’s leadership campaign: “Take back Canada.”

It also referenced a photo that has been circulating of Conservative deputy leader Candice Bergen wearing a hat with Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” and a since-deleted Tory website alleging the Liberals want to rig the next election.

O’Toole on Sunday condemned the Capitol Hill attack as “horrifying,” and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism by touting his party’s support for free and fair elections, the peaceful transfer of power and accountable government.

To that end, he lashed out at the Liberals, referencing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to prorogue Parliament last summer as hurting accountability, before turning the tables on the governing party and accusing them of using U.S.-style politics.

“If the Liberals want to label me as ‘far right,’ they are welcome to try,” O’Toole said. “Canadians are smart and they will see this as an attempt to mislead people and import some of the fear and division we have witnessed in the United States.”

READ MORE: Less pomp, very different circumstances as D.C. prepares to inaugurate Biden, Harris

Former Conservative strategist Tim Powers, who is now chairman of Summa Strategies, believes O’Toole’s team saw a “gathering storm” and felt the need to act to prevent the Liberals from painting the Conservatives as beholden to Trumpism.

Such action was especially important ahead of what could be an extremely divisive week down in the U.S., where there are fears that Trump supporters and far-right actors will respond to Joe Biden’s inauguration as president with violence.

Powers suggested it is also the latest act in O’Toole’s effort to introduce himself to Canadians and redefine the Conservatives ahead of the next federal election, both of which have been made more difficult by COVID-19.

And when Conservatives in caucus make statements or otherwise act counter to his stated positions, Powers said O’Toole will need to “crush them and take them out” to prove his convictions.

Shuvaloy Majumdar, who served as a policy director in Stephen Harper’s government, welcomed O’Toole’s statement while also speaking of the threat that events in the U.S. could pose to the Tories in Canada — particularly if the Liberals try to link them.

O’Toole was accused during last year’s Conservative leadership race of courting social conservatives who oppose abortion, among other issues. That raises questions about the degree to which he may anger the party’s base by taking more progressive positions.

But Majumdar suggested many social conservatives left the Tories for Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada and that O’Toole is seeking to appeal to more voters by taking a broader view on social issues while sticking to the party’s core economic positions.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Conservative Party of CanadaDonald Trump

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

Just Posted

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
36 new cases of COVID-19, one death in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

Ashcroft RCMP are warning businesses to be aware of a suspect passing counterfeit $50 and $100 bills in the Ashcroft and Cache Creek area. (Photo credit: Stock image)
Counterfeit money being circulated in Ashcroft/Cache Creek area

Police are warning local businesses to be on the alert for counterfeit cash

The former Ashcroft Elementary School building, which closed as a school in 2015 and is now operated as the Ashcroft HUB, pictured during Skip’s Run, June 2017. The board of education of SD74 voted on March 2 to sell the property to the society for a ‘nominal fee’. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
School district votes to sell Ashcroft HUB for ‘nominal fee’ to HUB Society

Amendment to motion seeks to keep school district’s financial interests in property secure

Cache Creek council say that budget meetings have to take place before a public meeting about the fate of the pool — first promised in May 2019 — can be held. (Photo credit: Journal files)
No date set for public meeting to discuss fate of Cache Creek pool

Council says public meeting cannot take place until budget discussions have been held

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Second death reported in Kelowna General Hospital COVID-19 outbreak

A total of seven cases have been identified at the hospital: six patients and one staff

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

(File photo)
Kamloops Mountie bitten while arresting woman

The assault on March 1 is the latest in a string of incidents that have left local officers injured

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

Most Read