OTTAWA–Erin O’Toole will style himself as the only candidate for Conservative leader who can appeal to all of the party’s disparate factions, a source close to his campaign told the Star.
O’Toole is expected to officially announce his leadership bid in the coming weeks. But the three-time Durham MP and former cabinet minister has already assembled a formidable campaign team that features federal Conservative veterans and strategists with deep ties to Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives.
A central part of O’Toole’s pitch, the source said, is being able to appeal to the broad spectrum of conservatives that make up the Conservative party’s membership.
“Fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, Quebec nationalists, progressive conservatives — they all like and respect him because he’s respectful to him,” said the source, who spoke on the condition on anonymity.
The campaign will also highlight the fact that O’Toole has won his suburban GTA seat in three consecutive elections. Some of the most withering criticism heaped on outgoing leader Andrew Scheer’s campaign was over its inability to gain ground in the GTA, despite attracting strong candidates and devoting considerable resources to the region.
“If we want to defeat Trudeau, we absolutely need to win in that region of the country and he can do it,” the source said.
O’Toole appears to be positioning himself as a centrist candidate who can win over both the Conservative base and a broader coalition of voters.
Only two candidates have confirmed their intentions to run to replace Scheer in the Conservatives’ six-month long leadership contest — Sarnia-Lambton MP Marilyn Galdu and former Progressive Conservative leader and Harper-era cabinet minister Peter MacKay.
Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre will also run, and has the backing of party heavyweights John Baird and Jenni Byrne.
Jean Charest, another former leader of the federal PCs who also served as Quebec’s Liberal premier for almost a decade, is widely expected to mount a bid. Rona Ambrose, the party’s well-liked former interim leader, is said to be still making up her mind.
While other camps test the waters, O’Toole has already put together a campaign team that includes veterans of Conservative campaigns at both the federal and provincial levels.
That team will be led by Fred DeLorey, who served in senior roles under prime minister Stephen Harper and as Premier Doug Ford’s director of field operations. DeLorey also ran O’Toole’s 2017 leadership campaign, which saw the Durham MP finish in third place.
Tausha Michaud and Laura Kurkimaki, both veterans of the Harper government, will have senior roles on the campaign. Melanie Paradis, Jim Burnett, and Dan Mader — who have all held various senior roles for both the Ontario PCs and the federal Conservatives — will serve as O’Toole’s deputy campaign managers. Walied Soliman, the Canadian chair of the Norton Rose Fulbright law firm, will chair the O’Toole campaign.
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Jeff Ballingall, the founder of right-wing digital lobby groups Ontario Proud and Canada Proud, has been named O’Toole’s digital director.
The Conservatives will select their next leader on June 27 at a convention in Toronto.