OTTAWA – The Conservative campaign is making a last-minute call for more volunteers as the federal elections head into a crucial weekend to mobilize supporters and get the vote.
But senior party sources are concerned about an “enthusiasm gap” among party loyalists, particularly in the GTA, that could cost the Conservatives in tight competition.
“I certainly see a lack of enthusiasm among the people I speak to,” said a conservative source, discussing the situation on the condition that they are not identified.
“That left when it looked like we were going to win. Everybody loves a winner. “
That initial conservative optimism at the start of the campaign has dissipated as the polls adjusted. And while most public polls put the party head-to-head with the Liberals, the most pessimistic Conservatives acknowledge that a tie in support from national voters likely indicates another victory for Justin Trudeau.
That’s because the Conservative vote has traditionally been concentrated in western Canada, where the party is immensely popular, and that skews national numbers. In 2019, the Conservatives won the popular vote with overwhelming Western support, but still won fewer seats than Trudeau’s Liberals.
“There are a lot of little things that I don’t think are a good omen. The desire for change (among the electorate) is still too low, Erin (O’Toole’s) personal numbers are better but not great, early poll data does not show significant growth in seats in which (we could win ), ”Said the source.
Former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer faced intense pressure to resign after the 2019 elections, particularly due to his inability to hand over seats in the GTA, a region considered critical for the Conservatives to regain power after six years in opposition.
O’Toole, who represents Durham’s Ontario leadership, won the resulting leadership contest in part by committing to deliver seats in the Toronto area.
But there are worrying signs for the party in Ontario as the campaign enters its final days.
The Star spoke to five-party sources who are directly and indirectly involved in the campaign about the “running game” efforts in the GTA. Three acknowledged that the party is having a difficult time attracting volunteers for in-person activities, such as door-to-door probing.
“There are districts that should have a lot of volunteers (that) have little. There are some districts in 905 where they have like eight solid volunteers and that’s it, ”said a source.
“(And) they are happy to have the eight they have.”
That opinion is not universally shared, and the situation varies from one conduction to another. It also appears to be related to the candidate. Four sources said bypasses like Thornhill, where party stalwart Melissa Lantsman runs a conservative drive, are working well.
“Neighboring districts with candidates who are less good at this are not,” a source told the Star.
The Star shared the findings of this report with the Conservative campaign. In a statement, the campaign said the Star’s sources “are misinformed” and that the party “has never in its history been better prepared for an election, as you will see on Monday.”
“Justin Trudeau broke the trust of Canadians when he called for unnecessary elections, so how can Canadians trust everything he says?” asked Chelsea Tucker, O’Toole’s campaign spokeswoman.
A high-level campaign source was more forceful.
What Star’s sources say “is bullshit,” the source said. “For the past year, we’ve been reading these people telling us that Erin O’Toole can’t win.
“Now, victory is within their grasp and they can’t bear the thought that they were wrong all this time.”
On Wednesday, the party sent a massive email to supporters urging them to sign up to help with their local campaigns.
“That means we have to knock on more doors and make more phone calls. To defeat Justin Trudeau and his liberal government, we must connect with voters and identify supporters, ”said the email, which was obtained by the Star.
“It is the final stretch of the campaign and we cannot afford to stop now.”
A new poll by Campaign Research, a firm led by former Conservative operative Nick Kouvalis, suggests that the party’s efforts to get the vote will be crucial, particularly in defending itself against an insurgent People’s Party of Canada running to O’Toole’s right. .
“It seems close, but I really don’t think Erin is going to win,” said a senior provincial conservative, pointing to Campaign Research’s finding that the People’s Party is drawing enough votes from conservatives in key Ontario districts to help elect the liberals.
That includes the possible loss of Conservative seats in places like Barrie and Aurora and the reelection of Liberal MPs in districts the Conservatives hope to regain in Oakville, King City, Richmond Hill, St. Catharines and Kitchener-Waterloo, among others. .
“That PPC vote could end all those narrow victories (2019 elections) and take the seats off the table,” said the provincial conservative.
“And there’s really nothing Erin can do at this point,” the PC insider said, expressing concern about the enthusiasm People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier has generated at rallies in southwestern Ontario.
Another provincial conservative said Bernier’s threat effectively boxed O’Toole so that the federal leader could not accept the vaccination mandates.
“Doug Ford was firing (Chatham area MPP) Rick Nicholls (for refusing to get a COVID-19 injection) and Erin O’Toole couldn’t even tell them how many of their candidates were vaccinated,” said the second Tory, referring to O’Toole’s refusal to discuss the vaccination status of conservative candidates.
“We have taken that issue off the table. They didn’t. ”
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