Erin O’Toole set out to remake the Conservative party.
In the end, it could be his political undoing.
Early projections suggested that O’Toole’s campaign has failed to break through and the Conservatives are on the way to retaking their opposition role in a minority parliament.
By midnight on Election Day, the Conservatives had secured or were leading 122 constituencies. The Liberals had either won or were leading in 157, suggesting that a minority government led by Justin Trudeau would be the most likely outcome after all the votes were counted.
There has been a gloomy mood in the conservative campaign heading into Monday’s vote, and that spread to the Oshawa Tribute Community Center. O’Toole’s friends, family, supporters and staff were nowhere to be seen on the hockey arena floor, opting to receive the news in a pub overlooking the rink or in private boxes at the upper decks.
Early in the evening, there were promising signs that the Conservatives would show the kind of growth O’Toole had promised members they would get with him as their leader when he won the job last year.
They defeated a Liberal cabinet minister there, Bernadette Jordan, and later defeated another, Maryam Monsef, in the Peterborough Button Cavalcade.
But that was a rare bright blue spot in Ontario.
While the Tories kept much of their existing ground, Leona Alleslev, who had crossed the floor from the Liberals to the Tories with much fanfare in 2018, and then won the Tories seat in 2019, lost this round to the Liberals.
Their seat in the greater Toronto area represented the exact type of maneuvering that the conservatives needed to beat the liberals and form a government in this election, and they did not appear to be about to capture others.
That fact could be the key to O’Toole’s future.
O’Toole’s campaign chairman Walied Soliman told the Star on Monday afternoon that he would consider it a victory if the Conservatives could subject Justin Trudeau and the Liberals to minority rule. His comments were echoed by two other high-level campaign sources, speaking on the condition that they were not named, who confirmed that the “baseline” of what they would consider a victory would be to limit Trudeau to a minority.
“Even without a plurality (of seats) today, we will have achieved our goal,” Soliman said.
“The victory comes by advancing in the dialogue with the Canadians. At the start of this race, no one would have expected us to be in a knife fight on tightly controlled liberal beltways. And today we are ”.
Party supporters publicly questioned the wisdom of suggesting O’Toole was heading for defeat while the polls were still open. Star’s story ran four hours before the polls closed across the country, and as conservative volunteers worked feverishly to get their supporters to the polls.
“If Erin O’Toole’s team is satisfied with allowing Justin Trudeau to remain prime minister, then it is clear that Erin is no longer in a position to lead our party,” said a deputy and conservative candidate to the Star, on the condition that that are not named.
High-level campaign sources told the Star that they considered the race to be very close as of Monday afternoon, that the election results would come down to fierce fighting in districts across the country.
But there were known unknowns – increased support for the People’s Party of Canada, declining support for the Green Party, the possibility of long lines at fewer polling places, and the ongoing fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic – that did play out. the more difficult results.
The party entered the campaign considerably behind in public polls, and many political observers expected that Trudeau would have a good chance of transforming his minority government into a majority. But a surprisingly slow start to the Liberal campaign, coupled with a good opening week for O’Toole’s team, put wind in the sails of the Conservatives.
However, the campaign struggled to maintain a mid-campaign lead, as the Liberal campaign continued to criticize questions about mandatory vaccinations, O’Toole’s stance on “assault-style” firearms, and the tax scheme. Conservatives carbon-style reimbursement to the consumer. – which O’Toole told Star’s editorial board would be optional.
Candidates were left spinning in the gates to defend O’Toole’s pivots, sometimes receiving multiple different talking points on a topic within a 24-hour span. O’Toole’s decision to campaign largely from Ottawa was also a sore point, as it left them feeling disconnected, and when O’Toole came to town, he rarely encouraged local candidates in his speeches, instead he focused on himself and his own narrative.
O’Toole’s tactic to bring the party closer to the political center also created problems on his right flank. And not just with Maxime Bernier’s right-wing upstart, the People’s Party of Canada, whose supporters appeared to be taking votes Monday. The Conservatives were also looking to lose seats in Alberta.
O’Toole repeatedly pointed out that the party he wanted to lead was not “your father’s conservative party.” The Conservative leader carefully avoided talking about Stephen Harper. A senior campaign source told Star Sunday it was deliberate: They wanted to avoid giving the Liberals a chance to paint O’Toole as a Harper, as they did Scheer in 2019.
But in doing so, O’Toole alienated a contingent of conservative politicians and former employees who were already angry about his adoption of a carbon tax.
The deal he had struck with the rank and file when he accepted one, despite being criticized by the party for years, was that it would deliver those Ontario voters so crucial to a conservative government.
The fact that O’Toole also seemed to repeatedly apologize for the party’s past approaches, saying that he knew it was necessary to regain the trust of voters also irritated conservatives, who felt he was in turn dismissing all of his past successes. .
“While we were desperately trying to make this choice on Justin Trudeau and his leadership, Erin O’Toole was desperately trying to make the choice on Erin O’Toole and his leadership,” said the candidate.
In the final 24 hours of the campaign, the conservative war room began circulating graphics for candidates to use on their social media, perhaps underscoring the fight O’Toole has ahead of him to maintain the support of his group.
Above a sepia-toned photo of the leader, the words “Stand with Erin.”
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