Jamie Schmale, the Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP, has thrown his support behind Erin O’Toole for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, which will be determined by mail-in ballot in mid-August.
“Erin is a strategic thinker, level headed and a voice of reason in difficult times,” Schmale said.
The decision was not taken lightly, and the local member shared that both what he wanted, and the wishes of the local riding executive were taken into consideration before he declared for O’Toole.
“In the last leadership race the party members from this riding were firmly behind Erin till almost the last ballot,” Schmale reasoned, “and having a party leader and potential Prime Minister representing a riding that abuts up against your own is hard to ignore.”
Schmale added, “I have known Erin for 20 years. He is a veteran, a former cabinet minister, a lawyer who has worked in the private sector and a man devoted to raising money for veterans’ charities. I like him.”
As for O’Toole, he tells the Advocate he’s happy to have Schmale’s support.
“I am honoured to have the endorsement of Jamie, he’s a devoted MP and a friend,” O’Toole said.
“I am ready to go on day one to hold Justin Trudeau to account alongside a great team of MPs like Jamie,” he added.
When asked about the other candidates that he had to consider, Schmale offered that he would be “prepared to serve under Peter MacKay if he won.”
“Leslyn Lewis (also) has a very bright future in the party.”
O’Toole’s website touts his endorsements, including Premier Jason Kenney of Alberta and a raft of prominent Conservatives from Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Support from his home province of Ontario is limited, and apart from a couple of retired senators from Quebec, O’Toole appears to have weak support east of the Ottawa River.
When asked about this Schmale seemed to indicate it wasn’t a big deal.
“Any of the campaigns would like stronger support in the run-up to the leadership vote. Quebecers saw in the French language debate that Erin has not only a good grasp of the language but a solid program for Quebec in Canada.”
“I think he came out ahead in that very important debate,” Schmale suggested.
The local MP said he thinks some of his colleagues may have jumped too soon to endorsements.
“Erin has done a good job building his team throughout the campaign,” Schmale said.
“Peter MacKay had a bit more momentum than all the other candidates going in. There are no guarantees that an endorsement equates with an actual vote in August. I believe Erin has touched on many issues that are resonating as the campaign moves forward,” Schmale said.
Liberal party strategists have leaked that they plan on painting O’Toole an agent for “big oil” if he is victorious in the leadership campaign. When asked if that label could hurt O’Toole outside the oil patch Schmale wasn’t too concerned.
“I have no problem with Erin standing up for Canadian jobs and Canadian energy. When Alberta does well Ontario does well. We as Canadians should be reducing our dependence on foreign oil and focusing on using our own natural resources that are extracted under the strongest environmental and labour standards in the world.”
When asked if there was much difference between the climate change plan that Andrew Scheer ran under in the last election for the Conservatives and the plan O’Toole is currently touting Schmale said the plans are quite similar.
“We need to figure out how to get off of fossil fuels but we need a climate change plan not a tax plan like Justin Trudeau was putting forward.”
The local MP said we also need to lower taxes, reduce regulations and let the private sector come up with the best possible solutions for climate change.
“We need to do a better job as a party communicating our platform,” Schmale suggested, “including our vision for climate change.”
Some Conservatives have expressed concerns about O’Toole’s attacks on MacKay, labelling the Nova Scotia lawyer as “yesterday’s man” and someone “who has no support among those party loyalists under the age of 35.”
O’Toole takes that even that one step further touting himself as “the only candidate who is supported by elected Conservatives who know we need a true-blue Conservative to lead our party to victory.”
When asked about the bruising tone of the leadership campaign and the impact on the future party leader Schmale was dismissive.
“Leadership candidates will say what they say to give people reasons to mark an ‘x’ beside their name.”
“We need in the next election to present a positive message and positive image to Canadians,” Schmale said,” and I believe the party will come out of the leadership race united.”
Schmale was asked to address the informed speculation swirling around leadership candidates Peter MacKay and Derek Sloan. One rumour suggests that MacKay will not run in the next election if he loses the leadership race and a second suggests that the party executive will not sign off on nomination papers for Sloan who has made a number of controversial statements on social issues during the campaign.
“I hope Peter is committed to the party win or lose,” Schmale shared,” and as for Sloan, the local riding executive and the party can reserve the right to sign nomination papers. Every major party has those mechanisms in place.”
All mail-in ballots need to be completed and received by August 21, 2020 at 5 p.m. EST.
–with files from Roderick Benns.