Breaking News
Get Actionable Insights with InvestingPro+: Start 7 Day FREE Trial Register here
Investing Pro 0
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your experience. Save up to 40% More details

Breaking News

U.S. Companies Added 534,000 Jobs in November, ADP Data Show

Erin who? Main rival to Canada's Trudeau struggling to win voters' attention as election looms

EconomyApr 01, 2021 01:10AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Canada's Conservative Party leader Erin O'Toole is seen at Parliament Hill in Ottawa

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's chief rival in an election expected within months has struggled to make himself known to voters amid the COVID-19 pandemic - and for Erin O'Toole, time may be running out.

O'Toole, a 48-year-old ex-soldier and one-time Cabinet minister, won the leadership of the right-leaning Conservatives last August and stresses the need for a fiscally prudent recovery plan. Trudeau's Liberals have poured hundreds of billions of dollars into aid programs, racking up record-high budget deficits and national debt levels.

If O'Toole loses the next election, he could well be forced out, leaving the party looking for its fifth leader in six years and handing the free-spending Liberals and their environmentally minded "build back better" agenda a long-term advantage.

It would be tough for anyone to take on the Trudeau brand, especially during a pandemic. Trudeau's late father, Pierre, ranks as the third-longest-serving prime minister in Canadian history.

Trudeau, 49, dominates the airwaves, holding news conferences at least twice a week, often to announce millions of dollars in new pandemic support or details on vaccines.

By contrast, O'Toole's late-night leadership acceptance speech in August was almost ignored.

"If people see Erin O'Toole in a headline, they're like 'Who?' If we did our own research into public opinion, I'll bet you an unnamed 'Trudeau rival' would poll higher than Erin O'Toole," said one well-placed Conservative who backs the party's leader.

"He's at a huge disadvantage, at least as far as being able to brand himself," said the Conservative, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation.

In fact, O'Toole launched a Twitter campaign last month saying: "Let me reintroduce myself." O'Toole has just 124,000 Twitter followers compared with 5.5 million for Trudeau.

The Conservative leader is pressed for time. Liberal insiders say Trudeau, who barely hung onto office with a minority in the October 2019 election, is preparing for a snap vote in the second half of 2021, about two years early, to seek another majority.

With a minority, Trudeau must depend on support from opposition legislators to govern.


The scale of the pandemic, said Conservative strategist Chad Rogers (NYSE:ROG), means opposition leaders "have no podium until the day of an election."

O'Toole also faces the challenge of leading a party that has lost two elections since holding power from 2006-2015 and contains social conservatives and right-leaning moderates.

Billing himself as a regular family man best-placed to grow the party's base, O'Toole won the leadership after predecessor Andrew Scheer quit over his failure to win in 2019 despite a series of scandals surrounding Trudeau.

O'Toole took a hard line during the leadership campaign to woo the right, but then edged toward the center, talking up the importance of labor unions and social equality in a bid to gain support, especially in voter-rich cities. The change in tack upset some members, say insiders, and may not be working.

"He's not finding the traction he needs towards the center, which is where I think he's figured out the party needs to go. ... It's just not working yet," said Shachi Kurl, executive director of polling firm Angus Reid.

Kurl says the Conservatives could win if they capture enough support from voters concerned about deficits. Angus Reid's most recent poll had the Liberals leading Conservatives by 35% to 31%, not enough to secure a Trudeau majority.

Conservatives publicly say they back O'Toole. In private, four insiders complained about mixed messaging and his trouble remotely managing 120 legislators - the biggest opposition grouping in Canadian history.

"Large caucuses are not meant to live in opposition for a long time and they like to test new leaders," Rogers said in an interview.

The internal tensions emerged at a policy convention last month when - against O'Toole's wishes - most delegates voted against recognizing climate change as a real threat.

The Conservative leader, aware of polls showing most Canadians worry about climate change, is promising a green plan of his own. He brushed off the vote and declared the debate on global warming over, but the rift was clear.

Conservative Party spokesman Cory Hann said it was always difficult for opposition leaders to become known and that was particularly true during a pandemic.

"We have had to rethink how we get out there ... but it's a challenge we're tackling head-on," he said by phone.

Erin who? Main rival to Canada's Trudeau struggling to win voters' attention as election looms

Related Articles

Notable quotes from the Reuters Next conference
Notable quotes from the Reuters Next conference By Reuters - Dec 01, 2021

(Reuters) - Reuters Next is hosting three days of interviews, panels and presentations with 150+ global leaders discussing the biggest business, social and environmental...

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email